Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.

Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information on using native plants in the landscape, issues related to invasive exotic plants, urban wildlife management, and wildlife damage management. It is my intention that this information will assist you in deciphering the multitude of information circulating around the web and condense in some meaningful method as it relates to Kentucky. In addition, I hope to highlight a native plant that can be used in the landscape.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Plant of the Pinxter Flower Azalea (Rhododendron periclymenoides)

I don't know about you, but I am just about sick and tired of winter.  So to brighten up this week, I have decided to discuss one of your native azaleas, the pinxter flower, because it is generally the first to flower in the spring and it is probably the most common. This is a 2 - 8' tall shrub that is quite showy as the 1 1/2 to 2" wide flowers, light pink on the outside with deeper pink in the center, occurs in clusters that appear just before the leaves appear or about the same time as the leaves appear.  This species can have some fragrance although it is not as strong as swamp (R. viscosum) or rose (R. prinophyllum) azaleas. The leaves are alternate (although they appear whorled) and range in length from 2-4" in length.  This species is often confused with R. canescans, which shares the same common name.  The name pinxter flower is related to the seventh Sunday after Easter in Dutch and is supposedly when this plant flowers.  In Kentucky it typically flowers in early to mid-April. Like growing any azaleas in the landscape, you need rich, humus soil with lots of organic matter and the soil must be extremely well drained.  This plant does not like its feet wet and if it does, it will develop root rot and die fairly quickly in the landscape. This is also a fairly shallowly rooted species and hence a good bark mulch will be necessary for continued growth and flowering. Do not dig or cultivate around the roots as this will also cause the plant to die.  Furthermore, it should be in the part-sun setting or where you get high afternoon shade.  To keep it flowering year after year, cut the blossoms off as soon as each cluster is done flowering. This is a fairly good butterfly and hummingbird attractant in the early spring.  It can develop lots of problems if it is not grown in the proper environment and these problems include canker, crown rot, root rot, leaf spot, rust, powdery mildew, aphids, borers, lacebugs, leaf hoppers, mealy bugs, mites, nematodes, scale, thrips, and whitefly.  If grown in the proper environment it has few problems.  The other important things to consider when using this in the landscape is to acidify the soil and the plant, all parts, are highly poisonous. I like growing this at the back of the naturalized woodland garden because it is denser and can handle more shade than the other native azaleas and works well with mountain laurel.  A variety of understory woodland plants look good with this including things like foam flower, Jacob's ladder, blue violets, dwarf iris or vernal iris, Virginia bluebells and many, many more species.  It is becoming quite common in the nursery trade because it is the easiest of all the native azaleas to grow.

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