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January 2008
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Pink Azalea / Rhododendron periclymenoides

This much-branched shrub is especially showy in flower. It is relatively tolerant of dry sites and can be transplanted into wild shrub gardens. The species name, Latin for “naked-flowered,” refers to the fact that the flowers often appear before its leaves are fully expanded. The Pink Ruffle Azalea is a Rutherford hybrid, these are evergreen spring bloomers. Rutherford hybrids generally reach a height of 2-4 feet and do best with afternoon shade. The Pink Ruffle has a pink-violet hose in hose flower with a semi-double bloom.
Azaleas are called “the royalty of the garden”. Some of the species or the many thousands of named varieties are sure to meet your preferences and growing conditions. Azaleas are in the genus Rhododendron. Most azaleas can be distinguished from rhodododendrons by their leaves. Some small-leaved rhododendrons look like evergreen azaleas. To tell them apart, first look at a flower—most azaleas have only 5 or 6 stamens, while most rhododendrons have 10 stamens. Then look at a leaf—azalea leaves tend to be thinner, softer and more pointed than rhododendron leaves, and azalea leaves tend to have long straight hairs parallel to the leaf surface, usually along the midrib on the underside of the leaf.
Azaleas are long lived plants when their requirements are met. There are azaleas in Japan which are hundreds of years old, and may appear more as a small tree than a shrub, with (rarely) trunks 12 inches or more in diameter. Azaleas are woody shrubs which keep growing all their lives. Some varieties can get quite tall, into the tens of feet, while others remain spreading groundcovers less than 12 inches in height. Upright varieties tend to also spread out with age. The rate of growth is a good predictor of the ultimate size. It can vary from around 2 inches to 10 inches in a season, depending upon the variety, the climate and other environmental conditions, primarily water, exposure, and nutrition.
The more common causes of the complete death of an azalea are improper planting, root problems due to poor drainage or too much watering, over-fertilizing, or bark split due to colder weather than it could withstand (which may not show up until warm weather sets in).
Azalea are commonly found in woods, thickets, swamp margins. Their flowering season is April to May and the flowers are very showy, light pink to violet, 1 1/2 inches long and across, in large clusters appearing with or just before the leaves in mid-spring. When the fruit is formed, it is an oblong capsule, 1/4 to 1/2 inch long, with ascending hairs. The capsule splits when ripe, releasing the very tiny, somewhat winged seeds in late summer.
Azaleas, rhododendrons, and mountain laurel (Kalmia) are mildly toxic when eaten by animals, and may cause abdominal and cardiovascular problems. All parts of the plants are toxic, as is honey from the flowers.

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