Rhododendrons and azaleas are among the South's favorite shrubs. Many people think of them as entirely different plants, but they both belong to the genus Rhododendron, which comprises more than 800 species and 10,000 named selections. Even to the untrained eye, one difference between the two groups is obvious: Rhododendrons generally have much larger leaves. From a technical standpoint, rhododendron flowers are bell shaped and have ten or more stamens, while azalea blooms are typically funnel shaped and have five stamens.
By making their choices carefully, gardeners in almost every part of the South can enjoy some of these plants, even if that means growing them in containers. Rhododendrons generally do better in the Upper and Middle South (USDA 6-7), though a number of selections thrive in the Lower South (USDA 8). These include 'A. Bedford', 'Album Elegans', 'Anah Kruschke', 'Belle Heller', 'Caroline', 'Cheer', 'Chionoides', 'Cynthia', 'Fastuosum Flore Pleno', 'Ginny Gee', 'Holden', 'Jean Marie de Montague', 'Lee's Dark Purple', 'Nova Zembla', 'PJM', 'Purple Splendour', 'Scintillation', 'Trude Webster', 'Vulcan', 'Yaku Prince'.
In addition, the following extend the range of rhododendrons into the Coastal South (USDA 9): 'Anna Rose Whitney', 'English Roseum', 'Janet Blair', 'Roseum Elegans', and the Southgate series (see by color below).
RHODODENDRON HYBRIDS AND SPECIES
Dozens of recommended rhododendrons are organized by color and described in the lists that follow. Hybrids are listed first, then species. Many are available at garden centers; you'll have to order others by mail. All are evergreen unless otherwise noted. While much attention is on hybrids, rhododendron species have plenty to offer, especially in woodland gardens and naturalized areas. Four of the species listed are native to the Southeast.
In the listing below, the typical height for each is given; most grow at least as wide as tall. Bloom times given are approximate and vary with weather and location. In the descriptions, very early corresponds to late winter, early to early spring, midseason to midspring, late to late spring, and very late to early summer.
'Album Elegans'. To 6 ft. Flowers open pale mauve and fade to white. Vigorous, open form. Late. Heat tolerant.
'Belle Heller'. To 5 ft. Pure white with gold blotch. Midseason. Takes sun and heat.
'Boule de Neige'. To 5 ft. Rounded plant with bright green leaves and snowball-like clusters of white flowers. Midseason.
'Catawbiense Album'. To 6 ft. Pink buds; white flowers with greenish blotch. Midseason to late. Takes cold and heat.
'Chionoides'. To 4 ft.; dense, compact, rounded form. White flowers with light yellow spotting. Late midseason. Takes sun and heat.
'Cunningham's White'. To 4 ft. An old-timer bearing blooms in white with greenish yellow blotch. Late midseason.
'Dora Amateis'. To 3 ft. Compact, rather small-foliaged plant; good for foreground. Profuse bloomer with green-spotted white flowers. Spicy fragrance. Early midseason.
'Gomer Waterer'. To 5 ft. Pink buds open to white flowers with yellowish green blotch. Late midseason. Old-timer. Tolerates sun; endures heat and drought better than most.
'Loder's White'. Shapely growth to 5 ft. Tall trusses of white flowers with faint yellow throat and light pink picotee edge; blooms turn pure white as they age. Midseason. Blooms freely even when young. Best white for most regions. Heat tolerant.
'Sappho'. To 6 ft. Easy to grow; gangly without pruning. Use at back of border. White blossoms with a dark purple eye. Midseason. Heat tolerant.
'Southgate Divine'. To 5 ft. Light pink buds open to white blooms with purple flecks. Heat tolerant.
'Southgate Grace'. To 46 ft. Deep pink buds open to the lightest pink to white blooms. Heat tolerant.
'Anna Rose Whitney'. To 6 ft., with excellent foliage. Big trusses of blossoms in rich, deep pink. Late midseason. Heat tolerant.
'Antoon Van Welie'. To 6 ft. Tall trusses of carmine-pink blooms. Late midseason.
'Autumn Gold'. To 5 ft. Well-branched plant with rather upright growth. Salmon blossoms in flat-topped trusses; blooms from an early age. Very late.
'Bow Bells'. Forms a 3-ft. mound. Rounded leaves; bronzy new growth. Loose clusters of bright pink, cup-shaped flowers open from deeper pink buds. Early midseason.
'Caroline'. To 6 ft. Lightly fragrant flowers in orchid-pink. Light green, twisted leaves. Midseason to late. Heat tolerant.
'Cheer'. Mound-shaped, glossy-leafed plant to 4 ft. Pink flowers. Early. Heat tolerant.
'English Roseum' ('Roseum Pink'). Erect habit to 6 ft. Lavender-pink blooms. Midseason. Tough and undemanding. Heat tolerant.
