ShadyGardens Blog

April 16, 2009

Florida Azalea: Rhododendron Austrinum

One of the brightest and showiest of all native plants in the spring garden is definitely the Florida Azalea.

Blooms appear in early spring and can be anywhere from bright yellow to a dark reddish orange. Rhododendron austrinum is deciduous so plant it among your evergreen azaleas and it will really stand out!

Blooms are very sweetly frarant, so you might want to plant one near your garden bench to enjoy as you relax.

As the name implies, Florida Azalea is native to Florida, but grows well anywhere in the Southern US and in zones as cold as USDA Zone 6.

Rhododendron Austrinum in on the endangered species list, so do not dig it up for planting in your garden if you find a specimen in the woods. Florida Azalea is propagated and sold by native plant nurseries, so you can purchase container grown plants for your garden.

Florida Azalea will eventually grow into a large tree-like shrub up to 10 feet tall. When found in the wild, it naturally occurs in woods beneath large deciduous trees, but flowers much more profusely when grown in full sun. Drought tolerant once established, but needs regular water to become established. Bloom buds on this spring blooming shrub are formed in late summer, right when we have our yearly drought, so water regularly during August and September to ensure good flowering in spring.

Let me know if you have trouble finding this plant in your area, because we have plenty! You can purchase them in our online store Shady Gardens Nursery.

March 30, 2008

Native Azaleas Brighten the Shade Garden

Each year at the beginning of spring, I eagerly anticipate the blooming of our native azaleas. Available in a rainbow of colors–pink, yellow, orange, white, or red, these plants are superior to any other plant, in my opinion. A member of the Rhododendron family, native azaleas are deciduous, and some varieties bloom before leafing out in very early spring. Most of the American native azaleas are fragrant too, with a very pleasant but not overpowering honeysuckle scent. Another important feature is that most of the Native Azaleas are drought tolerant, once established. (‘Once established’ is the key though, since no plant is established the first year!)
The first to bloom in my garden is the elegant Florida Flame Azalea, Rhododendron Austrinum. Drought tolerant, once established, this plant really lives up to its common name, because the blooms can be any shade of yellow or orange, or even a little of both–yes, the colors of a flame! As the name ‘Florida’ implies, the Florida Azalea is well able to tolerate any heat our Georgia climate can dish out.
Blooming at about the same time is our own native, the Piedmont Azalea, Rhododendron canescens. Beautiful pink blooms in late March or early April are exquisite.
If you love Alabama like I do, you’ll love the very rare Alabama Azalea, Rhododendron Alabamense, with its lovely white blooms coming a little later in spring. This plant is native to East Alabama, and is rarely seen in the wild anymore due to land development in that area. We’re fortunate to have a local grower with a love for native plants to propagate this delightful shrub. If you find it in the wild, please don’t try to dig it up to move to your own garden. Several varieties of the native azaleas are endangered plants, making it illegal to remove them from the wild.
Most native azaleas do not root easily, so they must be grown from seed! I admire the well-known Mr. Ernest Koone for having the patience to grow these beauties, because I do believe it’s important to preserve our native plants.
The native azaleas are becoming more and more difficult to find in nurseries, but can be purchased through mailorder. For more information on the different varieties currently available, check back regularly to read updated profiles of native azaleas with their bloom times and unique characteristics.
To purchase some of these rare plants, go to http://shadygardens.biz.

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