How to Grow 'Golden Oriole' Azalea

Orange buds, yellow flowers in spring

'Golden oriole' azalea plant with orange trumpet-like flowers clustered together

The Spruce / Loren Probish

'Golden Oriole' azalea (Rhododendron 'Golden Oriole') is a deciduous flowering shrub, a hybrid plant with a long, complicated lineage. It is a member of the Knap Hill and Exbury hybrid group, which originated with extensive cross-breeding of native U.S. and Asian varieties at the Knap Hill estate of England during the late 1800s. The species used most extensively in these hybrids are Rhododendron molle, R. calendulaceum, R. arborescens, and R. occidentale.

This beautiful hybrid member of the Rhododendron genus has a relatively rapid growth rate and produces orange buds leading to golden-yellow flowers in large showy clusters in early spring. The leaves are 2- to 6-inches long and elliptical in shape. It is a fairly compact shrub, growing to about 6-feet tall, and is highly prized for its unusual color. In fall, the leaves turn attractive shades of bronze. It can be planted in spring or fall.

Botanical Name Rhododendron 'Golden Oriole'
Common Name 'Golden Oriole' azalea
Plant Type Deciduous flowering shrub
Mature Size 6 ft. tall by 4-6 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full sun to part sun
Soil Type Moderately rich, well-drained, evenly moist
Soil pH 4.5-5.5
Bloom Time Early spring
Flower Color Orange and yellow
Hardiness Zones 5-8 (USDA)
Native Area NA; hybrid with genetic parentage in North America and Asia
Toxicity Toxic to humans and pets

'Golden Oriole' Azalea Care

Many gardeners treat 'Golden Oriole' as a specimen plant or in foundation plantings. It can also be used in a loose, informal hedge.

'Golden Oriole' azalea is a good plant for attracting hummingbirds and butterflies, and, while it is not fully deer-proof, it is not among the favored plants of deer. This makes 'Golden Oriole' a good choice for wildlife gardens.

'Golden oriole' azalea bush with orange flower clusters on branches in sunlight

The Spruce / Loren Probish

'Golden oriole' flower with yellow-orange petals and buds on edge of stem closeup

The Spruce / Loren Probish

Light

The further south in its planting range you go, the less sunlight a 'Golden Oriole' azalea requires. It is not, however, a shade plant, so it should receive at least partial sun.

Water

Water 'Golden Oriole' azalea so as to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged at all times.

Soil

All azaleas do best in well-drained soil with plenty of organic material. Adding organic amendments—a mix of 2/3 compost and 1/3 peat moss—will improve both drainage and fertility of the soil.

Temperature and Humidity

Hybrid azaleas, like the 'Golden Oriole', do not tolerate long spates of high heat. If it's above 90 degrees Fahrenheit for too long, your plant will flounder. On the other end of the spectrum, these plants may not live through a Northeast-type winter. Moderation, as they say, is key.

Fertilizer

In spring, and following the directions on the bag's label, apply a fertilizer designed specifically for acid-loving plants, such as Holly Tone or Miracid.

Pruning

Regular pruning is not usually needed with azaleas. If you feel the need to prune for aesthetic reasons (to restrict the size of your shrub, for example), it is best to prune azalea bushes right after these early bloomers have finished blooming. Because these shrubs bloom on old wood grown the previous season, pruning too late in the year will rob you of flowers for next year.

The best pruning practice is to open up the center of the shrub by removing long, stray shoots. When the shrub gets too large for its location, the entire plant can be cut down to within about 1 foot of the ground. Immediately feed the shrub and keep it well-watered until a large group of healthy suckers begins to sprout up from the base of the shrub.

Propagating 'Golden Oriole' Azaleas

The best way to propagate 'Golden Oriole' azaleas is by root cuttings in the spring, and it's really easy to accomplish using semi-hardened wood. To do: Find containers with large draining holes and fill with well-draining rooting medium. Trim your azalea cuttings to just below leaf nodes; remove leaves and any flower buds. Dip each end in rooting hormone, then insert 1/3 of the cutting into the rooting medium. Cover with plastic to keep moist.

Place in indirect light, and check the medium frequently. When it gets dry, water it. In about two months, cuttings should have germinated. By August, you can give them more light. They will be ready to plant the following spring, once the last frost date has passed.

Overwintering

Mulch the plant for winter protection as well as during the growing season, to help the soil retain moisture and to control weeds. When mulching for winter protection, avoid placing the mulch right up against the trunk, which can encourage pests to feed on the lower stems.

Common Pests and Diseases

Voles frequently gnaw on the lower stems of azaleas and can kill the plants. Combat this by keeping the mulch well away from the base of the shrubs. Another serious pest is azalea leafminer, which commonly attacks in May. You have to keep a close watch on your plants in order to detect this pest in time. If you do detect leaf miners, either pick them off by hand or spray with an insecticide containing a pyrethroid or neem oil.

If you have had a dry summer and do not irrigate sufficiently, your azalea bushes can develop cankers. Prune off affected branches to arrest the spread of this fungal disease.

Article Sources
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  1. Arthropod Pests of Azalea. NC State Extension

  2. Azalea Leafminer (Caloptilia azaleella). University of Georgia Extension