'Furnivall's Daughter'. To 5 ft. Tall trusses of bright pink flowers with cherry-red blotch. Midseason.
'Ginny Gee.' Striking 2-ft. dwarf with small leaves, dense growth. Small pink bells are dotted inside and out with white. Profuse bloom in early midseason. Heat tolerant.
'Janet Blair'. To 5 ft.; vigorous and spreading. Large, ruffled flowers blend pastel pink, cream, white, and gold; rounded trusses. Midseason to late. Heat tolerant.
'Molly Ann'. To 3 ft. Compact grower with roundish leaves. Rose-pink flowers in upright trusses. Early midseason. Heat tolerant.
'Mrs. Furnivall'. To 4 ft. Compact-growing plant. Tight, round trusses of light pink flowers with deep red blotch. Late midseason.
'Pink Pearl'. To 6 ft.; open and rangy if not pruned. Tall trusses of rose-pink flowers. Midseason. Grows and blooms dependably.
'PJM'. Dense, bushy plant to 4 ft. Exceptional purplish pink flowers; profuse bloom. Flowers early, when foliage still has its mahogany winter color. Takes heat as well as cold. Can be sheared into a hedge.
'President Lincoln'. To 6 ft. Lilac-toned lavender-pink with bronze blotch. Midseason to late.
'Roseum Elegans'. To 6 ft. Olive-green foliage. Lilac-pink flowers. Midseason to late. Tolerates both heat and cold. Very tough.
'Scintillation'. To 5 ft. Compact plant covered in lustrous dark green leaves. Blossoms come in rounded trusses; they open pastel pink with brownish pink markings in throat. Midseason. Heat tolerant.
'Southgate Brandi'. To 4 ft. Deep pink buds open to pink, ruffled blooms. Heat tolerant.
'Southgate Breezy'. To 5 ft. Medium pink buds open to light pink to white blooms with medium maroon blotch. Heat tolerant.
'Trude Webster'. To 5 ft. Strong-growing plant with large leaves. Huge trusses of pure pink flowers in midseason. One of the best pinks. Heat tolerant.
'Patty Bee'. To 1 ft. Small plant, well clothed with small (1-in.-wide) leaves that turn dark red in winter. Loose trusses of lemon-yellow flowers cover even young plants. Early midseason.
'Unique'. To 4 ft.; outstanding neat, rounded, compact habit. Bright pink buds open to tight, rounded trusses of creamy pale yellow blossoms. Early midseason. Heat tolerant.
'Virginia Richards'. Upright, compact habit to 4 ft. Flowers open unspotted pink, then turn yellow with a dark red blotch. Big, deep green, strongly veined leaves. Early to midseason.
'America'. To 5 ft. Dark red. Late. Heat tolerant.
'Cynthia'. To 6 ft. Rosy crimson blooms with blackish markings. Midseason. Old favorite for background. Heat tolerant.
'Elizabeth'. To 3 ft. One of the most popular low-growing red rhododendrons, very widely planted. Attractive foliage sets off large, bright red, waxy, trumpet-shaped flowers that are carried in clusters of three to six at branch ends and in upper leaf joints. Blooms very young. Early midseason; often reblooms in early fall. Very susceptible to fertilizer burn, salts in water or soil.
'Holden'. To 4 ft. Compact plant. Rose-red flowers marked with deeper red. Midseason. Heat tolerant.
'Jean Marie de Montague'. To 5 ft., with brilliant scarlet flowers and attractive foliage. Midseason. Heat tolerant.
'Johnny Bender'. To 45 ft. Glossy, dark green leaves set off blood-red flowers. Midseason.
'Kluis Sensation'. Compact grower to 5 ft. Small, tight trusses of dark red, faintly spotted flowers. Midseason.
'Lem's Stormcloud'. To 5 ft. Large, erect trusses of bright red flowers; blossoms flare out flat when fully open. Late midseason.
'Leo'. To 5 ft., well clothed in large, dark green leaves. Rounded to dome-shaped trusses packed with rich cranberry-red blooms. Midseason to late.
'Lord Roberts'. To 5 ft. Handsome, dark green foliage and rounded trusses of red flowers spotted in black. Midseason. Plants grown in sun are more compact, bloom more profusely.
'Mars'. To 4 ft. Dark red. Late midseason. Handsome form, foliage, flowers.
'Nova Zembla'. To 5 ft. Bears profuse red flowers in midseason. Takes heat.
'Scarlet Wonder'. Outstanding, compact dwarf to 2 ft. Shiny, quilted-looking foliage forms backdrop for many bright scarlet blossoms. Midseason.
'Trilby'. To 5 ft. Deep burgundy flowers with black markings. Matte green leaves; red stems. Midseason.
