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Rhododendron atlanticum

This plant has poison characteristics. See below.
Common Name(s):
Coastal azalea, Dwarf azalea
Native Plants, Poisonous Plants, Shrubs

Rhododendron atlanticum, commonly known as coast azalea, is a compact, loosely-branched, stoloniferous, suckering, deciduous shrub that typically matures to 2-3’ tall and as wide, but infrequently rises to as much as 6’ tall. Plants which mature to 1-2’ tall are often commonly called dwarf azalea in recognition of their small size.  It is a woody, evergreen or deciduous shrub that spreads by underground stolons.  

This azalea is native to coastal plain areas from New Jersey and Pennsylvania south to Georgia. Plants are often seen growing in dense colonies in the wild, particularly in sandy soil areas, but are much less inclined to aggressively colonize in landscape plantings, particularly when grown in heavier soils.

This species is often used in azalea breeding programs because of its potent flower fragrance.

The bark is thin and gray/brown with fine scales.

Regions:  Piedmont, Coastal plains

Seasons of Interest:

    Blooms:  Spring                 Nut/FruitSeed:   Fall

Wildlife Value:  Necatra from flowers attract butterflies and members of the genus Rhododendron support the following specialized bee: Andrena (Andrena) cornelli.  Hummingbirds are attracted to the blooms.  It tolerates damage by rabbits.  It is not resistant to damage from deer.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Rhododendrons are susceptible to insect and disease problems.  Insect problems include aphids, borers, lacebugs, leafhoppers, mealybugs, mites, nematodes, scale, thrips and whitefly.  Diseases include canker, crown rot, root rot, leaf spot, rust, and powdery mildew.  Full sun can scortch the leaves and the roots rot if soil does not drain well.   A healthy plant in the right place with proper maintenance should have few problems. This plant is frequently damaged by deer.

Compare this Plant to: R. arborescensR. vaseyi R. viscosum

3-6 ft.
The Dwarf azalea has elliptic to obovate blue green leaves (to 2 1/2” long) with bristly-ciliate margins and blunt to rounded tips. The leaves have a hairy midrib, are alternate, simple, and smoothbor toothed-margin.
The Dwarf azalea has white flowers (to 1.5” long), sometimes flushed with pink, that bloom in clusters of 3-13 in April at the time of or slightly before the appearance of new leaves. The corolla (to 1 3/4” long) is covered with sticky glands. Its stamens protrude well beyond the corolla mouth. The flowers have a strong musky fragrance. It has repeat blooms in later summer, followed by a fruit-elongated capsule.
5 to 9a
The Dwarf Azalea is best grown in light, acidic, sandy, well-drained soils in part shade in USDA Zones 5-8 (maybe 6-8). It tolerates well-drained humusy loams. It also tolerates full sun in moist cool locations, but prefers a sun dappled shade or high open part shade. Foliage may scorch in full sun if soils are not kept uniformly moist. Consistent moisture is best, but soils must drain well (doesn’t like “wet feet”). Poor drainage inevitably leads to root rot, therefore raised beds/plantings should be considered in heavy clay soils, Roots must never be allowed to dry out. Acidify soils prior to planting and thereafter as needed. Site in locations protected from strong winter winds (flowers can be damaged by late spring frosts). Root systems often benefit from a good mulch (wood chips, bark or pine needles) for retention of moisture, stabilization of soil temperatures and winter protection. Clip off spent flower clusters immediately after bloom as practicable.
Sun to partial shade; uniformly moist, well drained soil
Pinkish white fragrant flowers in mid April; repeat blooms
Eastern US
Poison Part:
All parts.
Poison Delivery Mode:
Salivation, watering of eyes and nose, abdominal pain, loss of energy, depression, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, difficult breathing, progressive paralysis of arms and legs, coma.
Toxic Principle:
Found in:
Houseplant or interiorscape; landscape as cultivated woody shrub; forest or natural area.
3-6 ft.
show flowers, houseplant, pollinator, rabbits, deciduous, interiorscape, wet soil, bees, hedge, fragrant, specialized bees, native bees, house plant, wet site, wet, wildlife, butterflies, repeat bloom

NCCES plant id: 528

Rhododendron atlanticum Flowers
James Gaither, CC BY-NC-ND - 2.0
Rhododendron atlanticum Rhododendron atlanticum
K M, CC BY - 2.0
Rhododendron atlanticum Rhododendron atlanticum
K M , CC BY - 2.0