National Native Azalea Collection

Nestled along the banks of Bent Creek and easily reached from the main gardens, the
National Native Azalea Collection is a wood-land garden with azaleas representing every species native to the US, along with many natural hybrids and selections. In late spring and early summer the garden is a diverse and eye-catching composition of color, form, and fragrance set among native ferns, wild-flowers, shrubs and trees. During other times of the year the sky opens above the canopy and the natural architecture of the rock out-croppings is revealed. Be sure to explore the various trails throughout the garden.

Did you know.....

there are 17 azaleas native to the United States? All but two species are native to the southeast and all are deciduous. 16 of the 17 species are being grown in the National Native Azalea Collection.

In this part of the country, native azaleas are often called “honeysuckles” because of their  flower form and fragrance. However they are a member of the genus Rhododendron and are not related to the honeysuckle vine.

Although most of the native azaleas in the Azalea Collection will grow in our region, it’s important to look to their preferred habitat and the states in which the species are naturally found to ensure the most success.

Azaleas have many positive attributes that make them perfect for the home landscape, providing color and fragrance from March to August. Found in diverse locations from the low-lying coast to the high elevation mountains, native azaleas’ ability to tolerate and thrive in heat or cold is an important
consideration when selecting the best plants for your garden. Ask at your local nursery to learn what will do best in your location.

Growing Azaleas

These guidelines also apply to evergreen azaleas.

Azaleas grow best in slightly acid (pH 5.5-6 – typical of our area) soil with plenty of organic matter and good drainage, in an area with partial afternoon shade. Several varieties can tolerate full sun, but avoid exposure to long periods of hot full sun and drying winds.

Most Azaleas do not like "wet feet." Provide good drainage by planting azaleas with the tops of their root balls a few inches above ground level and mounding the soil up to the plants. This is particularly important with heavy clay soils. Adding organic matter such as decayed pine bark, sawdust, and organic compost is helpful in these situations.

Apply several inches of pine bark, pine needles or wood chip mulch to retain moisture, prevent weeds and maintain an even soil temperature.

Provide supplemental watering until plants are well established - 1-2 years and during periods of drought. Adequate water after flowering helps to produce more flower buds for next year.

Although mature azaleas do not need fertilizer, a light application of an azalea or rhododendron fertilizer applied in early spring can be helpful during establishment.

Pruning azaleas develops a more dense and shapely plant, but it not always necessary. Reducing or removing long stems and dead wood may be done at any time, while more severe pruning should be done in the early spring and over a 2-3 year period.

Time of flowering is variable and dependent on many factors; heredity, soil type, exposure, elevation and weather. If your plant doesn’t
flower as strongly as it use to, see if improper pruning, cold spring temperatures, lack of moisture, not enough sun, or poor plant health are at play.

Some reasons azaleas may not survive are improper planting, poor drainage, over watering, over fertilizing, or bark split due to colder weather or bigger temperature swings than it could withstand. Symptoms may not show up until warm weather sets in.

If you are having problems with your azaleas or want information on to how to grow azaleas successfully, contact your county agent or a master gardener, or attend an Azalea Society or Rhododendron Society meeting.

NATIVE AZALEAS IN BLOOM

EARLY SEASON~
Florida Azalea • Rhododendron austrinum • woods, swamps • yellow to orange • mid April – early May • fragrant
Piedmont Azalea • Rhododendron canescens • moist to dry open woods • pink to white • mid April – early May • fragrant
Pinkshell Azalea • Rhododendron vaseyi • open woods • pale to deep purplish pink • mid April – May
Flame Azalea • Rhododendron calendulaceum • dry open woods • yellow to orange to red • mid April – June

MID SEASON~
Pinxterbloom Azalea • Rhododendron periclymenoides • moist to dry open woods • deep pink to reddish pink to white • late April – mid May • fragrant
Alabama Azalea • Rhododendron alabamense • dry upland woods • white with yellow blotch • late April – early May • fragrant
Oconee Azalea • Rhododendron flammeum • dry open woods • yellowish orange to red • mid April – early May
Coastal Azalea • Rhododendron atlanticum • stream banks, swamps • white to pink • late April – mid May • fragrant
Roseshell Azalea • Rhododendron prinophyllum • open woods, bogs • pink to purple • late April – mid May • fragrant

LATE SEASON~
Sweet Azalea • Rhododendron arborescens • moist open woods, stream banks • white • early May – mid July • fragrant
Santee Azalea • Rhododendron eastmanii • open woods, streambanks • white with yellow blotch • mid-late May • fragrant
Cumberland Azalea • Rhododendron cumberlandense • open woods • yellow to orange to red • mid May – late June
Swamp Azalea • Rhododendron viscosum • moist marsh to high mixed forest • white • mid-May to mid-June • fragrant
Plumleaf Azalea • Rhododendron prunifolium • shady ravines • red to orange to red • July – Aug