'Vulcan'. To 5 ft. Bright, brick-red flowers. Late midseason. New leaves often grow past flower buds, partially hiding them. Heat tolerant.
LAVENDER TO PURPLE AND BLUE
'A. Bedford'. To 6 ft. Large trusses of lavender-blue blooms with darker flare. Late. Heat tolerant.
'Anah Kruschke'. To 6 ft. Lavender-blue to reddish purple. Good foliage and is very tolerant of heat and sun. Can be sensitive to root rot in warm, wet soils. Midseason to late. Heat tolerant.
'Ben Mosley'. Compact grower to 6 ft. tall, 8 ft. wide. Pinkish purple flowers with reddish purple blotch. Midseason.
'Blue Diamond'. To 3 ft.; compact, erect. Small leaves. Small lavender-blue flowers cover plant in early midseason. Takes considerable sun.
'Blue Ensign'. To 4 ft.; compact, well-branched, rounded growth. Leaves tend to spot. Lilac-blue flowers have a striking dark blotch. Midseason. Tolerates sun and heat.
'Blue Peter'. To 45 ft. Broad, sprawling growth; needs regular pruning. Large trusses of lavender-blue flowers with purple blotch. Midseason. Tolerates heat and sun.
'Catawbiense Boursault'. Like 'Catawbiense Album' (white) but with pinkish lavender flowers. Takes cold and heat.
'Fastuosum Flore Pleno'. Open, rounded habit to 6 ft. Lavender-blue double flowers marked with gold blotch. Flower center is filled with small, lavender, petal-like structures. Midseason. Dependable old-timer. Tolerates heat and sun.
'Lee's Dark Purple'. To 6 ft. Dark purple blossoms with greenish blotch. Wavy-edged, dark green leaves. Early midseason.
'Marchioness of Lansdowne'. Spreading, open growth to 56 ft. Rosy violet flowers with a dark blotch and white stamens. Midseason to late.
'Purple Splendour'. To 5 ft. Informal habit. Ruffled-looking, deep purple blossoms with black-purple blotch. Late midseason. Tolerates sun and heat.
'Ramapo'. Dense, spreading growth to 2 ft. in sun, taller in shade. New growth is dusty blue-green, maturing to dark green. Pinkish violet flowers cover plant in early midseason. Useful rock garden or low border plant.
'Sapphire'. To 2 ft. Twiggy, rounded, and dense, with tiny, narrow, gray-green leaves. Small, azalealike, light blue flowers. Early midseason.
'Southgate Radiance' . To 5 ft. Deep lavender buds open to light purple blooms. Heat tolerant.
'Van Nes Sensation'. To 5 ft. Strong grower. Large trusses of pale lilac flowers. Midseason.
R. carolinianum. CAROLINA RHODODENDRON. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to mountains of the Carolinas and Tennessee. To 36 ft. tall and as broad or broader, with tight clusters of pink flowers in midseason. Leaves turn purplish in cold winters. 'Carolina Gold' is an upright grower with yellowish white blossoms. 'White Perfection' has light pink buds that open to white flowers; it is more compact than the basic species (to 4 ft. high and wide) and bears younger and more profusely.
R. catawbiense. CATAWBA RHODODENDRON. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to mountains from West Virginia to Alabama. To 15 ft. tall and wide, eventually much larger. Lavender (or sometimes reddish purple) flowers in midseason. An ancestor of many heat-tolerant selections.
R. maximum. ROSEBAY RHODODENDRON. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Native from New England to Georgia and Alabama; the state flower of West Virginia. Large, handsome, densely foliaged shrub or small tree with open habit. Usually 1015 ft. tall, but may reach 30 ft. Striking, satiny, dark green leaves to 410 in. long. Small clusters of many rose or purplish pink, 1-in. flowers with white centers and green freckles. Tolerates full shade. Late to very late.
R. minus. PIEDMONT RHODODENDRON. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Heat-tolerant native rhododendron. An upright grower to 4 ft. (eventually 6 ft.) tall, it has round clusters (up to 4 in. across) of spotted or flecked, rose-pink blossoms with distinctive dark anthers. Shiny, oblong leaves to just 3 in. long. Endangered species; be careful to buy only nursery-propagated plants. Midseason. R. m. minus. Native to Alabama, northwest Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Selections include 'Red Hills Strain' (lavender), 'Southern Cerise' (dark pink, compact), and 'Mockingbird Hill' (lavender-pink, upright mound). R. m. chapmanii, Chapman's rhododendron, is found in the pine woods of northwest Florida.
R. mucronulatum. KOREAN RHODODENDRON. Zones US, MS. USDA 6-7. From China, Mongolia, Korea, Japan. Deciduous, azalealike rhododendron. Open, thin growth to 5 ft.; very early bloom makes up for bare, leggy branches. Small clusters of bright purple flowers. Form 'Cornell Pink' also available.
