Spider AzaleaSpider Azalea

"Climbing high on Yongpyon's hills,
there I'll pick azalea flowers,
armfuls of purple, just to spread
along the pathways as you go."

-Kim Sowol.
Korea, 1902-1034


The odd Spider Azalea, native of Japan, is a pleasing addition to any collection of rhodies & azaleas, for it is so "different" that many people would not even suspect it is an azalea.

The skinny strap-like crinkly leaves are matched by the strap-like lavender-pink (or rose-lilac) flower petals. Hardly a guess why this is called a "Spider."

When first introduced to western gardens in 1980, it was known as Rhododendron macrosepalum 'Linearifolium.' That is now ammended to R. stenopetalum 'Linearifolium.'

Spider AzaleaWe procured our first small specimen at the Rhodododendron Species Foundation annual spring, when it consisted of hardly more than three stems with two branchings.

At that time it was only about eighteen inches tall, but already eager to bloom, as shown in a May 2002 photo above. In May the little shrub had already been blooming a full month, & the flowers took a full eight weeks to wear out.

A year later (as shown in the second photo shot in April), it had considerably bushed out, though still & always destined to remain a dwarf. To see more of this specimen, see the Spider Azalea Page of the Rhodies & Azaleas Blossoms Gallery.

Though small, it almost qualifies as a big shrub compared to the groundcover rhody visible in the lower right hand corner of the second photograph. That tiny thing is R. keiskei var. cordifolia 'Yaku Fairy,' by far the smallest of the dwarf rhodies we possess.

It likes sun to part shade & our first one grows under a Paperbark maple at the edge of the shade-line where I hope it is getting enough sun. In 2004 we added a second spider azalea in a raised patio-edge garden, shaded by a Diablo Ninebark. A spider azalea is easily harmed by winds, so finding it the perfect location where it is protected by larger plants, but not too deeply shaded from the sun, can be quite the balancing act.


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