Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 237 Rhododendron canescens

Common Names: pinxter azalea, Piedmont azalea, wild azalea, bush honeysuckle Family: Ericaceae (heath Family)
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closeup of pinxter azalea flower
This light pink pinxter azalea blooms in mid-March just before the leaves emerge.


Pinxter azalea is an open, rather loose deciduous shrub which grows in an upright, many branched bush, 6-15 ft (1.8-4.6 m) tall and about as wide. It slowly forms clumps by sending up suckers from underground runners. Fragrant, very showy pink flowers appear at stem ends in early spring, about the time the leaves come out. The leaves are alternate, 1-3 in (1.5-7.6 cm) long, and have short hairs on the margins. The flowers are tubular, 2-3 in (5-7.6 cm) long, spreading out into five narrow petal lobes. The pistil and stamens extend in graceful curves beyond the corolla.


Pinxter azalea, Rhododendrum canescens, is the most common wild azalea in the southeastern U.S. It grows along streams and swamp margins from North Carolina and Tennessee to central Florida, and west to East Texas.


Pinxter azalea needs an acidic soil. Never add lime. If your soil is alkaline, forget about growing azaleas. Azaleas do best with plenty of organic matter in the soil. Pile leaves or pine needles over the root zone, and never cultivate there as they have very shallow roots. Light: You can grow pinxter azalea in partial to nearly full shade, or in full sun. It will be bushier the more sun it gets. Moisture: Pinxter azalea does best in slightly moist soils. It suffers during droughts. Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 - 8. Propagation: Propagate this deciduous azalea by dividing the clumps or by rooting cuttings in summer.


Use pinxter azalea in a semishady woodland or natural garden, or as a specimen shrub anywhere. It adds a splash of color among evergreen shrubs, and provides early spring time fragrance. Cut flowers are nice in arrangements. Many southeastern U.S. naturalists would rank pinxter azalea as their favorite wild shrub.

pinxter azalea shrub in bloom
This pinxter azalea lives in Jack's yard where it has survived flood and drought and demands absolutely no care whatsoever (except for cutting vines and weeds away from it).


There are some 800 species of Rhododendron, mostly native to southeastern Asia, with about 30 species in North America. However, no fewer than 3000 different varieties, cultivars and hybrids are cultivated as ornamentals in the U.S. The common names, "azalea" and "rhododendron" are often interchanged, but some would restrict "azalea" to those species whose flowers have 5 stamens and use "rhododendron" for the species with 10 or more stamens. Most gardeners use "azalea" for those plants with deciduous leaves and funnel shaped flowers, and "rhododendron" for those with evergreen foliage and larger, bell shaped flowers. Needless to say, the distinctions are not always reliable.

Florida's native azaleas include, but are not limited to, R. austrinum (flame azalea), an Endangered Species which blooms bright orange and is very early flowering; and R. viscosum, or swamp azalea, which is evergreen and blooms in the summer with small white flowers.

Steve Christman 12/04/00; updated 03/21/03, 12/28/03, 4/14/05, 3/1/09

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Rhododendron species profiled on Floridata:

Rhododendron austrinum

( Florida flame azalea, flame azalea, deciduous azalea )

Rhododendron canescens

( pinxter azalea, Piedmont azalea, wild azalea, bush honeysuckle )

Rhododendron prunifolium

( pruneleaf azalea )

Rhododendron spp.

( azalea, rhododendron )

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