R. yakushimanum. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. From Japan. Forms a tight mound to 14 ft. high. New growth has a soft-as-down coating of white hairs; older leaves are glossy, dark green above, brown and felted beneath. Clear, pink, bell-like flowers age to white. Late midseason. Selections include 'Ken Janeck', a large (to 4-ft.) form with intense pink flowers, and smaller-growing 'Yaku Angel', with pink-tinged buds opening to pure white flowers. There are also a number of hybrids that perform as well in cold climates as they do in milder ones. Among them are 'Mardi Gras', 'Yaku Sunrise', 'Yaku Prince' and 'Yaku Princess'. The four hybrids just mentioned all have blooms in white or pink-tinged white.
KINDS OF AZALEAS
Azaleas are divided into evergreen and deciduous categories. The following describes evergreen hybrids first, then deciduous hybrids and species.
EVERGREEN AZALEA HYBRIDS
Evergreen azaleas fall into more than a dozen groups, though an increasing number of hybrids have such mixed parentage that they don't fit conveniently into any category. The following list includes some of the most popular groups. Except as noted, bloom season is late winter or spring. Plants grown in greenhouses can be forced for winter bloom. Size varies considerably, but most of these slow-growing plants reach 25 ft. high and at least as wide.
Aromi hybrids. Zones LS, CS; USDA 8-9. Like their better-known deciduous counterparts, the evergreen Aromi hybrids were bred for warm climates. They include 'Amelia Rose', purplish red blooms in classic rose form; 'Hallie', purplish pink and double; and 'Micheale Lux', purplish pink with purplish red blotch.
Belgian Indica hybrids. Zone TS; USDA 10-11. These hybrids were originally developed for greenhouse forcing. Where winter lows don't dip below 20F, many of them serve well as landscape plants. They are profuse bloomers with lush, thick foliage and typically semidouble or double, 2- to 3-in. blossoms. Among the most widely sold are 'Albert and Elizabeth', white with pink edges; 'California Sunset', salmon-pink with white border; 'Chimes', dark red; 'Mardi Gras', salmon with white border; 'Mission Bells', red semidouble; 'Mme Alfred Sanders', cherry-red; 'Orange Sanders', salmon-orange; 'Orchidiflora', orchid-pink; 'Paul Schame', salmon. Three choices with pendent growth are 'Red Poppy', deep purple 'Violetta', and orange-red 'William Van Orange'; all are suitable for hanging baskets.
Beltsville hybrids. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Similar to the Glenn Dale hybrids. 'Guy Yerkes' has pink flowers. Selection 'H. H. Hume' has single white blossoms with a yellowish throat; 'Polar Bear' is an exceptionally hardy white.
Bloom-A-Thon hybrids. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Bred in Seneca, South Carolina, by Bob Head. Bloom in spring, summer, and fall in shades of 'Lavender' (3 -4 ft. tall), 'White' (shortest; 2 -3 ft. tall), 'Red' (3-4 ft. tall), and 'Pink Double' (3-4 ft. tall). Promise to bloom for 6 weeks in spring and another 12 to 16 weeks in summer and fall.
Carla hybrids. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Bred at North Carolina State and Louisiana State universities by Dr. R. J. Stadtherr for resistance to Phytophthora. These midseason bloomers include deep rose-pink 'Adelaide Pope', semidouble 'Carror', double light pink 'Elaine', deep rose-red 'Emily', deep rose-pink 'Sunglow', and bright red 'Wolfpack Red'.
Encore hybrids. Zones LS, CS; USDA 8-9. Bred by Buddy Lee of Franklinton, Louisiana, and introduced by Flowerwood Nursery in Mobile, these azaleas bloom most heavily in both fall and then again in spring. Unlike other azaleas, they can take full sun. They include soft purple 'Autumn Amethyst', deep pink 'Autumn Cheer', salmon-pink 'Autumn Coral', orange-red 'Autumn Embers', vivid pink 'Autumn Rouge', and purple 'Autumn Royalty'.
Gable hybrids. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Bred in Pennsylvania to produce cold-hardy azaleas of Kurume type. In the Upper South, they may lose some leaves during winter. Bloom heavily in midseason. Frequently sold pink selections include 'Caroline Gable', 'Louise Gable' (semidouble), 'Pioneer', and 'Rosebud' (double). Among purple choices are 'Herbert' and 'Purple Splendor'. 'Rose Greeley' has white blossoms. 'Stewartstonian' is orange-red.
