Azalea Winter Care

Azaleas are a very popular shrub to use as a foundation planting, low hedging, or focal point in the ornamental shrub border. Some Azaleas are hardy to -45 degrees F. Deciduous Azaleas are more likely to survive in the lower USDA growing zones of 4-8, while evergreen types are less hardy and grow best in zones 6-9. Providing the right protection during the winter months will ensure a great display of flowers every spring in your garden.

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Photo by Joanna Bourne, unedited, Flickr, Copyright CC by 2.0

Protecting Azaleas in Winter

Deciduous Azaleas require far less protection than evergreen types from cold temperatures or drying winds. After the leaves drop in the fall, the shrub is essentially dormant and happily rests in the garden until warmer weather in the spring. Evergreen types of Azalea may need protection from drying winds and unexpected snowfalls. 

Constructing a windbreak from wattle fencing, horticultural fabric, or burlap will help to keep the leaves from scorching during high winds or severe storms. Planting the shrubs in more protected areas of the garden, such as near the house or on the north or east side of a garden also helps to protect plants growing in a cold climate. Azaleas growing in more exposed locations may need to be temporarily covered with teepees made of bamboo or metal stakes and enclosed in heavy horticultural fabric or layers of burlap. To prevent any heavy snowfall from breaking branches, make sure that the fabric is well above the shrubs.  

Cutting Back Azaleas For Winter

Azaleas tolerate heavy, rejuvenation pruning in the late winter or early spring. Keep in mind that heavy pruning will likely remove the next season’s flowers. Light pruning after the shrubs have flowered in early summer will allow the shrub to recover before fall and develop new flower buds. Any new growth will have plenty of time to harden off before winter.  

Azalea Winter Care in Pots

Growing Azaleas in containers is a great way to decorate a patio or deck and allows gardeners facing poor drainage or alkaline soil to enjoy this spring-blooming beauty. Potted Azaleas will need to be placed in a protected location out of the path of prevailing winter winds and storms. The drainage needs to be excellent all through the year. Pots can be propped up on bricks or dedicated ‘pot feet’ to prevent obstruction of the drainage holes. If you live on the edge of the hardiness range for evergreen Azaleas, wrap several layers of burlap or horticultural fabric around the outside of the pot for extra insulation. 

Watering Azaleas in Winter

Azaleas require supplemental watering all through the fall when temperatures are over 45 degrees F and the weather is dry. Deciduous Azaleas do not require extra watering after the leaves fall. 

Growing Azaleas Indoors

In climates with severe winters, broadleaf evergreen Azaleas can be overwintered in a pot in the house. Before the nighttime temperatures reach 50 degrees F, bring the potted shrub indoors. Find a spot with bright but filtered light. Reduce watering to once every 10-14 days, and provide a moderate level of humidity around the plant by growing other houseplants together in one area or lightly misting the air around the shrub every 2-3 days. 

Steps To Care For Azaleas in Winter

Growing the hardiest Azalea for your growing zone will not only ensure beautiful flowers for years to come but also limit the amount of care required during the winter months. 

Step 1 - Deciduous Azaleas go dormant after leaf drop in the fall and are the hardiest varieties, tolerating temperatures down to -45 degrees F.

Step 2 - Evergreen types of Azaleas may require protection from winter winds or should be moved to a more protected location.

Step 3 - Prune Azaleas after flowering in the summer to allow the plant time to harden off for the winter. Heavy rejuvenation pruning should only be done in late winter, so the shrub has the full growing season to recover. 

Step 4 - Continue to water in the fall if temperatures are above 45 degrees F.

Step 5 - Less hardy Azaleas can be grown in pots in colder climates and will need to be brought indoors before the temperature falls below 50 degrees F. Grow the shrub in a cool room with bright, filtered sun. Water less often, allowing the soil to dry between waterings. 

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Author Robbin Small - Published 6-22-2023