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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - June 15, 2012

From: Millinocket, ME
Region: Northeast
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Orange rhododendrons for Millinocket ME
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Where will I find orange rhododendron in Maine? Or orange rhododendron that will thrive in Maine?

ANSWER:

A little research told us that you are in Penobscot County, in Central Maine, where the USDA Hardiness Zone is 4b to 5a, pretty cold winters. We then went to our Native Plant Database and searched on rhododendron. Listed were 24 native to North America and 6 native to Maine. As we did more research. we found that in the South these plants were often referred to as azaleas; in Europe and the Northeast they retain the genus name Rhododendron. We even found, on a forum, a request for an orange rhododendron, NOT the azalea. But, in fact, they are the same - Rhododendron austrinum (Orange azalea). You will see from this USDA Plant Profile that it does not grow anywhere in the Northeast, but only in southeastern states.

Since another common name for this plant is Florida Flame Azalea, you might also be interested in this article from Floridata, which states that it will thrive in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones of 6 to 10. Another source says 7 to 9; either way, your climate seems to be out of the range. As you were asking where you could buy it, we assumed you had not been able to purchase it in your area, this is probably why. While we always recommend that plants used be native not only to North America but to the area where they grow naturally as well, there is nothing to stop you from finding somewhere that you can get it by mail order, but we think it would be doomed, and you would have spent precious resources, money, water and labor to no purpose.

Here are the rhododendrons that are native to Maine; while none of them are orange they are all lovely, and you could buy them in your area. Follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant to find out its growing conditions, light needs, preferred soils, etc. Go to our National Suppliers Directory, put your town and state or zip code in the "Enter Search Location" box, and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed suppliers and consultants in your general area. All have contact information so you can inquire before you start driving.

Rhododendron canadense (Rhodora)

Rhododendron lapponicum (Lapland rhododendron)

Rhododendron lapponicum var. lapponicum (Lapland rosebay)

Rhododendron maximum (Great laurel)

Rhododendron prinophyllum (Early azalea)

Rhododendron viscosum (Swamp azalea)

 

From the Image Gallery


Orange azalea
Rhododendron austrinum

Rhodora
Rhododendron canadense

Lapland rhododendron
Rhododendron lapponicum

Great laurel
Rhododendron maximum



Swamp azalea
Rhododendron viscosum

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