Girard hybrids. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Handsome-foliaged plants bred for extra cold hardiness; originated from Gable crosses. Selections include 'Girard's Crimson', with bright crimson-red blooms and maroon fall foliage; 'Girard's Fuchsia', reddish purple flowers; 'Girard's Hot Shot', with orange-red blossoms as well as orange-red fall and winter foliage; 'Girard's National Beauty', rose-pink blooms; and 'Girard's Roberta', double pink, 3-in. blooms; and 'Girard's Rose', deep rose blooms.
Glenn Dale hybrids. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Bred by Benjamin Y. Morrison at the National Arboretum. Developed primarily for hardiness, though they do drop some leaves in cold winters. Some are tall and rangy, others low and compact. Growth rate varies from slow to rapid. Some have small leaves like Kurume hybrids; others have large leaves. Some familiar selections include orange 'Anchorite'; pale pink 'Aphrodite'; orange-red 'Buccaneer', 'Copperman', and 'Fashion'; white 'Everest' and 'Glacier'; 'Geisha', white with red stripes; 'Martha Hitchcock', magenta-crimson with a white center; and 'Treasure', white edged with a hint of pink.
Harris hybrids. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Bred in Lawrence- ville, Georgia, by James Harris beginning in 1970. His azaleas include 'Coronado Red', clear red; 'Midnight Flare', dark red; 'Pink Cascade'; and 'Fascination', pink center with red border. More recently, his work on repeat bloom has been marketed in the Bloom N' Again series, marked by bright colors.
Holly Springs hybrids. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Bred in Holly Springs, Mississippi, by Pete Vines between 1977 and the early 90s. Of the dozens released, favorites include 'Astronaut', white with light green blush and occasional red streak, and 'Irish Cream', white with yellow-green blotch.
Kaempferi hybrids. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. From R. kaempferi, the torch azalea, a cold-hardy plant with orange-red flowers. These are hardier than Kurume hybrids (to 15F), with a taller, more open habit. Nearly leafless below 0F. Profuse bloom. Available choices are salmon-rose 'Fedora'; 'Holland', a late-season bloomer with large red flowers; and orange-red 'John Cairns'.
Kurume hybrids. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Compact, twiggy plants densely clothed in small, glossy leaves. Small flowers are borne in incredible profusion. Plants have mounded or tiered form, look handsome even out of bloom. Widely used in foundation plantingsto the point of clich. Of the many available selections, these are among the most widely sold: pink 'Coral Bells', crimson 'Hexe', bright red 'Hershey's Red' and 'Hino-crimson', cerise-red 'Hino-degiri', orange-red 'Sherwood Red', and white 'Snow'.
North Tisbury hybrids. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Most of these hybrids reflect the characteristics of a common prostrate-growing ancestor, R. nakaharai. Their dwarf, spreading habit and very late bloom (into midsummer) make them naturals for hanging baskets and ground covers. Some of the best selections are 'Alexander', with red-orange flowers and bronze fall foliage; pink-blossomed 'Pink Cascade'; and 'Red Fountain', with dark red-orange blooms that appear around the Fourth of July.
Pericat hybrids. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. These were originally developed for greenhouse forcing but are about as hardy as Kurume hybrids and look much the same, though flowers tend to be somewhat larger. Selections include rose-pink 'Hampton Beauty', light pink 'Mme Pericat', blush pink 'Sweetheart Supreme', and rose pink 'Twenty Grand'.
ReBloom hybrids. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. A second line of repeat-blooming azaleas from Bob Head, these have a good color range from pastels into more vivid hues, blooming again in summer as well as fall. They include 'Blush Elegance', pink, 1824 in.; 'Cherry Pink Prestige', double pink, 1218 in.; 'Coral Amazement', triple-petaled vivid coral, 2430 in.; 'Firebrick Fame', red-orange, 2430 in.; 'Fuchsia Extravagance', violet-purple, 1824 in.; 'Pink Adoration', pink, 2430 in.; 'Purple Spectacular', purple, 1824 in.; and 'White Nobility', white, 3036 in.
Robin Hill hybrids. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. A large group with typically large flowers bred in the 1950s and 60s by Robert Gartrell of Wycoff, New Jersey, ironic due to their popularity among gardeners in the Lower and Coastal South. Most are 3-4 ft. tall and wide; some are shorter or taller. Known to bloom for two to three monthsin fall as well as spring. There are so many good ones (several with Robin Hill in their names) that it's difficult to single out only a few. Try 'Betty Ann Voss', pink; 'Conversation Piece', pink with light center; 'Dorothy Rees', white; 'Nancy of Robin Hill', pink with red blotch; 'Robin Hill Gillie', red-orange; 'Hilda Niblett', with blossoms in a combination of light pink, deep pink, and white; and 'Watchet', ruffled light pink. The newest is 'Freddy'. A popular white sport of 'Watchet', it was found and introduced by Margie Jenkins of Amite, Louisiana.
