Rhododendron arborescens, the Sweet Azalea, has white to slightly pink flowers with red stamens and style, and a very pungent fragrance that is remeniscent of heliotrope. It blooms in late spring to early summer and individual flowers measure up to 2 inches across.
It is commonly stated that John Bartram described the species in 1814, but this is unlikely, since he died in 1777. According to other references, the plant was actually first observed by the botanist, Andre' Michaux in 1795 in North Carolina, but no specimen was found in his collection, so the formal credit goes to Bartram and Pursh.
It is widely distributed in the eastern United States. It often grows near streams or moist areas. It is sometimes known as the "Smooth Azalea" because the stems are very smooth and do not have hairs similar to the other azaleas.
An excellent landscape plant, R. arborescens can perfume a wide area when in bloom. Soils may need to be acidified before planting to maintain a low enough pH to satisfy this shrub's growth requirements. Does well planted in mixed or shrub boarders, woodland or open shade gardens. It tolerates wet planting sites so would be a good candidate for rain gardens.
We carry a number of geographic varieties, such as var. Georiana and a form from Wayah Bald of North Carolina.