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Southern Pinxter Azaelea Rhododendron canescens

Phonetic Spelling
rho-doh-DEN-dron kan-ESS-senz
This plant has high severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Southern pinxter azalea is a large woody, deciduous shrub in the Ericaceae (blueberry) family. This native shrub is found growing in moist woods, swamp margins, and along streams from North Carolina to Florida and west to Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas. The genus name derives from the Greek words rhodo, which means rose, and dendron, meaning tree.  The specific epithet canescens means gray or off-white hairs refering to the hairs found on the undersides of the leaves.

Plant this azalea in moist, well-drained, acidic soil that is high in organic matter. It will not tolerate dense clay or poorly drained soil so those soils will need to be amended before planting. Ideal light requirements are dappled sunlight to partial shade. It will grow in full sun if protected from afternoon sun, which can scorch the leaves. This plant propagates slowly by root suckers and its shallow roots appreciate a yearly application of mulch.  Rabbit browsing is tolerated well.

It typically grows to 6 to 8 feet tall and less frequently may grow to 15 feet tall. It will be 6 to 10 feet wide at maturity. The leaves are thick and velvety and appear after the showy light pink flowers with very prominent stamens in the spring.  Flowers should be deadheaded after bloom. The bark is an interesting gray to reddish/brown and finely shredded. In the fall, leaves turn a burgundy red.  

Southern pinxter azalea is ideal for a mass planting in woodland or naturalized area. Add it to a pollinator garden where its showy, fragrant flowers will attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.  Or use it in a shrub border or as an attractive hedge to line a walkway.

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 these shrubs 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. 

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.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Reynolda Palm House and Gardens
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Varnado'
  • 'Varnado Pink'
'Varnado', 'Varnado Pink'
Tags:
#fragrant#hummingbirds#deciduous#poisonous#fragrant flowers#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#moths#deciduous shrub#nectar plant#native shrub#native bees#velvety#fall interest#rabbit resistant#mass planting#hedges#specialized bees#NC native#large shrub#pollinator plant#leathery leaves#flowers late spring#multitrunked#flowers early spring#larval host plant#food source fall#NC Native Pollinator Plant#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#Coastal FACW#Piedmont Mountains FACW#walkway planting#mammals#fall color red#butterfly friendly#problem for cats#problem for dogs#bee friendly#problem for horses#Audubon#shrub borders#wet soils intolerant#flowers mid-spring
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Varnado'
  • 'Varnado Pink'
'Varnado', 'Varnado Pink'
Tags:
#fragrant#hummingbirds#deciduous#poisonous#fragrant flowers#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#moths#deciduous shrub#nectar plant#native shrub#native bees#velvety#fall interest#rabbit resistant#mass planting#hedges#specialized bees#NC native#large shrub#pollinator plant#leathery leaves#flowers late spring#multitrunked#flowers early spring#larval host plant#food source fall#NC Native Pollinator Plant#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#Coastal FACW#Piedmont Mountains FACW#walkway planting#mammals#fall color red#butterfly friendly#problem for cats#problem for dogs#bee friendly#problem for horses#Audubon#shrub borders#wet soils intolerant#flowers mid-spring
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Rhododendron
    Species:
    canescens
    Family:
    Ericaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Root Cutting
    Distribution:
    North Carolina to Florida west to Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas
    Wildlife Value:
    Hummingbirds and swallowtail butterflies are attracted to the blooms.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 6 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 6 ft. 0 in. - 10 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Poisonous
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Multi-trunked
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
    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:
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Woody, elongated capsules 1/2" long. Displays from September to October.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Funnel
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    Clusters (5-9 flowers per cluster) of fragrant, funnel-shaped, pink (infrequently white) flowers (1-2” long) in early spring as the foliage begins to emerge. Pistil and stamens of each flower protrude well beyond the corolla in an upward arch. It has a delicate sweet fragrance and sticky feel. Blooms from March to May.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Feel:
    Leathery
    Velvety
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Obovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Obovate to elliptic, dull velvety and thick dark green leaves (to 3” long and 3/4" wide) which are gray-pubescent (canescent) beneath. The leaves, which are alternate and simple with a finely toothed margin, have rusty red fall color.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Red/Burgundy
    Surface/Attachment:
    Shredding
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Walkways
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Shade Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Foundation Planting
    Hedge
    Mass Planting
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Hummingbirds
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Rabbits
    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
    Seeds
    Stems