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Rhododendron roseum

Previously known as:

  • Rhododendron prinophyllum
Phonetic Spelling
rho-do-DEN-dron RO-zee-um
This plant has high severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Early azalea is a woody, spreading, deciduous shrub in the Ericaceae (blueberry) family. Native to eastern North America, including North Carolina it grows 2 to 8 feet tall and wide and is found in damp thickets, open woods, and shores. The genus name derives from the Greek words rhodo, which means rose, and dendron, meaning tree.

Early azalea prefers moist, well-drained, acidic soils in dappled shade and protection from afternoon sun which can scorch the leaves. It does not tolerate dense clay, so if you have clay soil, amend with organic material. The roots may rot if soil does not drain well. Plant the root ball high in the soil to help with drainage issues. Pruning, if desired, may be done after flowering. 

Use this native azalea as a houseplant or in interiorscapes. In the landscape, it works well as an understory woody shrub in a forest or natural area or a specimen in a native garden. It will attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators, so use it in a pollinator garden as well.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: Insect problems include aphids, borers, lace bugs, leafhoppers, mealy bugs, mites, nematodes, scale, thrips, and whitefly. Disease problems 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 a 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:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Elegans'
  • 'Marie Hoffman'
  • 'Pink Lights'
  • 'Rosey Lights'
  • 'Spicy Lights'
'Elegans', 'Marie Hoffman', 'Pink Lights', 'Rosey Lights', 'Spicy Lights'
Tags:
#hummingbirds#showy flowers#deciduous#poisonous#houseplant#specimen#wildlife plant#deciduous shrub#nectar plant#interiorscape#specialized bees#pollinator plant#flowers late spring#food source fall#flowers early summer#NC Native Pollinator Plant#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#Coastal FAC#Piedmont Mountains FAC#butterfly friendly#understory shrub#problem for cats#problem for dogs#bee friendly#problem for horses#Audubon#woodland garden
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Elegans'
  • 'Marie Hoffman'
  • 'Pink Lights'
  • 'Rosey Lights'
  • 'Spicy Lights'
'Elegans', 'Marie Hoffman', 'Pink Lights', 'Rosey Lights', 'Spicy Lights'
Tags:
#hummingbirds#showy flowers#deciduous#poisonous#houseplant#specimen#wildlife plant#deciduous shrub#nectar plant#interiorscape#specialized bees#pollinator plant#flowers late spring#food source fall#flowers early summer#NC Native Pollinator Plant#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#Coastal FAC#Piedmont Mountains FAC#butterfly friendly#understory shrub#problem for cats#problem for dogs#bee friendly#problem for horses#Audubon#woodland garden
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Rhododendron
    Species:
    roseum
    Family:
    Ericaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern North America
    Wildlife Value:
    Nectar from the flowers attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. Members of the genus Rhododendron support the following specialized bee: Andrena (Andrena) cornelli.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 2 ft. 0 in. - 8 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 2 ft. 0 in. - 8 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Houseplant
    Poisonous
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Spreading
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • 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:
    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
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Description:
    elongated capsule. Displays from August to October.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Pink
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Funnel
    Tubular
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Description:
    Terminal clusters, tubular, 5-parted, white to deep pink or yellow. Blooms from May to June.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Description:
    Alternate, simple, bright green leaves, smooth- or toothed-margined; fall color is green to bronze
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Houseplants
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Hummingbirds
    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, 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
    Sap/Juice
    Seeds
    Stems