992 Rhododendron austrinumCommon Names: Florida flame azalea, flame azalea, deciduous azalea Family: Ericaceae (heath Family)
Each year, for several weeks in early Spring, the Florida flame azalea dominates the landscape with its breathtakingly brilliant golden blossoms. This deciduous shrub is composed of compact clusters of slender, sparsely branching stems that grow 6-8 ft (1.8-2.4m) in height and about 2 ft (0.6 m) wide. The showy flowers are golden yellow trumpets, often blushed red or peach at the base, and held in radially symmetric clusters at the stem tips. The flowers are about 1.5-2 in (3-5 cm) long and 1.5 in (3 cm) across. The pistil and red stamens extend about 1 in (2.5 cm) beyond the mouth in a graceful upward curve.
The flame azalea produces a delightful honeysuckle-like fragrance that is enjoyed by butterflies, hummingbirds and humans alike. The flowers appear in early Spring at about about the same time as the leaves appear. The oval (elliptic) leaves are alternate, 2-5 in (5-13 cm) long. These are medium green and covered with a soft fuzz on both the top and especially on the lower surface.
The Florida flame azalea, Rhododendron austrinum, is native to Florida's panhandle and southern Georgia. This beautiful shrub is now widely planted as a landscape specimen.
CultureLight: Part sun to shade. Moisture: Likes regular moisture but this durable shrub can resist drought once established. Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 - 10. Propagation: Propagate by seed and division of clumps.
The distinctive vertical form of the upright stems give the flame azalea an appealing look even when bare of foliage. Plant in mixed borders with evergreen shrubs that provide a handsome background for when flame azalea burst into bloom in the Spring. In winter the the shrub disappears into that same background.
By virtue of its compactness and delightful fragrance the Florida flame azalea is perfect for planting near patios, porches and other outdoor living area. In naturalistic and woodland landscapes grow this as an understory shrub beneath the canopy where its fabulous flower will set the forest aglow each Spring. The flame azalea is also fine for planting along streams and bottomlands and it's Springtime beauty is doubled when planted at the edge of a pond or lake where it can reflect in still water.
Here in The South we love the azaleas and by planting several species of Rhododendron the blooming season can be extend by a month or more. Along with the Southern Indicas and other evergreen types plant another deciduous species like the pinxter or piedmont azalea (Rhododendron canescens) which blooms just as the most of the evergreen azalea flowers are fading. The pinxter is a white or pink flowered cousin of the Florida flame azalea and the family resemblance is remarkable right down to the heavenly honeysuckle-like perfume that both produce in profusion. You will probably want one of each!
The Florida flame azalea is an endangered plant and must never be removed from the wild as this is illegal and selfish.
Steve Christman 4/17/05; updated 4/16/09