Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Friday, May 3, 2013

Rhododendron periclymenoides 'Rosy Pink'

Is this the rhododendron that can can survive my Middle Tennessee garden?
I sure hope so! For years I have dreamed of the sweet fragrance of native azaleas wafting through my garden. 

Other azaleas have come and gone. Like the beautiful 'Golden Lights' I tried four years ago. She was beautiful the first season, by the second merely pretty and then gone by the third spring. 

 I met 'Rosy Pink' last year while strolling through a favorite garden center. The yellow tag simply read: 'Rosy Pink Azalea'. The deciduous azalea was covered with big, fat buds ready to open and welcome the spring!  I bought three and planted them in the Garden of Benign Neglect in an acid soil enriched bed along with Leucothoe axillaris 'Sarah's Choice'  and an underplanting of Iris cristata and trilliums. While planting them I discovered a tag buried under the mulch that identified Rosy as Deciduous Azalea R. periclymenoides Bloom: Rose/Pink. Go here to read the original post. 

'Rosy Pink' was beautiful from her first swollen bud until all the blooms dropped off weeks later.  The garden smelled delicious every time the wind blew. Then summer arrived and with it came a drought that lasted till late fall. I was able to keep all the Rosy Pink azaleas alive, but, they didn't set many flower buds. This spring there were only a few beautiful blooms.

Naturally, I bought more. The experiment wasn't nearly over! **
Flowers range from soft pink to dark pink and are sweetly scented and very beautiful.

This time I planted them in the front garden where several Rhododendron canescens already resided. They were planted last fall, rescues from the late summer sale table.  Of course, I didn't plant any of them in my "pretty darn close to a cedar glade micro-environment" without amending the soil!  (More about this micro-environment here) Dozens of years of decaying leaf litter had made it rich and humusy, but, soil conditioner and a Woodland Soil Mix created for acid loving plants made it even better. Azaleas might like moist soil, but these also want sharp drainage. In my clay soil that means planting them high and mulching them with pine straw. I want these beauties to have the best chance to survive.
 The delicate petals curl back exposing long stamens and styles
After all, I have dreams and I'll continue to work to make them happen.


** Thanks to Frances of Fairegarden for inspiring me to plant our beautiful native azaleas.  Hers really rock!

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. Oh, how I hope those dreams come true ... Rosy Pink is just glorious!

  2. Good job, Gail, and may your dreams come true! Just getting through the first few years alive is the goal, flowers are a bonus. Get that root system going is the important thing and it sounds like you are on it!

  3. These are stunning. I totally see why you want them in your garden. My garden has quite challenging conditions (not the same challenges as yours, different ones!) and I find it takes time for things to get their roots down and decide to thrive. Hope these do just that!

  4. Those are gorgeous! Love the color

  5. I have 2 pink and one yellow native azalea. When they bloom, it's like the door to heaven has opened.

  6. You are a true gardener...keep trying until you find one that WANTS to live there!

  7. Worth a try. They are very pretty.

  8. Very beautiful, though not something that will grow here.

  9. I hope your azaleas make it, they are so wonderful!

    My grandfather lived in limestone country in Indiana, and he was determined to grow a dogwood and an azalea after seeing them in NC. He did too, but he had to add a lot of sulfur to bring down the pH and make them happy.

  10. Azaleas do not like my clay soil...they are so beautiful though.

  11. I sure hope they like it at Clay and Limestone, too! I've admired the lush blooms in Portland to Dallas to the natives we saw in Asheville last year and wished I could grow them, too. I did buy a 'Mandarin Lights' at an end of the season sale two years ago, but then the drought hit, and that was the end of that. These pink blooms are gorgeous!

  12. This has been my year to appreciate native azaleas. I have taught a class on the topic, for which I had to educate myself, it is our signature plant for this weekend's plant sale at the botanical garden, and I helped a local gardening reporter with a story on the subject. It is almost a shame I don't have room for one.

  13. I am looking for Rhododendron prinophyllum for my native garden. I saw one growing along a country road and know it's hardy in my area.

  14. So Glad to see you growing native azaleas on non-acid soils. How are they doing all these years later? I have been doing a bit of research (Journal ARS Article
    Vol. 47: No. 3: Year 1993 - Exploring the Deciduous Azaleas and Elepidote Rhododendrons of the Midwestern United States) and found your blog as well as some research showing several natives (r. prinophyllum, r. viscosum, and (maybe) r. periclymenoides) are all somewhat tolerant of neutral soils or soils high in limestone content, as long as other factors (sun/shade, fertility, drainage, and moisture) were met.

    It's good to see such beautiful plants are growing well on your site. I'll be planting my hillside and fingers crossed they do well!



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