How to take azalea cuttings – expert advice for successful plant propagation

Learning how to take azalea cuttings is an easy and free way to make more plants for your yard

(Image credit: Getty Images/nature picture)

Azalea shrubs are celebrated for their colorful spring and summertime flowers. Whatever color blooms you seek, you can almost guarantee that there will be an azalea shrub to meet the brief. Whether you desire a lemon-yellow flowering shrub or want vibrant barbie-pink blooms, there will be an azalea to suit your taste.

I previously worked in gardens across the UK and Italy, growing and caring for several species of azalea planted in borders and containers. One of my favourite species that I think is one of the most striking is the flame azalea, Rhododendron calendulaceum, seen in the image below. This shrub is native to the Appalachian Mountains in the eastern United States, and produces blazing orange blooms that are unmistakable. It is hard not to be impressed with this deciduous woodland shrub.

You might already know how to grow azaleas, happily tending to 1, 2, or more shrubs in your yard. However, if you want more plants in your borders, have you considered propagation? This is a fun and free way to grow your plant collection and summer is a good time to take azalea cuttings. Here, I share how to successfully take azalea cuttings and the common propagation mistakes to avoid.

Flame azalea with bright orange blooms in a forest

(Image credit: Getty Images/Bryony van der Merwe)

How to take azalea cuttings

Azaleas grow best in US hardiness zone 4 to US hardiness zone 9, and most species can tolerate cold winters and warm summers. These shrubs are found growing in wooded areas or forests, thriving in acidic soils. If your azalea plants are healthy and happy, producing plenty of new growth in the spring and summer, why not consider learning how to take azalea cuttings?

If you do not yet have an azalea shrub growing in your yard, small starter azalea plants are available from Walmart.

When to take azalea cuttings

Purple azaleas in flower

(Image credit: Getty/wulingyun)

Azaleas are often considered some of the best flowering shrubs, and it is easy to see why.

Regardless of the type of azalea growing in your yard, evergreen or deciduous, spring and summer will see your plants produce plenty of lush, green growth. Generally, azaleas are slow-growing shrubs but will tend to produce 4 to 8 inches or more of new growth each year.

For azalea propagation, I would recommend taking semi-hardwood cuttings. This might seem a confusing term, but means that your cutting will be from semi-mature growth. While it will not be from old, woody stems that you take your cutting, it will also not be new, fresh growth. Somewhere in between these two is what you are looking for.

Taking cuttings of azalea plants is best done from late spring to early summer, typically around June or July, but this method of propagation could be done at any time from spring until late summer.

How to take azalea cuttings

Pink azalea in flower

(Image credit: Getty/Karin de Mamiel)
  1. On a dry, clear morning, identify a small number of semi-hardwood stems that look healthy and have 2 or more leaves growing. Using clean, sharp pruning snips, available from Walmart, cut your stems just below a leaf node. Each stem will ideally measure 4 to 6 inches.
  2. Strip each stem of foliage, leaving just 1 or 2 small leaves at the top. If these terminal leaves are large, I would recommend cutting them in half, leaving a smaller amount of leaf. This is to reduce water loss from transpiration.
  3. Using rooting hormone powder, available from Amazon, can help to speed up the development of roots. I would suggest dipping the bottom 1 inch of the stem in rooting powder. Following this, place each cutting in a small pot that is filled with good-quality soil and grit. Adding vermiculite, available from Walmart, can help to improve drainage in the soil. Plant your cuttings, keeping the top 2 to 3 inches of stem above the soil surface.
  4. Place a clear plastic bag over the pot to help keep the soil moist and the air humid. Keep the pot in a shaded position in the yard.
  5. Azalea cuttings can take 4 to 8 weeks to develop roots. Eventually, roots will begin to show at the base of the container. You can then replant each cutting in a small pot to continue growing.

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How long does it take for azalea cuttings to grow and flower?

As the old saying goes, patience is a virtue. Azalea cuttings will be ready to be planted out into the yard after 1 year and should flower in 2 to 3 years. While this might seem a long time to wait, propagation is a rewarding experience.

Learning how to take azalea cuttings is a fun and free way to make more plants for your borders and container displays. For more information on how to care for and grow azaleas, see our guide on how to deadhead azalea and rhododendron flowers, to keep your plants looking their best this year.

Content Editor

Thomas is a Content Editor within the Gardens Team at Homes and Gardens. He has worked as a professional gardener in gardens across the UK and in Italy, specialising in productive gardening, growing food and flowers. Trained in Horticulture at the Garden Museum, London, he has written on gardening and garden history for various publications in the UK, including The English Garden, Gardens Illustrated, Hortus, The London Gardener and Bloom. He has co-authored a travel book celebrating trees, due out in late 2024.