Louisianians have scores of azaleas to choose from

Conversation Piece Azalea is a LSU AgCenter Louisiana Super Plant.jpg thumbnail

Conversation Piece azalea is an LSU AgCenter Louisiana Super Plant. Photo by Allen Owings

George Taber is a Popular Southern Indica Azalea in Louisiana.jpg thumbnail

George Taber is a popular Southern Indica azalea in Louisiana. Photo by Allen Owings

(03/23/16) HAMMOND, La. – Nurseries and garden centers sell more than 200 varieties of azaleas in Louisiana.

From large to small, from those that bloom only in spring to plants that bloom two to three times each year, everyone can find an azalea variety or two that appeal to them, said LSU AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings.

The most common azaleas grown in Louisiana landscapes are Indian azaleas, which are sometimes referred to as the Southern Indica azalea, Owing said.

They come from Japan and have mature height of 6 feet with an equal spread, he said. But much larger plants of this type can be found all across the state.

“Unpruned 40-to-50-year-old plants can easily obtain heights of 10 feet with an equal spread,” Owings said. Flowers are usually 2 to 3 1/2 inches across. The “big three” varieties of the Southern Indicas are George Taber, Mrs. G. G. Gerbing and Formosa.

Kurume azaleas are typically referred to as dwarf, Owings said. A normal size for these varieties in Louisiana is 2 to 3 feet tall.

Kurume azaleas grow slowly and have denser growth than Indian varieties, Owings said. Flowers are usually 1 1/2 to 2 inches across. Snow, Christmas Cheer and Coral Bells are popular varieties.

Later-blooming varieties are the satsuki hybrids. Satsuki means “fifth month” in Japanese.

Satsuki hybrid azaleas flower later in the spring season, usually mid-April through May. They have larger flowers than kurumes and a low, dense, mounding growth habit. The Gumpo and Macrantha varieties belong to this family.

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 Indica varieties. Popular Glenn Dale hybrids include Allure (rosy pink flowers), Copperman (orange-red flowers) and Fashion (salmon to orange-red flowers). Some of these are good fall bloomers.

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

“These are, unfortunately, hard to find in Louisiana,” Owings said.

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).

The Robin Hill azaleas adapt well to the Deep South, Owings said. They are very popular in Louisiana thanks to the efforts of nursery grower Margie Jenkins of Amite.

Robin Hill azaleas bloom heavily in fall and also flower in spring, commonly leading to the name of “re-blooming” or “multi-seasonal” flowering azaleas, Owings said.

Sir Robert is a popular Robin Hill variety. Its flowers range from white to pink. The most popular Robin Hill variety is Watchet, which produces large 3 1/2-inch flowers that are clear pink and ruffled. Plants are compact and spreading.

Conversation Piece is a bicolored Robin Hill variety that has been designated an LSU AgCenter Louisiana Super Plant.

“Encore azaleas are ‘the azalea that knows no season,’” Owings said.

Encore azaleas were bred and developed by Buddy Lee, of Independence, Louisiana. “With 30 varieties now, you can have a wide range of bloom time, plant heights and color assortments with these Louisiana-born and -bred plants,” Owings said.

“Spring is a great time to pick out azalea varieties at the garden center,” Owings said.

You can learn more about azaleas in the LSU AgCenter publication No. 1295, Shrubs for Louisiana Landscapes. It has information on planting, fertilizing, irrigating and pruning. Find it on www.lsuagcenter.com and put Publication 1295 in the search box.

3/23/2016 7:37:51 PM
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