Fashionably Late Plumleaf Azalea

Spring starts in Alabama with the fragrant pink blooms of the native Piedmont azaleas, Rhododendron canescens. You spot these in the woods as you travel Alabama in March and April. Pink, the color of spring.
late blooming native azalea
Summer arrives with heat and the color red, seen here in Rhododendron prunifolium,or plumleaf azalea. No fragrance here. Plumleaf azaleas are the ones made famous at Calloway Gardens, near Pine Mountain, Georgia, where visitors see them planted in huge, showy drifts. In my garden, I have a drift of ONE. My little five year old azalea would be a lot happier if I could provide her with a more consistently acid soil. Note her pale, yellowish leaves. But she lives and blooms, and I  continue to amend my limey soil with leaf litter and pine straw. I know she prefers high shade, like that from pine trees, but I can give her morning sun/afternoon shade. She detests bad drainage and heavy soils, so I have positioned her on a sloping hillside, where I provide her with regular moisture. This year she has rewarded me with many blooms which delight the butterflies and hummingbirds.
plumleaf azalea

Bright red flowers of plumleaf azalea (Rhododendron prunifolium)

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Mike Rushing

Mike and Paula Rushing have been gardening in St. Clair county since 1990, and In Forest Park since 2007. A Jefferson County Master Gardener and course instructor at Master Gardening classes, Mike also volunteers weekly at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

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