I love spring-flowering shrubs (not that I hold any animosity toward shrubs flowering at other times of the year). I especially get a kick out of deciduous shrubs that begin flowering in spring before they start to push out their new leaves. There is something about seeing a naked shrub burst into colorful bloom that really adds a wow factor in the garden.
Azaleas have been somewhat of a backbone for Southern gardens for many years. However, instead of the commonly found evergreen indica varieties, I tend to prefer the deciduous natives and their hybrids. While there are many lovely varieties of deciduous azaleas, there is one in our garden that I find to be especially majestic. Rhododendron Aromi Sunstruck (sometimes simply referred to as Rhododendron Sunstruck) never ceases to amaze me each year when it is bloom.
Rhododendron Aromi Sunstruck is a vivid yellow-flowered variety that was bred specifically, as with the other Aromi azalea hybrids, for heat tolerance, large flowers, and fragrance. Aromi Sunstruck begins blooming in April and is in full bloom by mid-April and will continue for several weeks. Following flowering, foliage will emerge with the warming weather. Topping out at only 4-to 6-feet-tall, Aromi Sunstruck can easily be incorporated into most home gardens.
Not only is 'Aromi Sunstruck' great to look at, but it's also easy to grow. Unlike some other azaleas, this variety grows well in full sun and will handle the brutal South Carolina summers. Aromi azaleas prefer to be grown in a well drained, acidic soil with some organic matter. Once established, they do not require tons of water; periodic watering during the hot summer should suffice. Fall and early winter are great times to plant deciduous shrubs, or you can wait until spring. However, if you go ahead and put it in the ground now, the plant will be settled in just in time for spring flowering.
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Deciduous azaleas are traditionally not the most common plants in nurseries. In recent years, the popularity of deciduous azaleas has increased so you should be able to find 'Aromi Sunstruck' or some other great Aromi varieties (in several different colors) with a little searching around town.
Go ahead and break the mold on traditional Southern gardens. Try out a deciduous azalea like Rhododendron 'Aromi Sunstruck' instead of one of those fuzzy evergreen indica azaleas.