I have an unusual azalea bush that I would like to propagate and would like some advice on how to do that. I only have one and would like to have others around my house that match.
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Teri in Kentucky: When you find a plant that you really like, one is never enough. You have a few different options for propagating your azalea. They can be grown from seed but the new plant may not look exactly like the one you are growing; it could look like any variation of its parents. Azaleas can also be propagated vegetatively, both from cuttings and by layering. This is the only way to get an exact replica of what you are currently growing. Typically, evergreen azaleas root better than deciduous ones, so layering may be the way to go if your plant is deciduous. Evergreen azaleas root best when the cuttings are taken from wood that is not too soft but not hardened off either. An in-between stage is best (usually in June). When the time comes, use a clean pair of pruners and cut between 4-6 inches off the new growth. Remove all the foliage except for the top inch or 2 of the cutting. Dip the end of the cutting in a rooting hormone that you should be able to find at your local garden center, and then plant about 1 inch deep into a small container no bigger than 4 inches. Make sure the container has plenty of drainage holes. Be sure to keep the soil moist but it should never be sopping wet. You will want to create a mini greenhouse environment. Plastic bags work great for this purpose but make sure the bag does not actually touch the cutting. You will want to keep the cuttings out of the sun. It will take several weeks for the cuttings to root. Layering is when you take a lower branch of the existing plant and bury it a couple inches into the soil. This will encourage it to grow roots and you will eventually be able to separate it from the “mother” plant. The Kentucky Extension Service has a publication on propagating plants for home gardeners. It goes into more detail about vegetative propagation. You can read it at www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho67/ho67.pdf