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Rhododendron canescens (Mountain azalea)
Cressler, Alan

Rhododendron canescens

Rhododendron canescens (Michx.) Sweet

Mountain Azalea, Wild Azalea, Honeysuckle Azalea, Piedmont Azalea, Sweet Azalea, Hoary Azalea, Southern Pinxterflower

Ericaceae (Heath Family)

Synonym(s): Azalea candida, Azalea canescens, Azalea canescens var. subglabra, Rhododendron candidum, Rhododendron canescens var. candidum, Rhododendron canescens var. subglabrum

USDA Symbol: RHCA7

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Wild azalea is a showy shrub growing up to 8 feet tall. Leaves are alternate, deciduous, clustered, 1 1/2-4 inches long and 3/4-1 1/4 inches wide. They are firm and thick, with a dark green upper surface. The sticky, slightly fragrant flowers, which bloom before the leaves are mature, grow in whorl-like clusters. They are pink (rarely white), trumpet-shaped, about 1 inch long, flaring into 5 petal-like lobes. There are 5 stamens, 1-1 3/4 inches long, that extend well beyond the petals, and a pistil equal to or exceeding the stamens in length. The flowers exude a delicate fragrance and usually appear before the thin, velvety, elliptic leaves. This is the most common native azalea in the Southeast. It tends to form large colonies and hybridizes readily with other species in the genus.


From the Image Gallery

35 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Breeding System: Flowers Bisexual
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Height to 8 feet tall.
Leaf: Dark green upper surface.
Flower: Flowers 1 inch long
Fruit: Brown

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Pink
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May
Bloom Notes: Rarely white.


USA: AL , AR , DE , FL , GA , KY , LA , MD , MS , NC , OK , PA , SC , TN , TX , VA
Native Distribution: Coastal Plain & Piedmont from NC to FL & TX
Native Habitat: Acid bogs

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: None
Soil Description: Moist, well-drained soil. . Acid-based, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam
Conditions Comments: This is the most common native azalea in the Southeast. Give this azalea plenty of room, as it tends to form large colonies. This species hybridizes readily with others in the genus.


Use Ornamental: Aromatic, Water garden, Bog or pond area
Warning: Rhododendrons contain poisonous substances and should not be ingested by humans or animals. Honey made from flowers also may be toxic. POISONOUS PARTS: All parts. Highly Toxic, May be Fatal if eaten. Symptoms include 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. Toxic Principle: Andromedotoxin. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Bumble Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Description: Combine seeds loosely with sphagnum moss and sprinkle lightly over a 2:1 perlite/peat mixture. Germinate under mist or a plastic tent. Optimum temperatures for germination are 45-50 degrees. Transplant seedlings to acid soil with a high content of orga
Seed Treatment: No pretreatment is necessary.
Commercially Avail: yes

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Crosby Arboretum - Picayune, MS
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 248 - Texas Wildflowers: A Field Guide (1984) Loughmiller, C. & L. Loughmiller

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Rhododendron canescens in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Rhododendron canescens in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Rhododendron canescens


Record Modified: 2014-08-29
Research By: TWC Staff

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