Growing, Propagating and Caring for Exbury Deciduous Azaleas.

Last updated : 20 May 2013
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The not so popular, not so well known member of the Azalea family are Exbury Azaleas which are deciduous, which means that they are not evergreens.  Many people don’t consider Azaleas evergreens because they don’t have needles, but the most popular, the most readily available Azaleas are Evergreen Azaleas.  They are red, white, pink and lavender with some variations or those colors.

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Exbury Deciduous Azalea

Exbury Deciduous Azalea

 

Exbury Deciduous Azaleas are obviously not an evergreen, they do lose their leaves during the winter, but they are striking when in bloom!   And . . . they are colorful in ways that evergreen Azaleas are not because many of them are brilliant orange and yellow.  They grow taller than an evergreen azalea and can be used where you normally might use something like a Rhododendron or Viburnum.

Exbury Deciduous Azaleas are hard to find!

Why?  Because they are difficult to grow from cuttings so few growers do them.  But they are relatively easy to grow from seed and you should be growing them from seed and selling them as small potted seedlings.  I would love to buy some small seedlings of these wonderful plants!

Exbury Deciduous Azalea

Exbury Deciduous Azalea

Growing Exbury Deciduous Azaleas from Seed.

After Azaleas bloom they start to form a seed pod that stays on the plant all summer as the seeds inside the pod develop and mature.  In the fall these seed pods dry out and as they do they crack open and release up to 500 seeds per pod in the open air.  However, in a natural setting the conditions are usually not what is needed for the seeds to germinate so most if not all of the seeds go to waste.

You need to watch the seed pods and when they start to darken and dry out, usually September into October, clip off the seed pods and put them in an envelope or paper bag where they can finish drying and they will open up and release the seeds where you can capture them.

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Once the seed pods have fully opened empty the contents into a tray of some kind and separate the seeds from the husks from the pod.  The seeds can be stored in a cool dry place until later in the winter when you can sow them.  If you sow them in the fall you’ll have to get creative trying to make sure the new seedlings receive enough light and stay happy all winter.  If you wait and sow them in February you’ll be keeping them inside for a shorter period of time which should increase your success at growing them.

Fill a flat with a good seed starting mixed and wet the medium really well.  Sow the seeds on top of the soil mix and press them down into the mix lightly.  Sprinkle a small amount of soil, really, really thin amount of soil over the seeds and water.  Allow the soil mix to dry out between waterings.  You don’t want the soil mix wet all the time for two reasons.

1.  You don’t want the seeds to rot.

2.  You want the soil mix to be nice and warm so the seeds germinate quickly.

Water the flat, let the soil dry and warm up, then water again.

When growing seeds inside during the winter months it’s always a good idea to place a small fan near your seedling to keep the air circulating and fresh.  That helps a great deal in preventing damping off which is a fungal condition that attacks small seedlings.

After the seedlings sprout wait for them to produce their second set of leaves which are the true leaves.  Then you can transplant them into another flat spacing them about 1″ to 2″ apart for one full growing season.

Questions?  Comments?  Post them below.

 

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Comments

  1. Mike Loetscher says

    Interesting. I’ve got a couple of these in my garden, one orange and one yellow. Usually I just prune back the pods. But this year I’ll plan on harvesting the pods in the fall.

  2. Mary Anne Loper says

    I would love to have these seeds.Where can I get some? Do you have any I can buy? Do they grow in Florida?

  3. Sue T says

    While taking horticulture classes at out local junior college, we learned that having a fan on seedlings also promotes stronger stem growth. In nature the breeze does this…FYI

  4. Phil Sayles says

    Good morning Mike: Am interested in purchasing some seeds of the Exbury Deciduous Azalea but need a source. Would you steer me in the right direction. Thank you. Phil

  5. Doroythy says

    You said to leave the seedlings in the flat for a whole growing season. Do you have to take them in in the winter?

    Where do you buy the plants in the first place so you can get the pods when you’re right?

    • Mike says

      Doroythy,

      For the winter I’d just put the flat in a protected area outside and make sure they plants don’t dry out over the winter. They need to go dormant, keeping them inside will not work.

  6. Sandra Fackler says

    Orchid growers have fans going all the time, too. I didn’t do that last summer (inside) and I got a tiny fly infestation in the top soil of my African violets. Air movement is a good thing for most plants, I guess. Thanks for your always interesting communications, Mike.

    • Mike Tipple says

      The fly infestation might be eliminated by having a quarter inch of course sand layering the top of your soil. I’ve heard eggs won’t then be laid in this mix.

  7. DIane says

    I always find your posts and the replies interesting and informative. SInce I live in the SOuth. I see azaleas all the time but the ones I have seen are the evergreen variety. I like the orange and yellow flowers better but I didn’t know azaleas came in those colors.

    • Anonymous says

      Tell her azaleas come in white, pink, purple, lavender, etc.
      what color don’t they flower in?

