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Planting Azaleas

Q. I am tempted by the gorgeous azaleas available now in florist shops. Is it possible for me to plant them in my garden in spring?

A. Although all azaleas are members of the Rhododendron genus, the florist azaleas are particular hybrids well-suited as indoor plants since they are not hardy enough to withstand Chicago winters. But don't let that deter you! A fully budded indoor azalea plant will provide nonstop blooming color for six to eight weeks this winter. After May 15 (the average last frost date in Chicago), take your azalea plant outside for the summer and place the pot in a partially shaded location in your garden. Before an autumn freeze, bring it back indoors to its original location in a bright, cool spot. At all times, keep your plant well-watered, and remove the faded blooms immediately to prolong the flowering period.