Azalea Society of America
Hybrids are crosses between other species or hybrids. Hybrids will not grow true from seed and may be faithfully reproduced only from cuttings, which are clones of the mother
Azaleas have been hybridized for hundreds of years. Over 10,000 different cultivars, or cultivated varieties, have been registered or named, although far fewer are being propagated and sold. They provide a wide variety of plant habits, sizes, colors and bloom times to meet almost every landscaping need or personal preference.
While many azalea enthusiasts have created hybrids for their own enjoyment, a relatively small number of hybridizers have created most of the named hybrids. Since it takes many years and a lot of work to make the crosses, grow the seedlings, and evaluate the results, fewer yet have created large numbers of named hybrids.
The hybrids created by one hybridizer are termed a hybrid group. This page introduces a few hybrid groups, with links to more details on the cultivars. Cultivar names which appear as links have an image - click the link to see the image, and click your browser back button to return to the description.
The Aromi azalea hybrids were created in Mobile, Alabama by Dr. Gene Aromi, a retired education professor at the University of Southern Alabama, and his wife Jane, a retired elementary school teacher. As documented in the Summer 2003 issue (25:2) of The Azalean, they began their hybridizing program in 1969 to develop evergreen azaleas with "large flower size, early bloom time, improved bud hardiness, compact habit, and array of flower forms, and rich colors". They have named 31 evergreen azalea hybrids, described on our Aromi evergreen page.
In 1971 they began hybridizing Exbury azaleas with southern native species to create heat tolerant, large flowered, fragrant deciduous azaleas. Over 100 of these deciduous hybrids are named, and 8 of them are registered (shown in the list with an ® after the name). The deciduous azalea hybrids are described on our Aromi deciduous page.
They numbered the first selection from the first cross A-1, the first selection from the second cross B-1, and so on. Thus, for example, AAY-3 is the third selection from the 26+(26*26)+25 = 727th cross.
Other accounts of the Aromi's hybridizing programs are in the September 1999 issue (21:3) of The Azalean, and the Winter 2002 issue (56:1) of the Journal ARS.
B. Y. Morrison, Director of the U.S. National Arboretum, began an ambitious hybridizing program in 1935, with the goal of developing azaleas with large blooms, cold hardy in the Washington DC area, and extending the blooming season from mid-May to mid-June. He named and registered 454 Glenn Dale cultivars, and released 440 of them beginning in 1941, with more in 1947-1949 and the last few in 1952. They range in height from 3 to 8 feet, and cover a wide range of colors, color variations, flower sizes, plant habits and bloom times.
A complete list of the Glenn Dale azaleas is shown on our Glenn Dale page. Most of the names are links to their images.
The U.S. National Arboretum has a collection of Glenn Dale images at their www.usna.usda.gov/PhotoGallery/AzaleaGallery/ page.
The Holly Springs evergreen azalea hybrids were created by Col. Ronald C. Vines (Ret.) in Springfield, Virginia just south of Washington DC. Col. Vines ("Pete") started his hybridizing program in 1977 "to produce azaleas with larger blooms, dwarf to mid-size growth habit and increased cold hardiness". Descriptions from his 1990 catalog for the named hybrids are reproduced on our Holly Springs (named) page, and descriptions for the numbered hybrids which he had selected but not yet named are reproduced on our Holly Springs (numbered) page.
Pete numbers his hybrids such as HS-85-32-07, where 85 is the year he made the cross, 32 shows it was the 32nd cross made within that year, and 07 shows it was the 7th plant selected from that cross.
Little is known about the Huang evergreen azalea hybrids created by Mr. Huang because his work was done in China before their Cultural Revolution. One source of information is the documented observations of Col. Ronald C. Vines (Ret.), reproduced from his 1990 catalog on our Huang page. Col. Vines ("Pete") feels the Huang hybrids may be the most important hybrid groups of evergreen azaleas in existence, in terms of the diverse bloom size and type, foliage and plant habit within the group.
Pictures of a few Huangs being evaluated by Auburn University are shown on their www.ag.auburn.edu/landscape/Huangpage.html page. Most of the names shown there, for example "2-1-1962", do not follow the naming standard used by Mr. Huang, which encodes a description of the plant bloom time, flower shape and color. It appears they may have been misnamed by incorrectly adding the century to the last two digits, which could mean "2-1-1962" is really "2-1-62".
Dr August E Kehr was a much-published plant researcher with sterling credentials. After teaching at Louisiana State University and Iowa State University, he went on to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and to the Agricultural Research Service as scientist and administrator, and retired in 1978 to Hendersonville NC. Among his hybridizing goals were the development of yellow magnolias and a yellow evergreen azaleaand even such things as seedless pawpaws and heat-tolerant rhubarb! He also developed the technique of freezing pollen for later use, and is well known for his experimental work with chemically-induced polyploidy. Of the many hundreds of crosses he made and the many thousands of seedlings he raised, Augie registered only 11 azaleas, shown on our Kehr page.
More information about Augie and a memorial garden planted in his honor in Flat Rock, NC is shown at the www.pbase.com/kehr website.
A number of other azaleas with pictures are shown on our other images page.
The Robin Hill evergreen azalea hybrid group developed by Robert Gartrell is thoroughly and beautifully documented at the www.donaldhyatt.com/RobinHills/ website.
Satsuki evergreen azaleas have been hybridized in Japan for at least 500 years. Auburn University has pictures of almost 200 Satsuki at their www.ag.auburn.edu/landscape/Satsukipage.html website.
There is more Satsuki information and indexes to two Satsuki Dictionaries on our Satsuki page.
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