Deciduous Azaleas in Central Florida?

bigpaulie1972(9B Melbourne FL)March 7, 2006

I live in Melbourne, Florida and we're in zone 9B. I have a very well shaded pine lot with about 10 stunning evergreen azaleas that are doing wonderful. Each bush is about 5 feet in height and diameter. They are covered in flowers at this time. The types I have are all pink colored. Some are a deep, dark pink, some others are a pale pink with dark throats and still others are white with a light pink throat. I have decided to make azaleas a centerpiece in my landscape design and saw some pictures of some amazing yellow and orange-yellow deciduous azaleas. I would love to use them as a backdrop to some of my pinks for a contrast. Has anyone grown them or can they give me a specific species that I should look to acquire that may be able to take the florida heat? Do they need a specific amount of cold to produce buds for flowers? I have asked in the Florda forum but only got a few "I dunno" responses. Also is the soil preperation the same as for regular azaleas? Thanks for any help.

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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

All of the deciduous azaleas are alike in their need for moist well-drained, acid soil (pH 4.5 to 5.5) that has been well supplemented with peat moss or leaf mold. Azaleas will grow in full sun or light shade, but light shade is preferable in hot areas. Pruning is almost never required. Some deciduous azaleas bloom later than evergreen azaleas. Note that the native rhododendrons in Florida are deciduous azaleas. The deciduous azalea varieties recommended by the American Rhododendron Azalea Chapter (Georgia & Florida) are:

Deciduous Azaleas For Florida:

'Gibraltar' = good vivid orange, typically 5' tall, blooms in mid season
'Hazel Hamilton' = good yellow, typically 3' tall, blooms early in season
'My Mary' = good fragrant brilliant yellow, typically 4' tall, blooms early in season
R. alabamense (Alabama Azalea)= fragrant white with yellow blotch, species native to Florida, 4'
R. arborescens (Sweet Azalea) = fragrant white, typically 5' tall, blooms very late in season
R. atlanticum (Coastal Azalea) = fragrant white or pink, typically 3' tall
R. austrinum (Florida Azalea) = fragrant yellow or orange, typically 5' tall, native to NW Florida
R. calendulaceum (Flame Azalea) = orange, red or yellow, typically 5' tall, blooms late in season
R. canescens (Florida Pinxter) = fragrant pink, typically 5' tall, native to Florida
R. flammeum (Oconee Azalea) = orange, typically 3' tall
R. periclymenoides or nudiflorum (Honeysuckle Azalea) = fragrant pink, typically 5' tall
R. prunifolium (Plum Leaf Azalea)= orange or red, typically 4' tall, blooms very late in season
R. vaseyi (Swamp Azalea) = pink, typically 4' tall, blooms early to mid season.

Here is a link that might be useful: American Rhododendron Society Proven Performer List for Florida

    Bookmark   March 7, 2006 at 9:34AM
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bigpaulie1972(9B Melbourne FL)

wow! I cannot thank you enough!! That is a wonderful webpage giving me a ton of information. Thanks again!!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2006 at 5:04PM
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What is the best kind of fertilizer?

    Bookmark   March 13, 2006 at 1:06PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Do not fertilize at the time of planting, as this might injure the roots, but water deeply. Plants that have been given a soil mixture rich in organic matter probably will not need feeding for several years. Do not stimulate fast growth because it produces long weak stems and few flowers. But if a plant seems weak or sickly, use cottonseed meal or a special rhododendron-azalea-camellia-holly fertilizer such as Hollytone dusted on the soil in early spring. Supplemental feeding later is not normally needed, but phosphorus and potassium may be applied any time.

Miracid can be more of a problem than a solution. It is a 30-10-10 fertilizer. The 30 is nitrogen which promotes foliage growth and inhibits flower bud production. For acidity, flowers of (powdered) sulfur or iron sulfate are best. Do not use aluminum sulfate since aluminum builds up in the soil and is toxic to most plants eventually. For flower bud production and hardiness, super phosphate is best. Around the base of each plant I use a tablespoon of dry sulfur and a tablespoon of dry super phosphate when a plant shows signs of problems. For a general fertilizer for rhododendrons and azaleas, Hollytone is preferred by many growers.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2006 at 3:36PM
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bigpaulie1972(9B Melbourne FL)

where would you get super Phosphate from? Would a local nursery carry it or would i likely have to ask them to order it? Also is that good for other flowering shrubs as well, such as cammelias or gardenias?

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 1:28AM
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I don't want to put a damper on things, but I think most of the Rhododendrons listed in the link provided by Rhodyman, will not survive, let alone thrive, in Melbourne, FL. If you look at the list all of them are listed for zone 8 or lower. Looking at just the North American deciduous species, the following were listed for zone 8:

R. alabamense
R. atlanticum
R. austrinum
R. calendulaceum
R. canescens
R. cumberlandense
R. flammeum

Of these, only three are Florida natives: R. alabamense (found in a few panhandle counties, zone 8a), R. austrinum (found again only in the panhandle, zone 8a), and R. canescens (found throughout north and central Florida down into even zone 10 in places). Strangely R. viscosum v. serrulatum (AKA R. serrulatum) was not listed. It also can be found into the northern reaches of south Florida. The remaining species do not live in Florida, but R. atlanticum, R. arborescens, R. flammeum, and R. prunifolium have populations not too far north of the Florida boarder.

Based on experience with growing plants in Florida (I lived there 21 years), here's my view. In the Melbourne area you may grow R. canescens and R. viscosum v. serrulatum. All other species of deciduous azalea will not grow for more than a season or two before dying. I can't speak for hybrids though. The problem isn't so much the high temperatures as such, but rather the duration of the warm season and the lack of a proper winter dormancy.

In Gainesville, FL (zone 8b) I grew R. austrinum, R. canescens, R. serrulatum, and two native Rhodos, R. minus and R. minus v. chapmanii. I experimented with R. flammeum and R. prunifolium with minimal success. R. calundulaceum has been tried by a number of growers in that area with no successes I've heard about. I never got the chance to try any others.


    Bookmark   March 16, 2006 at 12:51AM
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I believe plantfreak is correcto mundo !! By the way.
R.vaseyi is Pinkshell azalea.I can almost guarantee you
this would NOT be a happy camper in your climate.You
would have a hard time even finding it.Yes,I do have one growing.It doesn't even really like it here in zone8B.
It is really a mountain plant.Less humidity,more cold hours and soil chemistry.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2006 at 10:14PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

I don't actually use Super-phosphate per se, I use MagAmp which is a commercial slow release 7-40-6 fertilizer with 12% magnesium. I actually mix that with HollyTone which is a 4-6-4 fertilizer especially prepared for acid loving plants.

Here is a link that might be useful: MagAmp Fertilizer

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 10:08PM
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check out is a florida grower. my favorite florida bussiness with good information. they also will talk on the phone(800 #).

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 8:22AM
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Several hybridizers have been working on deciduous azaleas for warmer areas- mainly using austrinum. Tom Dodd and his 'confederate series' of hybrids is one example (ie Admiral Semmes). The Aromi hybrids are another example.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 1:30PM
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