Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Florida Flame Azalea in Bloom

This spring brings the first flowering of my young Florida flame azalea. As the common name suggests, the coloring of the yellow-to-orange flowers is fiery. 


Rhododendron austrinum 052117 another 640


Their sweet fragrance is the surprise.  The curved stamens project so far beyond each flower's funnel-like fused petals that they double its length.


Rhododendron austrinum 052117 blossoms from side cropped 640


Flame azalea's habit is upright and loose, with both flowers and foliage widely scattered up tall stems. It's a welcome change from the dense mounds of traditional hybrid azaleas.


The scientific name—Rhododendron austrinum—seems to suggest that Australia is this species' home turf, but the meaning of austrinum is more general: of southern regions. The horticulture of eastern North America has so often been named by botanists home-based from Washington, DC, to Boston that, for them, even this species' native Georgia and Florida were plenty "austral." Regardless, this shrub is hardy to coastal Massachusetts. No wonder it's thriving in more-mild Rhode Island.



Here's how to grow a pink-flowered cousin, Rhododendron 'Pennsylvania', whose handling is the same. It is even hardier—to Zone 5—and flowers much later: into August! 

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