  8. Shirley says

    Love this, and I will be putting this one to use. They would be so easy to sell in nice pots for a patio etc. As always love your insight.

  9. says

    Very nice Mike,

    Cold hardiness rating? I am up in the Adirondack Mountains
    and so far haven’t found an Azalea that can take it up here.
    Whereas, Rhododendron seems to flourish as long as it gets wind protection in the winter.

    Thanks Mike,
    Dave

    • Judy says

      Try Northern Lights Azalea. I live in Zone 4 and mine do fine. It has even stood -45, I do not cover it just let it grow. They are a slow grower however.

  10. Cecil Wingo says

    I believe this is somewhat like the flame azelia of the Smoky Mountains. We lived near the Smokys and was always looking for these in the Spring & Summer.

  11. Stephen Bryant says

    Also known as a Sun Azalea (at least locally), my orange one bloomed magnificently this spring.

    • Mike says

      Jean,

      There are places online where you can buy seeds, but many of these suppliers I don’t trust because I often see them advertising things like Pink Dogwood seeds. You can’t grow a pink dogwood from seed. You can collect seeds from a pink dogwood, the seedlings will bloom white.

      • Charline Jolly says

        Hey Mike, ya know, there is a Japanese Dogwood that blooms pink and white on the same plant with edible red fruits. Maybe that’s what they are advertising.

  12. Elizabeth Davis says

    Hi Mike,
    We have 2 “native azaleas” in our back yard. Actually we have 3, but the 2 I’m inquiring about are “nursery” bred and the other one is wild!! The wild one is blooming like crazy right now and so are the others all around us. However, the 2 we bought have not as yet produced a bloom. We planted them about 3 or 4 years ago and tried to mimic the conditions that the wild ones have. What in the world are we doing wrong????

    • Mike says

      Elizabeth.

      The more you tinker with plants the less likely they are to bloom. You can get them way of out balance. Left alone, planted in good soil and watered only as needed and the only thing they know how to do is bloom providing they don’t get winter damaged. But my evergreen azaleas often have severe leaf damage from the winter but they always bloom like crazy. What’s my secret? I just leave them alone.

      • Wayne McKay says

        Hi Mike,

        A little off topic, but I wanted to ask if there is a Canadian section for the buyers group?

        I have purchased your 47.00 kit and it is full of very valuable information.
        However I can not (at least I don’t think I can) have un-rooted cuttings shipped into Canada. That is the only reason I didn’t jump at the chance to join the growers group, the information would be worth gold, however I would be disappointed at not being able to buy some of the great cuttings.

        Keep up the good work, and I am absorbing all of the information you have on-line like a sponge

        All the best and God Bless you and yours

        Wayne

    • Charline Jolly says

      Yes, big family. Huckleberries, blueberries, heather, Rhododendron. Almost anything with a little Japanese lantern flower!

  13. Ken Barta says

    Hi: yes, this is a beautiful plant to look at, but in addition,it is very fragrant–so much so that one blossom
    can perfume a whole room. Anyone have seeds?
    Ken

  14. Catherine D. says

    Dave,
    Is there a cold hardiness rating on the Exbury Azeala’s ? Azealas are one of my favorite blooming shrubs.
    But here in Minnesota, we can only grow the hardy Northern Lights variety of Azealas. Few Rhododendrons would make it through our cold prairie winters. Northern Lights are bred to survive -30 degrees, which is common winter temps here in the Upper Midwest.
    When I had a NL Azealea, I still sheltered it for the winter. I constructed a hoop of chicken wire, filled it with dry leaves, then covered the top with plain burlap & weight with long small boards or tie it across with twine. Plant always made it through the winter just fine. Had to leave it behind when we sold the house, but will purchase some new ones for my new (old) house. Nothing can come close to the “WOW” factor of blooming Azealas in Spring.

  15. Marilyn says

    I think I will try growing azalea seeds. I’ve rooted them i the past but never tried this method. I usually prune my azaleas after they bloom.

  16. Lucy says

    If the plants make seed pods after they flower, does that mean we should not “prune in June?” Once my flowers wilt I tend to pull them off the branches and then in June I cut back the branches. Is this wrong? I always get a lot of flowers.
    thanks!

    • Mike says

      Lucy,

      Removing the seed pods right after blooming is good for bloom production. Unless you want to save the seeds. Then you have to leave the pods on until fall.

  17. Alison says

    Love the colour. Unfortunatley the local deer don’t care about the colour and will munch until there are only sticks.
    Maybe in my next house.

    • Charline Jolly says

      Get some black “Bird Netting” sold for covering strawberries. I used it to cover hydrangeas and ceanothis in a deer sanctuary, and they only nibble the sprouts poking through the mesh.

  18. Esther Cooperman says

    Hi Mike, this is your friend and thanks again for sharing. What a beautiful plant with showy colors. Where can I purchased the seeds. I live in Southern California

  19. Beth says

    I lost one this winter. Fortunately the second one survived! It is absolutely brilliant in the sunshine! Thanks for the tip on the seed pods!

