Native Azaleas

Below extracted from

As a group native azaleas are greatly underused in the southern landscape. Most native azalea varieties flower in the spring and their beautiful bloom display is a breath of fresh air. Some have unusual yellow to orange and orange-red flowers, such as the Florida Flame azalea. Most of them are either native to Alabama or will grow well in most areas of the state. The individual florets are trumpet shaped and usually borne in large terminal clusters. The sweet smelling blooms have led to the common name, wild honeysuckle bush. Identification of native azaleas can be difficult because of the similarities between species. Natural hybridization has complicated the matter by producing many intermediate forms with unusual flower colors.

The native Florida flame azalea. UF/IFAS.

Many southerners first encountered native deciduous azaleas while walking in the woods. There they may have spotted the pink, fragrant, delicate flowers of the:

  • Piedmont azalea (Rhododendron canescens) From Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center; ” This is the most common native azalea in the Southeast. Give this azalea plenty of room, as it tends to form large colonies. This species hybridizes readily with others in the genus.
  • orange-yellow blooms of the Florida Flame azalea (Rhododendron austrinum)
  • the white, yellow-blotched and lemon scented flowers of our namesake Alabama Azalea (Rhododendron alabamense). Alabama Azalea, while not the showiest flower, may be the most fragrant of all the native azaleas.
Piedmont Azalea

Deciduous azaleas prefer moist, sandy, well-drained soil. Morning sun with afternoon shade will enhance blooming and reduce excessive drying. Pine straw or pine bark mulch should be added to protect the shallow root system. A light application of slow release azalea fertilizer just after blooming should be sufficient to keep deciduous azaleas growing and blooming. If your soil is not well drained, consider planting in a raised bed or individual mounds.

As landscape specimens in woody areas, deciduous azaleas are a wonderful addition to any landscape. They do best when left un-pruned and allowed to maintain an open natural habit. Deciduous azaleas are not always available in nurseries, but ask for them and this will encourage nurseries to stock a wider selection.  Happy gardening!

For good info see article from Florida Extension Service.

How to care for native azaleas by a Georgia provider.


Rhododendron austrinum (Flame Azalea or Florida Flame Azalea) can grow up to 10ft. It is a multi-stemmed deciduous azalea. It has beautiful orange-yellow fragrant spring flowers.

Rhododendron alabamense (Alabama Azalea) 6-8 ft; deciduous, white flowered with yellow blotch on upper part of flower tube; spring bloomer. 

Rhododendron canescens (Piedmont Azalea) grows 6-8ft. It has dark pink-white early spring flowers. They are open pollinated so shades of pink can vary. Deciduous. Plant in partial shade.

Other native azaleas –

Alabama Treasures: Native Azaleas –

Oconee Azalea

This is another Alabama native azalea, the Oconee Azalea.

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