Azaleas are flowering shrubs in the genus Rhododendron, particularly the former sections Tsutsuji (evergreen) and Pentanthera (deciduous). Azaleas bloom in spring, their flowers often lasting several weeks. Shade tolerant, they prefer living near or under trees. They are part of the family Ericaceae.
R. occidentale flowers are larger than other azaleas and are usually white with a splotch of yellow, though sometimes are yellow. Can grow to 8 feet. R. arborescens are native to the east coast of North America and can be found growing wild from Alabama to Pennsylvania in wooded, higher altitude areas. Plants grow up to 20 feet high and flowers are white and fragrant.
The Flame Azalea, R. Native to the mountain regions of Pennsylvania to Georgia and Kentucky. Flowers do not smell but bloom in every shade from pale yellow to crimson red. Flowers bloom in the late spring. A good variety for drier soils and shady areas. Foliage turns bright yellow in the Fall.
Plant enthusiasts have selectively bred azaleas for hundreds of years. This human selection has produced over 10,000 different cultivars which are propagated by cuttings. Azalea seeds can also be collected and germinated. Azaleas are generally slow-growing and do best in well-drained acidic soil (4.5–6.0 pH). Fertilizer needs are low; some species need regular pruning. Azaleas are native to several continents including Asia, Europe and North America. They are planted abundantly as ornamentals in the southeastern USA, southern Asia,and parts of southwest Europe. According to azalea historian Fred Galle, in the United States, Azalea indica (in this case, the group of plants called Southern indicas) was first introduced to the outdoor landscape in the 1830s at the rice plantation Magnolia-on-the-Ashley in Charleston, South Carolina. Magnolia's owner John Grimke Drayton imported the plants for use in his estate garden from Philadelphia, where they were grown only in greenhouses. With encouragement from Charles Sprague Sargent from Harvard's Arnold Arboretum, Magnolia Gardens was opened to the public in 1871, following the American Civil War. Magnolia is one of the oldest public gardens in America. Since the late nineteenth century, in late March and early April, thousands visit to see the azaleas bloom in their full glory.
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