Azaleas in the Winter – Think Foliage

Several years ago, Steve Brainard designed the first phase of the Ina Brundrett Azalea Garden, located on the campus of Tyler Junior College. It was an innovative design, in that besides the typical spring flower display

Brundrett Azalea Garden

and the companion Japanese maples in the beds, the evergreen azaleas for the planting were selected and arranged to show off their foliage color in the late fall, winter and early spring. The intended effect was, well, effective, as masses of darker maroon or bronze foliage alternated with light green or even yellowing leaves.

Typically, darker flowered red or orange varieties tend to have a reddish tint to the fall foliage,

Cole Garden

while white and light pink varieties have lighter green, or even yellow leaves in the winter. One of my favorite varieties with colorful winter foliage is ‘Midnight Flare’, seen here to the right with the dark reddish-maroon colored leaves next to the lighter green leaves of ‘Watchet’. ‘Midnight Flare’ has deep, dark red, glossy blooms in mid-April, complemented by very dark green, glossy leaves. ‘Watchet’ which blooms at the same time, has clear pink blooms, occasionally throwing a second set of blooms in the fall. So, both varieties are great for their flower display alone, But ‘Midnight Flare’ adds to the landscape in the winter time as well.

Coral Bells

Another favorite of mine is ‘Coral Bells’, a commonly available Kurume type azalea thatblooms with small, bright pink flowers in early to mid-March. But once the weather turns colder, the medium-green leaves take on a pleasant light reddish bronze to orange color, on this very compact azalea variety. ‘Coral Bells’ is also a choice variety where you need a low-growing plant in the front of a bed or under low windows.

One of my favorite azaleas that develops a fair amount of yellow leaves in the winter is ‘Delaware Valley’ – a single white, early spring blooming variety.

So, pay attention to azaleas this winter. Off color leaves do not indicate a sick plant (an unwarrented concern that I am often asked about). It is just another season of color from this great group of plants.

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