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Azalea kurume Rhododendron ponticum

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Rhododendron x obtusum
Phonetic Spelling
rho-do-DEN-dron PON-ti-kum
This plant has high severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Kurume azalea is a woody, dwarf, broadleaf evergreen or deciduous shrub in the Ericaceae (blueberry) family that is dense, spreading, and grows 3 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 5 feet wide. It is native to Bulgaria, Lebanon, and the Caucasus. The genus name derives from the Greek words rhodo, which means rose, and dendron, meaning tree.  

This plant prefers partial shade with protection from afternoon sun, which can scorch the leaves. Grow it in acidic, moist but well-drained soils. Plant the root ball high in the soil to help with drainage issues. It is intolerant of heavy and wet soils, drought, and excessive fertilization. It has a slow growth rate and requires a high level of maintenance. Pruning, if desired, may be done after flowering.

This plant is a very common spring blooming azalea with hundreds of cultivars. It blooms in mid spring, usually 1 to 2 weeks before R. indicum. The persistent evergreen leaves are smaller than the seasonal deciduous leaves. 

Grow this azalea as a mass planting in a shrub border, a foundation planting, or a specimen in a woodland or pollinator garden where the flowers will attract hummingbirds and bees. This plant is also used in bonsai. 

Quick ID Hints:

  • Dwarf semigreen shrub with sympodial growth, crowded leaves
  • Twigs and leaves with reddish-brown hairs
  • Flowers axillary, solitary, in spring with a funnel form
  • Flowers hose-in-hose, single or double
  • Calyx lobes short, broad, obtuse

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 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. 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:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Pink Pearl'
  • 'Variegatum'
    Variegated leaves
'Pink Pearl', 'Variegatum'
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#poisonous#specimen#white flowers#wildlife plant#pink flowers#red flowers#bonsai#deciduous shrub#nectar plant#dwarf#mass planting#specialized bees#foundation planting#pollinator plant#fantz#evergreen shrub#small group plantings#understory shrub#partial shade tolerant#problem for cats#problem for dogs#bee friendly#problem for horses#shrub borders#woodland garden#wet soils intolerant
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Pink Pearl'
  • 'Variegatum'
    Variegated leaves
'Pink Pearl', 'Variegatum'
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#poisonous#specimen#white flowers#wildlife plant#pink flowers#red flowers#bonsai#deciduous shrub#nectar plant#dwarf#mass planting#specialized bees#foundation planting#pollinator plant#fantz#evergreen shrub#small group plantings#understory shrub#partial shade tolerant#problem for cats#problem for dogs#bee friendly#problem for horses#shrub borders#woodland garden#wet soils intolerant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Rhododendron
    Species:
    ponticum
    Family:
    Ericaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Bulgaria, Lebanon, Caucasus
    Wildlife Value:
    Members of the genus Rhododendron support the following specialized bee: Andrena (Andrena) cornelli.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 3 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 2 ft. 0 in. - 5 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Poisonous
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    High
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Description:
    Fruits are a dehiscent 5-valved capsule
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Funnel
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Description:
    Flowers are axillary, single to double or hose-in-hose but rarely hose-in-hose double, and are rose-pink to red to purple to violet or white in color. There are 5 calyx lobes that are short, broad, and obtuse. Corolla is funnel-form and 1-2" in size. It has 5 lobes with the upper central and sometimes the lateral pair bearing inconspicuous to conspicuous maculation. They have 5-10 stamens. Flowers appear in raceme cluster of 6-15.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Obovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Crenate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves are alternate, simple, glossy, and consist of evergreen (winter) leaves and deciduous (seasonal) leaves. Blades are elliptic to obovate, crenate-serrulate, with scattered reddish-brown hairs on veins below. Petioles are pubescent with stiff reddish-brown hairs. They grow between 1.5-4" long and are darker green on tiop and pale below.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Twigs are pubescent with stiff reddish-brown trichomes and have a sympodial growth.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Foundation Planting
    Mass Planting
    Small groups
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Pollinators
    Specialized Bees
    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, difficult breathing, progressive paralysis of arms and legs, coma.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Andromedotoxin
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Bark
    Flowers
    Fruits
    Leaves
    Roots
    Sap/Juice
    Seeds
    Stems