Grow potted azaleas
In many areas of Italy the soil is highly calcareous, or there is a lot of limestone in the water of the aqueduct, for this reason, for lovers of acidophilic plants, the best advice is to cultivate such potted plants; in particular the azaleas are well suited to growing in pots, as there are many species and varieties of small size, which therefore do not require huge containers that are difficult to manage.
It is clear that the specimens grown in pots do not completely share the cultivation requirements with the specimens grown in the open ground, as the cultivation conditions are very different: in pot the soil that can be reached by the plant's root system is contained and restricted , therefore potted plants tend to suffer more in case of deficiencies or excesses of fertilizer and watering, given that they cannot enlarge their roots in search of mineral salts, water or air.
The pot for the azalea
Azaleas are fairly resistant shrubs to the dry summer climate, but during flowering they prefer a cool and moist soil; to prevent a sort of tiny quagmire from occurring in the vase, it is advisable to use vases in porous material, such as clay, to ensure that the soil, kept constantly moist with watering, can breathe, and to avoid suffocation of the roots.
Clear it is that it is not always possible to use terracotta pots, for the simple reason that this material is very heavy, especially when the vases become of a certain size, but also when they are decorated or carved, with a very large vase thickness. For this reason we are often oriented, even by the nurserymen themselves, towards plastic pots. In fact, at the level of cultivation conditions, the plastic pot is not just a lighter substitute for the terracotta pot, but, since the plastic is completely water repellent, the soil is kept in conditions of less aeration, unable to exchange with the outside, except through the surface of the pot and the drain holes in the bottom.
In addition to this, it often happens that plastic pots left in the sun for a long time, transmit to the soil the heat absorbed during the day, while a thick terracotta wall tends to act as a greater protection for the plants.
In fact, the producers of pots have long been looking for the right combination of practicality, manageability, lightness and good growing conditions for the plants; for this reason it is easy to find today in garden centers vases in alternative materials, such as terracotta pots with thinner walls, supported by metal interspaces, or even containers made of porous plastic materials, which contain a certain percentage of clay.
If we want to place our azalea on the terrace, and therefore we must necessarily use a light vase, it would be advisable to consider buying a vase in these "new" materials, so as to guarantee the plant better growing conditions.
Of course, the more the vase is beautiful and of good material, the more it costs, but consider that the azaleas are fairly slow-growing plants, and generally never become huge, it is therefore possible to choose a container that will accompany the plant for all its life. We choose a fairly large container, given that it will be able to contain the plant even in the coming years; if initially our azalea does not fill the whole pot, we can position it centrally and around it place some annual flower seedlings, waiting for our shrub to fill all the pot.
The land for the azalea
As all gardening enthusiasts now know perfectly, azaleas are acidophilic plants, that is, they need a soil that has a high percentage of available iron, and low amounts of limestone; in the nursery we can find good soil for acidophilic plants, even in this case we spend a few euros more, to bring home the best soil available: the plant will remain in the pot for a long time, and will not be repotted every year, so the soil is better the plant will start to look better.
We can also prepare a special soil for our plant by mixing peat, well shredded, with a little universal soil, leaf loam and little manure, in order to obtain a nice porous, fresh, humid and low pH substrate.
With the passage of time it is often inevitable that the potting soil becomes increasingly rich in limestone, since the water of the aqueducts is rich in this mineral; for this reason it would be advisable to water our azaleas with water that has decanted at least one day, or with rainwater. If we have only one potted azalea, it is not so difficult to prepare the water for watering, it is enough that every time we water the plant, after having wet it, we fill the watering can to be used for watering the following day.
In any case, being the plant in a pot, and using only the mineral salts contained in that small portion of land that is available, every 2-3 years it will be necessary to repot the plant, also maintaining the same pot if it is large enough, but changing all the soil in it. The resulting soil should be placed in the composter to enrich itself for the next few years.
Azaleas in pots: How to grow potted azaleas
Let us always remember that even if a shrub, placed in the ground, proves to be well resistant to weather, cold and drought, it is not said that the same shrub behaves in the same identical way once placed in a vase; in fact the cultivation in pots forces the plants to develop in a well defined and closed area, without exchanges towards the outside.
So it is essential that these plants are guaranteed the best possible cultivation conditions, any mistake, by default or by excess, could lead the shrub to great suffering. Let's water our own pot azaleas when the soil is dry, from March to September, avoiding leaving them without water for a long time; in the same way we avoid excesses, and therefore we avoid leaving the soil soaked with water for a long time. Every 12-15 days we supply a fertilizer for acidophilic plants, mixed with the water of the waterings, from March to September; if we forget too often about the fertilizer, we use a slow release fertilizer, to be spread on the surface of the pot at the end of winter, it will melt with the water of the watering.
As far as possible, we try to expose the vase to the weather, so that even during the winter months the shrubs enjoy a little rain water. In fact, it often happens that specimens grown in pots placed in a very divided area, die because of drought, because in winter the soil in the garden tends to be quite fresh and humid, the same cannot be said of a pot left for weeks completely to the 'dry.
If the winter were to be very cold, let's cover the whole vase with the woven fabric; I repeat, the whole vase, not just the shrub; in fact the frost for azaleas tends to be more harmful for the root system than for the aerial part of the plant, and if the vase is small and the soil is little, it can happen that the frost penetrates the container and all the earth bread around it at the roots, ruining them beyond repair.