The plant known as azalea, very widespread also in Italy, is part of the rhododendron genus, which derives from the words rhodon, which in Greek means pink, and dendron, ie tree. Depending on the species, this rustic plant, which is native to America and Eurasia, blooms in spring or summer showing its beautiful colors ranging from white to red through the various shades of pink.
Both the azalea and the rhododendron have the appearance of an evergreen shrub, but the former has very small dimensions compared to the latter. They are part of the ericaceous family.
Their stems have remarkable ramifications. The leaves have an oval shape, are dark green, leathery to the touch.
General information about the azalea plant
During the spring season these plants generate good amounts of flowers at the apex of their branches, which are compacted in the characteristic bunches, which can also reach a length of 10 cm.
And it is precisely due to the contained dimensions that the azaleas adapt very well to the life in the vase and therefore to the location within an apartment.
These flowers can be of different colors and precisely white, pink or red.
There are also some varieties with two-colored flowers.
In recent times, thanks to the skill shown by the selectors in their experiments, plants have appeared that give flowers of a lilac or blue color, which have quickly become very popular, precisely because of these peculiarities.
It is a plant that has been famous since ancient times because of the much-appreciated honey it produces.
News on the azalea nectar can even be found in some important texts by Pliny the Elder.
Some tips on the correct cultivation of azaleas
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They should be grown as houseplants, as they do not tolerate the cold well.
However, they must have grown in the right soil, that is to say acid, with a ph 5, rich in nutritious organic substances.
If the pH is too high, you will notice the sudden yellowing of the foliage, a symptom that the plant shows chlorosis.
Naturally there must be no water stagnation in the soil, which can cause significant problems to the health of the plant, starting with the root rot that prevents the intake of nutrients.
Azaleas should not be planted too deeply, as their roots are very superficial.
If cultivated in pots the classic watering operations must be performed more frequently than the plants cultivated in traditional soil.
Watering activities should be carried out from March to October, at night or early morning, because the azaleas do not tolerate the administration of water carried out during the hottest hours of the day.
In winter they should instead be watered very moderately and only on the occasion of prolonged drought.
For what concerns the most suitable places of positioning, in areas with mild climate they can be placed in sunny environments, but in those that have a much warmer climate it is advisable to place them in partially shady areas, just to avoid that too much sun causes damage to the natural functioning of the azalea organism. Always bear in mind that sudden frosts cause death.
It is important to point out that the so-called garden species do not fear the cold and are able to withstand very low temperatures, which is a great advantage for those who decide to focus on these plants to decorate their gardens in a suggestive way.
At the end of the flowering period it is good to remove the flowers, taking care to also remove their peduncle.
This operation is useful because it allows the plant to conserve many energies, otherwise dispersed for the creation of seeds during a significant period.
Azalea plant: Final considerations. The names of Italian species
At the conclusion of this discussion we recall that azaleas belong to the subgenus penthatera of rhododendron and have compact foliage and lanceolate leaves.
Among the hybrids, those with double flowers must be mentioned, which have Japanese or Chinese origins.
In our country the azaleas are cultivated mainly in the pre-Alpine areas, near the lakes, where the best conditions for their development exist.
Among the subgenera we must mention tsutusi, therorhodion, mumeazalea, candidastrum, hymenanthes.
Among the spontaneous Italian species there are the ferrugineum (or rose of the Alps) and the hirsutum (an evergreen shrub with tortuous branches, which can reach a height of 50 cm, very common in the limestone-dolomite areas).
The most delicate species are grown in greenhouses.
As far as the preferred fertilizers are concerned, we recommend the use of iron sequestrene, which must be administered every 15-20 days.
A correct fertilizing treatment ensures a sudden greening of the foliage.
Azalea shrubs generally have dimensions that do not exceed 70 cm and have semi-woody branches, with 5-stamen flowers
Finally, we remind you that acidity and humidity are the most important characteristics of a land in which you want to grow azalea plants. A soil that must contain sand, silt and clay to a similar extent.