December 2016: Azalea is Houseplant of the month

Whether they’re snow white, December red, solemn purple or bright pink, the one thing that all Azaleas have in common is that you can hardly see the plant for the flowers. That’s why this profuse bloomer is the Houseplant of the month. Take advantage and boost your sales with the POS material which can be downloaded free of charge using the link at the bottom of the page. 

The story of the Azalea

With lavish flowers and available in classic December colours, the Azalea is an  original alternative for creating atmosphere  while still being a  real seasonal classic. Azalea’s official name is Rhododendron syn. Azalea. Rhododendron is a compound of the Greek words for ‘red’ and ‘tree’ and freely translated it means ‘a woody plant with rose red flowers’. Azalea means ‘dry’ in Greek, which refers to the tough wood and not the soil, which - should always be slightly damp. As the word Rhododendron conjures up images of the large garden shrub for most people, the name Azalea is used for the houseplant. 

Origin and production of the Azalea

The rhododendron has a wide area of distribution in Asia. The source of the houseplant is the Indian Azalea. This Azalea R. simsii mainly originates from the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, Hubei and Guangdong. The plant grows there on mountain slopes as undergrowth at an altitude of between 1000 and 2600 metres, and is used as firewood by the local population. The soil is limestone covered with a layer of humus in which the plants grow. This plant has been referred to in Chinese literature as far back as 1578. The first plants were first brought to England from China in 1806, after which cultivation of the Azalea soon began.
The other less common species is the R. Obtusem group, the Japanese Azalea. This is usually single-flowered and reasonably hardy, unlike the R. simsii group. This Azalea is found on the islands of Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu and Yakushima. The Dutch brought the plant to Europe from Japan, and it is still associated with Japan, even to the extent that it is subjected to bonsai techniques. Azaleas are cultivated in Belgium and the Netherlands in particular. It’s actually a forced shrub, which a grower can bring into bloom by cooling and warming. The supply starts in late summer and continues until the spring, with a major peak around the holidays. 

What to look for when buying Azaleas

  • When buying Azaleas it’s particularly important to look at the plant shape, the pot size, the number of buds with flowering potential and the ripeness. To be sure that all the buds will flower, it’s sensible not to buy a plant which is too unripe, particularly in the winter. 
  • A lack of light can cause bud shedding. Buds also regularly dry out, particularly on plants which are too unripe. If a plant is kept too dry leaves can yellow or be shed. 
  • A low temperature is advisable during transportation and storage in order to prevent rapid flowering. If too much moisture is deposited on the petals, Botrytis (grey mould) can occur, which results in brown discoloration. 

Choice of Azaleas

The Azalea is one of the most diverse flowering houseplants, loved around the globe and very varied in its forms, from minis to standard Azaleas. There is also a lot of variation in the flowers, from single and double to plain and unusual bi-colours. The range is classified as follows: the most common is the R. simsii group (Indian Azalea) with single-flowered and double-flowered cultivars. 
The Obtusem group with Japanese Azalea has single-flowered and spider-flowered cultivars.  

Care tips for customers

  • Azalea likes a drink. Give the plant plenty of water on a regular basis, or immerse the pot in a bucket of water to saturate the soil completely. Special pots are available for plants that need a lot of water which provide the plant with the required moisture from a water reservoir. 
  • The plant cannot cope well with heat, which will cause it to droop. You should therefore avoid a position in bright sunlight or near a source of heat. The Azalea prefers a cool, light spot. 
  • To ensure profuse flowering, feed the plant with plant food once a fortnight. If the plant needs to be repotted into a larger pot, it’s important to use special acidic potting soil especially designed for acid-loving plants. 
  • If the Azalea has grown too big as a houseplant, it can be planted out in the garden after flowering in shady, acidic, moisture-retaining soil. The plant prefers to spend the winter sheltered in a greenhouse or shed with some shelter. 
  • Regularly sprays the plant when it’s in bud.  Do not spray once the buds open.

Sales and display tips for Azaleas

  • Use white and red Azaleas in your display for the holidays, and use the pink ones after Christmas: customers often want something other than red and white by then. The pink Azaleas offer a spring vibe, particularly when combined with narcissi and hyacinths.
  • Azaleas can obviously be used as part of an arrangement if there’s demand for it, but the plant looks better solo, particularly if you display it in an attractive cachepot for a ‘just add that one as well’ effect. 
  • Small Azaleas are surprising elements in bowl gardens and terrariums. 
  • Use the POS material that can be downloaded below to create more Azalea atmosphere in your store.
     

Images of Azaleas

You can download the images below free of charge.

Azalea poster

You can download the poster using the link below. 

12_poster-uk-azalea.pdf

 

azalea, mooiwatplantendoen.nl
Azalea, Thejoyofplants.co.uk
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