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Sweet Pontica Azalea Rhododendron luteum

Previously known as:

  • Anthodendron flavum
  • Anthodendron ponticum
  • Azalea flava
  • Azalea pontica
  • Rhododendron flavum
  • Rhododendron indicum var. luteum
Phonetic Spelling
roh-do-DEN-dron LOO-tee-um
This plant has high severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Honeysuckle azalea or pontiac azalea is a deciduous shrub with showy, fragrant yellow flowers. It is a member of the Ericaceae (blueberry) family. The honeysuckle azalea is the only azalea native to Europe.  It may be found in alpine meadows, forests, or slopes of Poland, southern Russia, and the Caucasus. The genus name derives from the Greek words rhodo, which means rose, and dendron, meaning tree. The species name, lutem, means yellow and refers to its flowers.

The shrub grows 4 to 5 feet in height and width over a 10 year period and is densely branched with reddish-brown twigs. It slowly naturalizes by root suckers. The showy flowers are fragrant with funnel-shaped yellow blooms that appear in dense clusters. The flowers bloom in May, and they emerge before or at the same time as the leaves.

The plant has very shallow and fibrous roots and requires good drainage. Although they should never dry out completely, poor drainage can result in root rot. Acid, sandy, or loamy soil is preferred. Dappled or partial shade is a requirement because the leaves are easily scorched by the sun. The shrub should be protected from strong winter winds. Mulching with pine needles or wood chips will aid in moisture retention and stabilize the soil temperature.

Honeysuckle azalea attracts hummingbirds and butterflies as well as bees.  Children can mistake the flowers for honeysuckle and the nectar is poisonous so caution should be taken in where it is planted.   Use it as a specimen or planted in small groups near a patio where the flower fragrance can be enjoyed or use as an understory shrub in a woodland garden.  

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Rhododendrons are susceptible to insect and disease 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.  Full sun can scorch the leaves and the roots rot if the 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. 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.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • Golden Comet
    Large flowers and dark green foliage
Golden Comet
Tags:
#hummingbirds#deciduous#poisonous#fragrant flowers#specimen#shrub#yellow flowers#spring flowers#fall interest#rabbit resistant#specialized bees#border planting#pollinator plant#small group plantings#butterfly friendly#problem for cats#problem for dogs#problem for horses#poisonous nectar
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • Golden Comet
    Large flowers and dark green foliage
Golden Comet
Tags:
#hummingbirds#deciduous#poisonous#fragrant flowers#specimen#shrub#yellow flowers#spring flowers#fall interest#rabbit resistant#specialized bees#border planting#pollinator plant#small group plantings#butterfly friendly#problem for cats#problem for dogs#problem for horses#poisonous nectar
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Rhododendron
    Species:
    luteum
    Family:
    Ericaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Native to Poland to Caucasus and Turkey
    Wildlife Value:
    Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Members of the genus Rhododendron support the following specialized bee: Andrena (Andrena) cornelli.
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Rabbits
    Dimensions:
    Height: 4 ft. 0 in. - 5 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 4 ft. 0 in. - 5 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Perennial
    Poisonous
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all 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
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Cream/Tan
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The capsules are ovate, sparsely to moderately covered with hairs, and measure about 1.5 mm by 0.6 mm. The seeds are tiny, oval, and pale to dark chestnut brown.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Tubular
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    The flower has a sweet fragrance and is yellow with a dark yellow blotch on the upper petal. The bloom is tubular in shape and measures 2 inches across. It has 5 stamens that are 2 inches long and extend beyond the 3/4 inch corolla. They appear in dense clusters or racemes of 7 to 17 flowers on a single bare stem. The flowers bloom in May, just before or at the same time the new leaves appear.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Linear
    Oblanceolate
    Oblong
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    The stems are reddish-brown in color and hairy.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Patio
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Shade Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Small groups
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Hummingbirds
    Pollinators
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Rabbits
    Problems:
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Cats
    Problem for Children
    Problem for Dogs
    Problem for Horses
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    High
    Poison Symptoms:
    The nectar of the plant may cause mouth irritation, nausea, vomiting if small amounts are ingested. Larger amounts of nectar ingested may result in confusion, low blood pressure, or irregular heart rhythm.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Grayanotoxins--neurotoxin
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Sap/Juice