Monday, June 27, 2011

Georgia’s Native Plants – Rhododendrons

Georgia has many great shrubs to plant in any yard or landscape. Of these, native Rhododendrons are some of the southern staples that are typically in people’s yards. These Rhododendrons are just some of the great natives that you’ll love for their lower maintenance.


Rhododendron arborescens (Pursh) Torr. (Sweet Azalea, Smooth Azalea, Azalea arborescens)

This shrub gets up to eight to 12 feet tall and prefers partial shade and moist acidic well-drained soil. It is a rapid grower. There are fragrant white or bluish/pinkish blooms in three to seven flower clusters in late spring. Its dark green leaves will turn bright orange to red in the fall. You can propagate this by seed. WARNING: It is a poisonous plant due to the toxin andromedotoxin.

Rhododendron austrinum (Small) Rehder (Florida Azalea, Yellow Azalea, Azalea austrina)
This fragrant shrub is from the heath family and attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. It grows eight to 10 feet high and two feet wide. Flowers are golden yellow trumpet-like blooms that have a reddish base. Leaves are alternate and two to five inches long with a medium green color. It prefers light acidic well-drained soil with partial sun. Propagate by seed. It is suppose to be one of the native Rhododendron’s easiest to grow.

Rhododendron calendulaceum (Michx.) Torr. (Flame Azalea, Azalea calendulacea, Azalea lutea)
This shrub gets up to six to eight feet tall with an equal spread. It likes partial shade and moist well-drained acidic soil. Its red, orange, or yellow fragrant flowers will appear in late winter to early spring. Blooms are in clusters and funnel-like. Leaves are medium green and deciduous. Too much shade on this one will lessen the blooms. It has average water needs. You can propagate this by seed. WARNING: Parts are poisonous if ingested due to the toxin andromedotoxin.

Rhododendron canescens (Michx.) Sweet (Mountain Azalea, Wild Azalea, Piedmont Azalea)

This deciduous azalea grows six to 15 feet tall and puts out very showy pink flowers in early spring. It prefers acidic well-drained, but not limey, soils and partial shade. Propagate by seed. WARNING: Parts are poisonous if ingested due to the toxin andromedotoxin.

Rhododendron catawbiense Michx. (Catawba Rosebay)

This shrub gets up to six to 10 feet tall and has a spread of six to eight feet. It prefers light shade and acidic soils. Leaves are clustered and thick. There is shiny evergreen foliage and has average water needs. There are pink, red, or violet trumpet-shaped flowers in spring. It is the Southeast’s most common native azalea. WARNING: Parts are poisonous if ingested.

Rhododendron maximum L. (Great Laurel, Wild Rhododendron, Rosebay Rhododendron, White Laurel, Rhododendron ashleyi)

A member of the heath family, the great laurel is an evergreen shrub/small tree that has crooked branches and trunk. Flowers are big, bell-like, pink or white and come in June. Great laurel grows four to 15 feet tall in northern states but can be up to 30 feet tall in the south. Leaves are leather-like and dark blue-green. It prefers partial shade and wet or moist acidic soils. Propagate by seed. It is a very hardy Rhododendron species. WARNING: All parts are toxic and should not be consumed by people or animals.

Rhododendron periclymenoides (Michx.) Shinners (Pink Azalea, Pinxterflower, Rhododendron nudiflorum)

This shrub gets up to six to 12 feet tall and has a three to eight foot spread. It likes partial shade and acidic moist soil. It has fragrant pink funnel-like flowers in mid-spring to early summer. Blooms are in clusters. Its deciduous foliage is leathery and medium green in color. It’s a good solid azalea choice for blooms and foliage. Propagate by seed. It is susceptible to dieback, chlorosis from high pH, and leaf scorch. WARNING: Parts are poisonous if ingested.

Rhododendron vaseyi Gray (Pinkshell Azalea)
A member of the heath family, the pinkshell azalea grows five to 15 feet tall with an open growth pattern. Flowers come before the leaves and are not tubular like most azaleas. Flower hues will range from pink to white and have a yellow throat, blooming in April.  Leaves are medium green in color and will turn red in the fall. It prefers shade and moist acidic well-drained soils. Propagate by seed.It is not drought tolerant and cannot hybridize with other Rhododendrons.

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