Satsuki hybrids. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Includes azaleas referred to as Gumpo and Macrantha hybrids. Hardy to 5F. Low-growing plants; some make nice ground covers. They bloom late, bearing large flowers. Popular selections include white 'Gumpo'; rose-pink 'Gumpo Pink', tight-growing mounds of late-spring color. However, due to their compact form, they can be plagued by rhizoctonia, a blight that is usually fatal. Other excellent choices include 'Aikoku', orange; 'Amagasa', deep pink to coral-red; 'Johga', white to light pink with dark pink blotch; 'Gyokushin' white with fuchsia blotch; 'Momo no Haru', purple-lavender; 'Chinzan', warm pink; and 'Wakebisu', salmon-pink.
Southern Indica hybrids. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Selected from Belgian Indica hybrids for vigor and sun tolerance. Most take temperatures of 1020F, but some are damaged even at the upper end of that range. They generally grow faster, more vigorously, and taller than other kinds of evergreen azaleas. They range from 4 to 12 ft. tall and almost as wide, depending on the selection, age, and culture. Flowers are large, usually 23 in. across. Used for massing and as specimensas shrubs, standards, espaliers. Popular choices include 'Brilliant', carmine-red; 'Duc de Rohan', salmon-pink; 'Fielder's White'; 'Formosa', brilliant rose-purple; 'George Lindley Taber', light pink; 'Imperial Princess', rich pink; 'Imperial Queen', double pink; 'Iveryana', white with orchid streaks; 'Judge Solomon', clear pink; 'Mrs. G. G. Gerbing', white; 'Orange Pride', bright orange; 'President Claeys', orange-red; 'Pride of Dorking', brilliant red; 'Pride of Mobile', deep rose-pink; 'Red Formosa', reddish purple; and 'Southern Charm', watermelon-pink. A selection grown largely for foliage is 'Little John' (CS; USDA 9), a dense, rounded, 6-ft. bush with burgundy leaves; its red flowers are borne only sparsely.
Other azaleas of note. These popular azaleas (all about 35 ft. high and wide) belong to other categories. 'Delaware Valley White' is a cold-hardy Mucronatum hybrid; 'Elsie Lee' is a lovely semidouble lavender Shammarello hybrid. Two double white selections are 'Hardy Gardenia', a Linwood hybrid, and 'Helen Curtis', a Shammarello hybrid. 'Marian Lee' is a white-and-purple Back Acres hybrid. 'Palestrina' is a Vuykiana hybrid featuring large white flowers with a yellow blotch. Spider azalea (Rhododendron stenopetalum 'Linearifolium') is unique, combining long, narrow leaves with spidery, lavender pink flowers.
DECIDUOUS AZALEA HYBRIDS AND SPECIES
Few shrubs can equal deciduous azaleas for showiness and range of color, and this has fueled the development of many excellent hybrids over the years. They offer the yellow, gold, peach, orange, and flaming red colors that are missing or rare among evergreen azaleasand fall foliage is often brilliant orange-red to maroon. Flowers of some are highly fragrant. Deciduous species (typically with blossoms 11 in. across) are listed after the hybrids below. Many of these species are native to the South and are less fussy about soil and watering than evergreen types; they need a good amount of sun, however, and won't bloom well in full shade.
Aromi hybrids. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Bred by Dr. Eugene Aromi of Mobile, Alabama, who wanted azaleas of Knap HillExbury type that would tolerate long, hot summers. Crossing Exburys with Southern native species R. austrinum, R. canescens, R. oblongifolium, and R. viscosum produced azaleas with large trusses of striking, almost incandescent blooms. All are very heat tolerant. They are upright growers to 1215 ft. (though they may reach only half that height in the Upper South; USDA 6). Most have fragrant flowers. Selections include 'Aromi Sunny Side Up', golden yellow with a darker, egg yolkyellow blotch; 'Aromi Sunrise', orange-red buds opening to light orange blossoms with a deep orange center; 'Canary Isles', large yellow flowers with petals tipped in orange; 'Carousel', pale pink with prominent gold blotch; 'Centerpiece', white with yellow blotch; 'High Tide', flowers tipped in pink with yellow blotch; 'King's Trumpeter', dark red buds open to yellow-flushed red flowers; 'Radiant Red', fragrant dark red flowers; 'Spring Fanfare', coral buds open medium yellow; 'Clearcreek', yellow with darker yellow blotch. Midseason.
Choptank River hybrids. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Natural hybrids of R. atlanticum and R. periclymenoides found near the Choptank River in Maryland by Mr. and Mrs. Julian Hill. Grow 36 ft. tall. Fragrant flowers in midseason. Selections include: 'C-1', white, spreads by rooting stems; 'Choptank River Belle', white flushed with pink; 'Choptank Rose', rose-and-white blooms with golden blotch; 'Choptank Yellow', yellow with golden blotch; and 'Nacoochee', white and pale pink.
