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Rhododendron cumberlandense

Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Rhododendron bakeri
Phonetic Spelling
roh-do-DEN-dron kum-ber-land-DEN-see
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Cumberland azalea is a woody, deciduous shrub in the Ericaceae (blueberry) family. It is native to the southeastern United States, specifically the Cumberland Plateau of Kentucky south to Tennessee and the mountains of Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina. It grows 3 to 7 feet tall. The genus name derives from the Greek words rhodo, which means rose, and dendron, meaning tree.

This azalea prefers full sun in the north and partial shade in the south and will need supplemental water during a drought. Plant in organically-rich, moist, well-drained, acidic soil and only prune lightly. It is best propagated from seed as it is difficult to start from cuttings.

Flowers are showy in orange or pink colors and bloom from June to July after the plant has leafed out which is later than other azaleas.

Use in woodland and native gardens as a specimen or in small groups. It works well planted on slopes or banks.  Since it is attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies, and moths it makes a good border shrub in butterfly and pollinator gardens.  

Quick ID Hints:

  • Green ovate leaves 1 to 3 inches in length
  • Hairs may be present on the leaf margins
  • Bark is brownish gray smooth to vertically furrowed and shredding 

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: While azaleas and rhododendrons 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:
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Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#hummingbirds#deciduous#poisonous#specimen#red flowers#moths#deciduous shrub#native shrub#orange flowers#slopes#NC native#pollinator plant#food source summer#food source fall#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#small group plantings#mammals#butterfly friendly#problem for cats#problem for dogs#problem for horses#Audubon#shrub borders#woodland garden
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#hummingbirds#deciduous#poisonous#specimen#red flowers#moths#deciduous shrub#native shrub#orange flowers#slopes#NC native#pollinator plant#food source summer#food source fall#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#small group plantings#mammals#butterfly friendly#problem for cats#problem for dogs#problem for horses#Audubon#shrub borders#woodland garden
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Rhododendron
    Species:
    cumberlandense
    Family:
    Ericaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Southeastern U.S.A.
    Distribution:
    AL , GA , KY , NC , SC , TN , VA
    Wildlife Value:
    Larval host for butterflies and moths.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 3 ft. 0 in. - 7 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:
    Erect
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • 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:
    High Organic Matter
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Description:
    Displays from July to October.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Orange
    Pink
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Funnel
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    Yellow-orange to deep red flowers are up to 1.75 inches across in clusters of 3-7. They are funnel-shaped with 5 spreading lobes and exerted stamens and stigma. Hairs are present on the outer surface. Bloom from June to July after the plant has leafed out.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Obovate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Ovate to obovate green leaves are up to 3 inches long, apex acute to obtuse, and a few hairs may be present on the margins.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Shredding
    Bark Description:
    The bark is brownish gray, smooth to vertically furrowed and shredding.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    Young twigs are pubescent with non-glandular hairs
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Slope/Bank
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Small groups
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Hummingbirds
    Moths
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Problems:
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Cats
    Problem for Dogs
    Problem for Horses
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Vomiting (not in horses), diarrhea, weakness, cardiac failure
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Grayantoxin
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No