  20. Carole Hughes says

    Thanks Mike. I’ll do as you suggest. I have an orange exberry azalea, but it’s never bloomed much. I believe it needs more sun. Maybe I get one bloom a season. Last year, I got two or three. But I’ll harvest the pod(s) this year.

    Thanks again. You’re very informative.

  21. Jenny says

    I have this azalea out by my mowing shed! It is so beautiful this year! It is irredescent (sp). I must take a picture and email it to you.
    Our landscaper friend was asked to remove the plant from a customer’s yard and he knew I wanted one; so he transplanted it to my yard. I’m so lucky!

  22. Ryan says

    We have about a dozen of these at the office park I do ground maintenance for. They are a very bright red and very beautiful right now in bloom.

  23. Sheila says

    My grandfather always said there is no such thing as a stupid question, so here goes: Is this the best way to propagate all azaleas or are these instructions only for this rare type? Thanks very much.

  24. roy mealer says

    These are native to north ga. al. , they come in white, pink,yellow,orange, and a tri colororange yellow pink mix,I have white, yellow,pink growing wild on my farm,I’ll have to see ifg they have seed pods, they’re finishing bloom now!?

  25. Linda says

    The plant is listed on Hirts Garden website. It looks like it is sold out. Thanks for the tip on the seeds, great idea.

  26. teresa says

    It is a beautiful plant. I have a purple one made from a cutting my brother gave me. Tried it with a pink one but did not work.

  27. Dolores Hayes says

    I have one azalea plant (about 5′ tall x 5′ wide) that’s been on our property since we bought it. It seems quite healthy, though it does seem to go “dormant” in winter (it’s leaves get brown but don’t fall off). We’re in zone 5.

    I can’t remember if I tried to root it–I think I did but without success. Any more tips?

    Someone told me that in Japan they are called “Kurume” and considered sacred. Is it the same plant?

    How do they take to transplanting at this size? We are moving and in the fall, I’d like to take the whole shrub…it’s so beautiful!

  28. Sally says

    I love exbury azaleas and have several different colors. Never thought of trying to grow the seeds but now I think I will give it a try. If all works out well, I may be your next supplier of seedling plants!

  29. Michael Barker says

    Hi Mike,
    Love the site and information.
    One question about the seeds. Do you need to stratify or put the seeds through a cold cycle to get improved germination?
    Thanks!

    • Mike says

      Michael, not that I am aware of. There is always more than one way to do things, but I’ve only seen them done without doing a cold treatment.

    • Mike says

      Robbin,

      I’m not a lawyer so don’t take this as legal advice. It’s just my understanding. First of all, the old varieties of Exbury Azalea should be all be legal to propagate. Plant patents protect the hybrid varieties that have been cultivated by a grower in a controlled growing environment and as far as I know the patents protect the plants from asexual propagation which means cuttings, budding, grafting, tissue culture. Growing from seed is not protected because growing from seed is sexual reproduction and there is no guarantee that you will get a clone of the parent plant.

  30. Mikelobes says

    Hey mike thanks for the article. I was just wondering will this plant or variety of azaleas grow in southern ontario? I live in the GTA (greater Toronto area) which by a canadian hardiness map is considered zone 5
    Thanks mike

  31. Clarence D. Smart says

    When I was growing up in the hills and hollows of southern southwest Virginia, we called these bushes “honeysuckles”; there was only 3 colors that I remember…light pink, deep orange, and one of varying degrees of yellow growing in the wild. I never paid any attention though to whether they had seed pods. I will take your advice and look and see if they, in fact do have when I get back home from Thailand.

  32. Gail says

    I am so excited to find out the name(s) of my yellow AND orange azaleas. Will definitely being getting the seeds this fall.. they were beautiful this year, heavy with flowers! So I will have lots of seed pods. The last several years I have been scattering coffee grinds under my azaleas and there have been brilliant blooms each spring.

  33. bill says

    hy mike did you ever find out where to find those round plastic to propagate plants. The one you use tie wraps to hold them on the limb.

  34. Christina says

    i’ve got three bright orange Knap Hill Reds growing against my house. they have grown to about ten feet now. maybe more. i’ll be looking for those seed pods this fall. i live in the Hudson Valley of upstate NY. and it can get pretty cold here. almost Zone 4 winter conditions. hopefully i’ll get a decent harvest of pods. i’ve never really looked for them before. here’s hoping! *fingers crossed*

  35. May says

    What should I do with seedlings I had started this year? Should I keep them outdoor and let them lose all their leaves? Or can I bring them indoor and keep them warm? Would they still drop their leaves indoor because it’s the winer thing to do?

    • Mike says

      May,
      They should be outdoors where they can go dormant and rest for the winter. Keep them in a protected area out of the wind and make sure they don’t dry out over the winter.

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