Azalea indicum 10-15°C/50-60°F; China

These tender azaleas, correctly known as Rhododendron simsii (Indian azaleas), are grown out of doors during the summer months and under glass from autumn until flowering in December. They are the aristocrats of the winter-flowering range of pot plants, laden with red, pink or white blooms. When purchasing it is important to look for plants with an abundance of buds as plants that are too backward may not flower satisfactorily indoors, while those that are too advanced in flower will give pleasure for a shorter length of time.

The most important requirements in order to succeed with azaleas indoors is to ensure that the mixture is kept permanently wet, not moist as any drying out will result in foliage shrivelling and flowers wilting. The best way of watering is to plunge the plant pot in a bucket of rainwater- treatment that larger plants may require two or three times each week. Indoors, good light and cool growing conditions are also essential, as plants seldom do well in very hot, airless situations. After flowering, plants may be put out in the garden for the summer months where they should be kept moist and sprayed over periodically. When potting on use a mixture composed almost entirely of leaf-mould and peat or a proprietary lime-free peat mix. Propagate from cuttings taken with a piece of old wood (a heel) and about 8cm/3in in length during the summer. Insert cuttings in equal parts sharp sand and peat and maintain a temperature in the region of 15°C/60°F until the new plants are established.

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