Confederate series hybrids. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Similar to Aromi hybrids. Bred for heat tolerance by Bob Schwindt, Tom Dodd, Jr., and Tom Dodd III of Semmes, Alabama. Crossing the Knap HillExbury hybrid 'Hotspur Yellow' with R. austrinum produced (among others) the following, all with fragrant blossoms: 'Admiral Semmes', large yellow flowers with a deep yellow blotch; 'Colonel Mosby', frilly salmon-pink blooms with a yellow flare; 'Stonewall Jackson', golden orange; 'J.E.B. Stuart', rose-pink with yellow blotch. Midseason.
Ghent hybrids. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Upright growers, variable in height. Flowers are generally 12 in. wide. Colors include shades of yellow, orange, umber, red, and pink. Two double-flowered selections are soft pink 'Corneille' and light yellow 'Narcissiflora'. Midseason.
Knap HillExbury hybrids. Zones US, MS, some in LS; USDA 6-7, some in 8. These extraordinary hybrids come from crosses made in England, first at Knap Hill, then at Lionel de Rothschild's estate at Exbury. Plants are spreading to upright, reaching 46 ft. tall. Midseason to late bloom. Huge trusses of large (3- to 5-in.-wide) flowers stand atop the foliage; blossoms are sometimes ruffled or fragrant. Colors include white, pink, orange, yellow, salmon, and red, often with contrasting blotches. Among the best are pink 'Cannon's Double'; orange 'Gibraltar' and 'Hotspur Orange'; double deep pink 'Homebush'; yellow 'Hotspur Yellow'; golden tangerine 'Klondyke'; and 'Oxydol', white with yellow markings. 'Gibraltar' and 'Hotspur Yellow' accept the heat of the Lower South (USDA 8); most of the others do not.
Mollis hybrids. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Hybrids of R. molle and R. japonicum. Upright growth to 45 ft. Flowers 24 in. wide, in clusters of 7 to 13. Colors range from chrome yellow through bright red. Very heavy bloom in midseason. Leaves have a light skunky fragrance when new, but they turn a lovely yellow to orange in autumn. Blooms of 'Hamlet' are yellowish pink with a reddish orange blotch; 'Koster's Brilliant Red' has bright orange-red flowers; 'Radiant' is deep red.
Viscosum hybrids. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Hybrids of Mollis azaleas and R. viscosum. Size varies from 38 ft. Flowers have colors of Mollis types but wonderful clove fragrance of R. viscosum. Late.
R. alabamense. ALABAMA AZALEA. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 68. Native to Alabama and Georgia. Grows 56 ft. tall and spreads by suckering to form colonies. Highly fragrant white flowers, usually blotched with yellow. Early.
R. arborescens. SWEET AZALEA. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to mountains from Pennsylvania to Alabama. Erect, open shrub to 8 ft. (possibly 20 ft.) tall. Fragrant white to pale pink, 1- to 2-in. flowers appear late, after leaves have expanded. 'White Lightning', which may be a hybrid, has intensely fragrant, white flowers touched with yellow. Hybrid 'Lady Barbara' has pink flowers and scarlet and gold fall color.
R. atlanticum. COAST AZALEA. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native from Delaware to South Carolina. Suckering shrub to 36 ft. tall. Fragrant, somewhat sticky, white to pink flowers bloom early, before or as leaves expand. 'Yellow Delight' has soft yellow blooms.
R. austrinum. FLORIDA FLAME AZALEA. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Native to northern and western Florida and southern parts of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi. To 810 ft. tall, with fragrant flowers that may be pale yellow, gold, cream, pink, orange, or red in color. One of the easiest native azaleas to grow. Tolerates heat, humidity, drought. Early bloom. 'Alba' has white blooms touched with yellow. 'Harrison's Red' has rosy red to coral blooms. 'Lisa Gold' bears bright golden yellow flowers. 'Millie Mac' has reddish orange buds opening to bright yellow flowers edged in white; 'My Mary' bears pure yellow blooms; 'Pretty One' has salmon-red flowers blotched yellow.
R. bakeri. CUMBERLAND AZALEA. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Native to mountains of Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama. Grows 38 ft. tall. Flowers about 1 in. wide; typically red, sometimes yellow or orange. Late midseason. Does not like long, hot summers. Flowers of 'Camp's Red' are a strong red in the mountains, a lighter red at lower elevations. Blossoms of 'Sunlight' blend deep orange-red and gold; its leaves turn bright plum-red in fall.
