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Coastal Azalea Rhododendron atlanticum

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
rho-doh-DEN-dron at-LAN-tih-kum
This plant has high severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Coastal azalea is a compact, woody, deciduous shrub in the Ericaceae (blueberry family). Typically, it matures to 2 to 3 feet tall and wide, but infrequently rises to as much as 6 feet tall. This azalea is native to coastal plain areas from New Jersey and Pennsylvania south to Georgia. The genus name derives from the Greek words rhodo, which means rose, and dendron, meaning tree. 

It prefers full sun to partial shade, consistent moisture, and well-drained sandy soil. Mulching the soil with needles, bark, or compost will help it stay moist and manage a consistent soil temperature. This plant spreads by underground stolons. Place plants where they can be protected from strong winter winds and frosts as leaves can burn and flowers can be damaged.  

This species is often used in azalea breeding programs because of its potent flower fragrance. The showy flowers attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. 

In the landscape, use coastal azalea as an accent, border, or hedge in a pollinator, native, or woodland garden. It may also be grown in a container indoors or outside. 

Fire Risk: This plant has a medium flammability rating. 

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Insect problems include aphids, borers, lace bugs, leafhoppers, mealybugs, mites, nematodes, scale, thrips, and whitefly. Diseases include canker, crown rot, root rot, leaf spot, rust, and powdery mildew. This plant is frequently damaged by deer.

While azaleas remain very popular for landscape use, many cultivars are susceptible to Phytophthora root rot—this leads to leaf loss, reduced vigor, branch dieback, and wilting. Implement good cultural practices first, such as improving drainage with organic matter or berms and avoiding overwatering or overfertilization. However, if you have a site with a history of this disease, consider planting one of the root rot-resistant alternative species listed in the left-hand sidebar. 

For suitable alternatives, see this video created by Charlotte Glen as part of the Plants, Pests, and Pathogens series.

VIDEO Created by Elizabeth Meyer for "Trees, Shrubs and Conifers" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.

More information on Rhododendron.

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Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#fragrant#hummingbirds#showy flowers#deciduous#poisonous#fragrant flowers#houseplant#wildlife plant#native shrub#native bees#interiorscape#rabbit resistant#hedges#specialized bees#fire medium flammability#NC native#pollinator plant#flowers late spring#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#Coastal FAC#Piedmont Mountains FAC#wet soils tolerant#nectar plant late spring#mammals#butterfly friendly#nectar plant mid-spring#problem for cats#problem for dogs#bee friendly#problem for horses#Audubon#repeat blooms#flowers mid-spring
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#fragrant#hummingbirds#showy flowers#deciduous#poisonous#fragrant flowers#houseplant#wildlife plant#native shrub#native bees#interiorscape#rabbit resistant#hedges#specialized bees#fire medium flammability#NC native#pollinator plant#flowers late spring#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#Coastal FAC#Piedmont Mountains FAC#wet soils tolerant#nectar plant late spring#mammals#butterfly friendly#nectar plant mid-spring#problem for cats#problem for dogs#bee friendly#problem for horses#Audubon#repeat blooms#flowers mid-spring
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Rhododendron
    Species:
    atlanticum
    Family:
    Ericaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern US
    Distribution:
    Coastal areas of the Eastern US
    Fire Risk Rating:
    medium flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    Nectar from flowers attract butterflies and members of the genus Rhododendron support the following specialized bee: Andrena (Andrena) cornelli.  Hummingbirds are attracted to the blooms.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 3 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 3 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Poisonous
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Fruit Description:
    Displays from August to October.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    1.5" blooms form with sticky corollas and stamens that extend longer than the petals. From clusters up to 13" long. Dead-head spent flower clusters immediately after bloom. The fragrance is strong and musky. Blooms from April to May.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Blue
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Rough
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    2 1/2 inches long, cillate hairs, blunt, rounded tips
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Bark Description:
    The bark is thin and gray/brown with fine scales.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Houseplants
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Border
    Hedge
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Rabbits
    Wet Soil
    Problems:
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Cats
    Problem for Dogs
    Problem for Horses
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    High
    Poison Symptoms:
    Salivation, watering of eyes and nose, abdominal pain, loss of energy, depression, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, cardiac failure, difficult breathing, progressive paralysis of arms and legs, coma.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Andromedotoxin, Grayantoxin
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Bark
    Flowers
    Fruits
    Leaves
    Roots
    Stems