Spring in the Azalea Collection

Each spring visitors are drawn to the NC Arboretum’s National Native Azalea Collection to behold the singular beauty of azaleas in bloom. Visiting the National Native Azalea Collection, tucked into the forest alongside Bent Creek, is a unique opportunity to stroll through acres of mature azalea specimens, with 16 of North America’s 18 native azalea species growing alongside an array of cultivars and hybrids in a spectacle of color and fragrance. Read on to learn more about the events and opportunities offered by the Native Azalea Collection this year!

What’s in bloom? Keep an eye out for updates on our blog!

Native Azalea Day

April 27, 2024

Visit the gardens this spring for Native Azalea Day, an invitation to celebrate and experience azaleas through the eyes of plant enthusiasts, botanists, and artists. In partnership with the Mountain Science Exposition, Native Azalea Day plans to bring even more excitement in its second year! For one day only, visitors can observe as plein air artists capture the scene in paint and pen, learn about the garden and its collection on a walking tour, and ./participate in hands-on activities for children and adults.

A shuttle to the Collection will be available between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., departing to and from the Baker Visitor Center throughout the event. Visitors are also welcome to walk to the Native Azalea Collection from the Gatehouse Parking Lot using Old Mill Road to Bent Creek Road, or can park at the Baker Visitor Center and walk down Running Cedar Road to Bent Creek Road. Walkers should be prepared to travel one mile over unpaved roads and paths. 

All activities, unless otherwise noted, are included with general admission fees.


  • Time Event / Activity Notes
    8:30 AM

    Birding Walk with Anthony Squitieri from Wild Bird Research Group

    Pre-registration required; limited to 10 participants
    10:30 AM Walking tour with Carson Ellis, Curator of the National Native Azalea Collection  Pre-registration required; limited to 12 participants
    11:30 PM Walking tour with volunteer docent  Pre-registration required; limited to 12 participants
    12:00 PM Cyanotype demonstration by Callisa Lawn 
    12:30 PM Walking tour with volunteer docent  Pre-registration required; limited to 12 participants
    1:30 PM Walking tour with volunteer docent Pre-registration required; limited to 12 participants
    3:00 PM Shuttle service ends, last shuttle departs Native Azalea Collection


  • FIELD | SATURDAY, MAY 11, 9 A.M. – 4 P.M.





    LIMIT: 12

    All it takes is a short drive to discover botanical treasures, such as the bubblegum-flowered Rhododendron vaseyi, the pinkshell azalea! This endemic species grows only in a narrow range in the highlands of Western North Carolina. With bright trusses in colors ranging from snowy white to deep pink, the pinkshells put on one of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s most spectacular flower displays. Early May is the best time to go looking for these beautiful Rhododendron and the fantastic plants that grow alongside them, including mountain andromeda and the Carolina rhododendron, and an array of ephemeral wildflowers like trilliums, trout lilies, and bleedinghearts.

    Horticulturist and plant ecologist Carson Ellis, curator of the Arboretum’s National Native Azalea Garden, will lead this day-long field experience to convey the exceptional plant diversity of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Participants will see multiple distinct plant communities as they climb from 2,000 to 5,500 feet in elevation, enjoying opportunities to get up-close and personal with numerous rare and endemic species. This field experience is recommended for hearty participants, who can expect two short but steep hikes during the day. Scenic drives with stops for lunch and up-close viewing of fantastic pinkshell azalea displays as well as an opportunity to see a vertical bog will be equally breath-taking but requiring less physical exertion!

    Register Now

  • Check back later for more information!