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Azaleas are shallow-rooted plants and need some preparation to survive successfully over the winter. It’s not difficult to overwinter azaleas if you plan ahead of time what to do. In fact, in my family’s small nursery, we use to bring azalea into a cold polytunnel over winter and just keep them watered enough not to allow them to dry out totally. Not got a greenhouse or tunnel, no problem just read on to learn more.
The best way to successfully overwinter azaleas is to choose a variety that is hardy to your climate. If you have cold, wet winters, look for an azalea that is particularly cold tolerant. The best way to do this is to buy azaleas from local nurseries and garden centres as they usually sell azaleas that are hardy in their own areas.
If you fertilise your azaleas throughout the growing season, reduce this after July. You don’t want to encourage too much growth later in the season when the plant is heading towards dormancy, as fresh foliage can be damaged by frost.
Reduce watering in the early autumn. This ‘toughens’ the plant up for the winter and prepares it to become dormant. I generally let the soil dry between watering. If you get drooping leaves, read my guide here.
In colder regions, protect the azalea by applying a 5cm or so layer of organic mulch around the base of the plant. Keep the mulch away from the trunk of the plant as it creates a cool, moist environment that’s perfect for diseases and pests to grow in. Remove the mulch in spring as the ground warms up.
If the forecast is for a long winter, wrap the plants in burlap or fleece in the autumn or place a fleece jacket over them or trap horticultural fleece over them. This provides warmth throughout the colder months and keeps the cold wind off the plants.
If you grow azaleas in pots, you can wrap the pot in lagging or bubble wrap to give the roots some protection and perhaps move to a move sheltered position against a wall for winter. Finally, if you have space, you could consider planting the pot in the ground for winter. This also protects the roots. If you have a garage or shed that gets some light, you could also move them there for winter.