R. calendulaceum. FLAME AZALEA. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Native to mountain regions from southern Pennsylvania to Georgia. Grows to 48 ft. or taller. Clusters of 2-in.-wide flowers in yellow, red, orange, or scarlet. Late. A very important parent of many hybrid deciduous azaleas. Dislikes extended summer heat and drought. 'Cherokee' bears soft apricot blossoms with red stamens; 'Currahee' has striped red-and-yellow buds that open to orange blooms bordered with rosy pink. 'Soquee River' produces big trusses of orange, red, and yellow blooms. Several hybrids are also available. 'Chattooga' has ruffled pink flowers with a yellow blotch. 'Keowee Sunset' bears rose-pink flowers with a yellow blotch. 'Tangerine Delight' has bright orange blooms.
R. canescens. PIEDMONT AZALEA. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native from North Carolina to Texas. Large (to 10-ft.), suckering shrub with fragrant white to pink or rose flowers. Early. Sun or shade. 'Varnadoe's Phlox Pink' has bright pink blooms.
R. colemanii. RED HILLS AZALEA. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to southern Alabama and Georgia, this recent discovery is already making its way into gardens. Desirable for its late-spring bloom in remarkably variable colors of white, pink, or yellow. To 12 ft.
R. flammeum. OCONEE AZALEA. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to South Carolina, Georgia. Fairly compact to 6 ft., with clusters of 1-in. flowers in midseason. Colors range from red and pink to yellow or orange. Resembles R. calendulaceum but is more tolerant of heat and drought. 'Magenta Rose Flame' has bright magenta-pink flowers with a yellow flare.
R. oblongifolium. TEXAS AZALEA. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to East Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. To 6 ft. tall. Small (- to 1-in.), slightly fragrant white flowers appear in midseason, after leaves emerge. Tolerates drought better than most other deciduous azalea species.
R. periclymenoides (R. nudiflorum). PINXTERBLOOM AZALEA. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native from Massachusetts to Ohio and North Carolina. Suckering shrub grows 23 ft. high, sometimes much taller. Pale pink to deep pink, fragrant, 1-in. flowers appear in midseason, as leaves expand. 'Paxton's Blue' has showy lavender-blue flowers.
R. prinophyllum. ROSESHELL AZALEA. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native from southern Quebec to Virginia, west to Missouri and Oklahoma. To 48 ft. tall, occasionally much taller; bright pink (sometimes white), 1-in. flowers with strong clove fragrance. Blooms in midseason, before or as leaves emerge. 'Marie Hoffman' has clear pink blossoms.
R. prunifolium. PLUMLEAF AZALEA. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to Georgia and Alabama. To 10 ft., with orange-red to bright red, 1- to 1-in. flowers. This is the signature plant of Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia. One of the latest azaleas, blooming in July and August. 'Apricot Glow' has orange flowers, 'Pine Prunifolium' bright red ones. Hybrid 'Summer Lyric' bears pink blossoms with a yellow throat.
R. schlippenbachii. ROYAL AZALEA. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Native to Korea and Manchuria. Densely branched shrub to 68 ft. Leaves in whorls of five at tips of branches. Blooms in early midseason as leaves are expanding, producing large (2- to 4-in.), highly fragrant, pure light pink flowers in clusters of three to six. A white form is also available. Good fall color: yellow, orange, scarlet, crimson. Protect from full sun.
R. serrulatum. SWEET AZALEA, SOUTHERN SWAMP AZALEA. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native from Georgia and Florida to Louisiana. Tall shrub (to 1220 ft.) with reddish branches. Extremely fragrant white flowers, sometimes tinged cream, pale pink, or pale violet, bloom among new foliage. Small (to 3-in.-long), distinctly toothed leaves. Blooms very latefrom July into September.
R. vaseyi. PINKSHELL AZALEA. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to mountains of North Carolina. Upright plant with irregular, spreading form. To 1015 ft. Blooms before leaf-out, bearing light pink, 1- to 2-in. flowers in clusters of five to eight. Midseason. 'Pinkerbell' has deep pink blossoms, 'White Find' fragrant white blooms with a greenish yellow blotch.
R. viscosum. SWAMP AZALEA. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to damp or wet ground, Maine to Alabama. To 58 ft. tall. Flowers are white (sometimes pink), 2 in. long, sticky on the outside, with a powerful clove scent. Blooms late, often in June. Hybrids include 'Jolie Madame', fragrant, rosy pink flowers with a gold blotch; 'Lemon Drop', peach buds opening to lemon-scented, pale yellow blooms; and 'Peaches and Cream', yellowish white flowers with a purplish pink margin and yellow blotch.
R. yedoense poukhanense. KOREAN AZALEA. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to southern and central Korea. To 36 ft. tall. Lightly fragrant, lavender to rosy purple, 2-in.-wide flowers. Early. Sometimes reblooms in fall. Dark green leaves turn orange-red in fall. Remains evergreen in mild-winter areas. Foliage turns orange to red in fall. A parent to many modern evergreen azaleas.