Native Azaleas

Below extracted from here.

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.

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) or the
  • 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.

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!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email