In praise of poukhanense azalea
Poukhanense azalea is a charming flowering shrub of early spring that draws praise for its hardiness and pretty blooms.
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I will confess that although I've grown dozens of other azaleas, I've never planted a poukhanense – for reasons I'll mention in a moment.Skip to next paragraph
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I'm always interested when I see that all the references to the plant say that it grows 3 to 6 feet tall. The ones I've seen are generally taller, even here in Boston. Interestingly, Mr. Donovan says that it's prostrate in the wild.
Poukhanense is a wide plant – it can grow as much as 12 feet in diameter, although that takes some years. So give it plenty of space when you plant.
For the increasing number of people with shady yards, this is a great shrub.
Magenta flowers and semievergreen leaves
But, as I alluded earlier, it does have a few small drawbacks.
For me, one is the color of its blooms. The pinkish-purple is a pretty color by itself but it doesn't fit in well with the rest of the spring garden. (Usually daffodils are blooming at the same time, Yellow and this shade of magenta are not a happy combination.)
Still, the flowers are very attractive, and I just discovered a pretty soft-pink cultivar from Conard-Pyle. It's called Sweet 16. Hmmm, maybe I'm going to have to reconsider.
The other fault of poukhanense -- and this is a personal prejudice -- is that this shrub is called an evergreen, but it's generally semievergreen. That means that if it's in a prominent location in your yard, it isn't going to look like much from November until it blooms.
In Boston, where there isn't a wide a choice of broadleaf evergreens, that isn't really a problem. But in warmer areas of the country, say, Zones 6 and 7, there are many shrubs that do stay green all winter. And a number of those have a more compact growth habit, as contrasted to poukhanense's looser, more rangy one.
But if you have moist acid soil and a shady or partially shady spot and are looking for a hardy flowering shrub that truly welcomes spring in a colorful way, poukhanense is well worth considering.
And I hope you do plant one or two. Although I haven't convinced myself to grow one yet, I love to enjoy those that everyone else grows!
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