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 native azaleas    bloom times | sources | related pages

North America has 17 native species of azaleas. They are native to the southeastern United States, except for Rhododendron occidentale and Rhododendron canadense as further noted under bloom times. All are deciduous. Clarence Towe devised a mnemonic to help remember them, which is "1, 2, 3, 4, 5":
  • 1 West coast azalea - occidentale (pictures)
  • 2 Odd pinks - canadense, vaseyi
  • 3 Fragrant pinks - canescens, periclymenoides, prinophyllum
  • 4 Fragrant whites - alabamense, arborescens, atlanticum, viscosum
  • 5 Orange reds - austrinum, calendulaceum, cumberlandense, flammeum, prunifolium
Rhododendron eastmanii was recognized as a new species in 1999, which negated the mnemonic by being a fifth fragrant white.
In 2008, Rhododendron colemanii was recognized as another new species, a fragrant white or pink, rarely yellow.
Perhaps "1, 2, 3, 4, 5; plus 2 more whites"?

The East Coast Native Azaleas website is a stunningly beautiful visual overview and identification key for the azalea species native to the eastern United States. It was prepared by Donald W. Hyatt using images from the Species Study Group of the Middle Atlantic Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society.

The Georgia Native Azaleas website is devoted to native azaleas, prepared by Earl Sommerville with excellent images of azaleas from his garden near Atlanta, Georgia.

The Azalea Society picture website has pictures of native azaleas and their hybrids.

A page of identifying characters for North American native azaleas is available for download (13KB PDF file), Adapted from Dr. Kathleen Kron's analyses of deciduous azaleas, this "cheat sheet" and a hand lens can help in identifying a native azalea in the wild. Don Hyatt has an interactive online version which describes each of these identifying characters, and shows how close the characters you've entered match each of the native azalea species..

 bloom times
(compiled and provided by Mike Creel)

American Native Azaleas (in order of bloom)
  [Ed. notes: bloom times in central South Carolina; name links to USDA Plant Profiles]

Hoary Azalea Rhododendron canescens

March 25-April 25, pink to white, most common species

Florida Azalea* Rhododendron austrinum

March 25-April 25, yellow to orange, fragrant, native to GA, AL, FL

Pinkshell Azalea* Rhododendron vaseyi

April 5-22, pink to white, upper Piedmont & mountains [[Ed. note: 3-4 weeks later in the mountains]

Oconee Azalea Rhododendron flammeum

April 15-May 15, orange to red, withstands heat, drought

Alabama Azalea* Rhododendron alabamense

April 22- May 15, white, blooms before leaves

Coast Azalea Rhododendron atlanticum

April 22-May 11, white to pink, midlands-coast, spreads

Pinxterflower Rhododendron periclymenoides

April 22-May 16, pink to white, does well statewide

May White Rhododendron eastmanii

Mid-May, white, yellow blotch, fragrant, blooms after leaves [Ed. note: A new species, named and
documented by Kathleen Kron and Mike Creel, 1999]

Red Hills Azalea* Rhododendron colemanii (402 KB PDF)

Early to Mid-May, white or pink, rarely yellow, yellow blotch or not, fragrant, blooms after leaves
[Ed. note: A new species, named by Ron Miller, documented by Tom Ranney, Ron Miller, et al, 2008]

Roseshell Azalea* Rhododendron prinophyllum

May, suitable only for high altitudes

Swamp Azalea Rhododendron viscosum

May 16-June 16, white, fragrant, likes wet sites

Flame Azalea Rhododendron calendulaceum

May 28-June 25, orange to red, Piedmont & mountains

Cumberland Azalea* Rhododendron cumberlandense

June-July, orange-red, upper Piedmont & mountains, cool

Sweet Azalea Rhododendron arborescens

June 15-Aug 15, white, fragrant, very smooth all over

Plumleaf Azalea* Rhododendron prunifolium

June 25-Sept. 10, red to orange, smooth foliage, Georgia native

Hammocksweet Azalea Rhododendron viscosum var. serrulatum

July 12-Aug 30, white, fragrant, often forms colonies

*Species not native to South Carolina. Listed species will grow well in South Carolina with exceptions explained.

All American species are listed here except for Rhododendron canadense (Rhodora, native from Canada south to Pa and NJ) and Rhododendron occidentale (Western Azalea, native to northern CA, WA, OR).

 related pages
locations . . . (a database of native azaleas in the wild . . . someday)
azaleas (parent page)

Updated May 31, 2015

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