Azaleas Steal the Show

Bennett Joffrion, Fletcher, Jr., Bobby H.  |  2/27/2007 9:04:09 PM

There is no better time in South Louisiana than March when the azaleas are in full bloom and many yards, gardens and landscapes are a buzz with activity. According to LSU AgCenter Horticulturist Dan Gill, with the introduction and more common use of azaleas that bloom in other seasons, such as the increasingly popular Encore azaleas, it’s not unusual to see azaleas blooming during the late summer, fall and winter. Even so, from March through mid-April is still the time when azaleas show their beauty.

No other shrub in the landscape can beat azaleas for flower power when they are in full bloom. Although the floral display may be relatively short, it ensures the continued popularity of this traditional Southern shrub.

The most common azaleas grown in Louisiana landscapes are Indian azaleas (Rhododendron indicum). A native of Japan, they are characterized by a broad, mounding growth habit. An average mature height is 6 feet x 6 feet, although older, unpruned specimens can easily obtain heights of 10 feet with an equal spread. Flowers of Indian azaleas are usually 2 to 3 1/2 inches across.

Other popular azalea groups recommended for landscape plantings in Louisiana are Glenn Dale hybrids, Carla hybrids, Girard hybrids and Robin Hill hybrids.

Glenn Dale hybrids include several hundred varieties developed as “cold hardy” replacements for Southern Indian varieties. Popular Glenn Dale hybrids include Allure (rosy-pink flowers), Copperman (orange-red flowers) and Fashion (salmon to orange-red flowers).

Carla hybrids were released from an azalea breeding program at North Carolina State University (CAR) and the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center (LA). Popular Carla varieties are Carror (semi-double rose pink flowers) and Sunglow (bright red flowers).

Another azalea group developed for improved cold hardiness is the Girard hybrids. These compact growers produce single or double flowers in shades of white, red, pink and lavender. Popular Girard hybrids are Hot Shot (orange-red flowers), Sandra Ann (purple flowers) and Unsurpassable (red flowers).

Another azalea hybrid group, the Robin Hills, adapt well to the Deep South. They bloom heavily in the fall and also flower in the spring, commonly leading to the name of “re-blooming” or “multi-seasonal” flowering azaleas. Sir Robert is a popular Robin Hill variety. Its flowers range from white to pink. The most popular Robin Hill variety is Watchet. Watchet produces large 3 1/2-inch flowers that are clear pink and ruffled. Plants are compact and spreading. Watchet was a Louisiana Select plant in the fall of 1996.

The Louisiana chapter of the Azalea Society of America lists azalea varieties that will reliably re-bloom in south Louisiana. These plants bloom in the spring and fall. Recommended azaleas for “multi-seasonal” flowering in Louisiana include Watchet, Chinzan, Fashion, Conversation Piece, Abbott, Allure, Arabesk, Hardy Gardenia, Red Slipper, Sandra Ann, Sekidera, Wendy, Janet Rhea, Dorothy Clark and Dorothy Rees.

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