Azaleas vs rhododendrons

Darrell NesmithJanuary 1, 2013

I posted this in the Ozarks forum, but the past few summers in Little Rock have rivaled any I ever had in MS and AL. So, I'll post my question here...

I have an area that I want to plant with azeleas or rhodendrons. I love rhodos, but I hear they are finicky. I rarely see any around here. Maybe there's a reason for that. It's the heat that they apparently don't tolerate too well.

Are there any secrets to being successful with rhododendrons in the hot south? Or should I just go with azaleas? l love them, too.

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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

These are some of the most carefree plants I know, assuming the PH of your soil is suitable, there are pockets of anomalies. If they're native, they've been dealing with the heat and whatever else the local weather has to offer for hundreds of years at least. You may find enough just looking at natives to fill your area. Fertile soil, good drainage, water during drought, ample shade, would all be more important I think than a few extra degrees. You may not be seeing them as much because they're more hidden, tucked into shadier spots, seems like the Rhodies I know (not many different individuals, but awesome plants) are all in much more shade but I see Azaleas commonly in full sun. Obviously you'll plant according to your spot's exposure... which is?

If it were my spot, I would want other things, completely different shrubs, mixed in for blooms over a longer period, but that's just my opinion.

Univ of AR has a decent article that mentions a few native Rhodies. I'm a huge fan of Rhododendron canescens. If you ever smell one of these blooms, you'll want this shrub!

This post was edited by purpleinopp on Thu, Jan 3, 13 at 12:17

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 12:16PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I'm confused by purple 's post because I never saw the first Rhododendron when I lived in the deep south. Not ever....including in the deepest of woods. They do not like the climate of extended heat.

I do see some landscape specimens now that I am in the middle south, but they do not grow natively in the woodlands here.

You have a huge variety of azaleas that would thrive in your location. Azaleas are an understory shrub and perform best in that kind of location.

Azaleas, big and small...early, mid, and late blooming...every color but blue or black....evergreen or fragrant deciduous.....azaleas are the shrub for you.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2013 at 7:44AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

This article lists 27 natives (scroll down about halfway) and I don't know why some are called Rhododendron and some are called azalea even though they are all botanically Rhododendrons. (One is even called swamp honeysuckle.) Below that are paragraphs about them.

Rhizo, do you think it's unusual there's R. canescens growing in my Mom's yard? She's been told one of their oak trees is a little north of its' usual range, and a few other comments about her yard have been made that make us believe the original owner of her house was kind of a tree/shrub'o'phile. Neither of us are familiar enough with southern plants to notice details like that. Anyway, I hope you have smelled one somewhere!! It only blooms for about 10 days, the flowers aren't stunning from a distance, but smell SO GOOD!

    Bookmark   January 7, 2013 at 9:16AM
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