Kyushu Azalea

Kyushu Azalea


"Azaleas in a bucket
And in their shade, a woman,
Tearing up a dried codfish."

-Matsuo Basho,
1644-1694

   

Rhododendron kiusianum or Kyushu Azalea is native of southern Japan, undoubtedly in Japanese gardens for centuries before it was described to the west in 1914.

Its range overlaps with that of R. kaempferi with which it naturally hybridizes. Color range for the flowers is broad, from rosy to salmon to purple to white. In Japan many select forms & intermediate forms have been named, besides an increasing array of cultivated hybrids.

The majority of wild specimens are violet/lavender-colored, funnel-shaped, two or three funnels per truss, in May or early June. This specimen, which I installed in a friend's garden, is the wild-colored violet-lavender.

Kyushu AzaleaKyushu Azalea likes bright shade to full sun either all morning or most of the afternoon. It wants moist very well draining soil, & will likely fail in soil that is too damp or drains poorly. Flowers, leaves, & young shoots are covered in fine hairs. Semi-deciduous to semi-evergreen, in some years it will lose the majority of its leaves, & makes a wonderful winter impact with its many upright rust-red twigs, with quarter-inch tiny shiny green leaves only at the branch tips at winter's end.

It will be more strongly evergreen in a protected location. The leaves often have striking autumn coloration.

As a subject of bonsai, it can be kept as a micro-shrub. In the open garden it grows to two or three feet in ten years, usually wider than it is tall, although strains from mountain to mountain on Kyushu Island have distinct habits, some very upright like those of Mount Unzen, others more spreading like those of Oita Prefecture. The specimen shown here has thus far been upright & mounding.

It does not require pruning, but if some trimming is needed for symmetry, it is done late spring when flowering is done.

   



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