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Gibraltar Azaleas


Picture of Gibraltar azalea. An Exbury hybrid, Gibraltar azalea has orange flowers.

Picture: 'Gibraltar' is an orange azalea.

David Beaulieu

Plant Taxonomy of Gibraltar Azaleas:

Plant taxonomy classifies these orange azaleas as Rhododendron 'Gibraltar.' Occasionally, you will see the name written as Rhododendron x 'Gibraltar' (the insertion of the "x" in the name calls attention to the fact that this is a hybrid plant). The shrub is part of the Exbury group of hybrids. The parents of Exbury hybrids are of diverse geographical origins.

Plant Type for Gibraltar Azaleas:

Gibraltar azalea is a deciduous flowering shrub.

Characteristics of Gibraltar Azaleas:

Gibraltar azalea plants produce clusters (called "trusses," technically) of funnel-shaped, bright orange flowers with ruffled petals in May (in my zone 5 garden). Flowers precede leaves. Plants can achieve a height of 5-6 feet after 10 years if not pruned so as to minimize their vertical growth; with their upright growth habit, the width tends to be less than the height.

Planting Zones for Gibraltar Azaleas:

Grow in planting zones 5-8.

Sun and Soil Requirements for Gibraltar Azaleas:

Grow in filtered sunlight or partial sun and in a well-drained soil with a soil pH that is acidic. If your soil type is a clayey soil, work in soil amendments such as compost to improve drainage.

Uses in Landscaping:

Because of these orange azaleas bear colorful flowers in spring, some like to use these bushes as foundation plants. As deciduous shrubs, however, they will provide neither a buffer to cold winds nor a point of visual interest in winter. Therefore, they would not be my first choice in a foundation planting.

I prefer them as specimen plants. When used in a woodland garden, plant in a relatively sunny spot.

Caution: poisonous plants. Make sure they're out of reach of children and pets, who may accidentally ingest them.

Care for Gibraltar Azaleas: Mulching, Pruning, Fertilizing:

These shallow-rooted plants like their "feet" kept cool, and you can accomplish this by applying mulch around them. Since they bloom on old wood, prune them just after blooming. You have to be careful about the time of year in which your fertilize: Fertilizing should be done in spring. Otherwise, you will be promoting tender new growth too late in the year -- growth that will be damaged in cold weather. Specialty fertilizers are sold for these plants that will contain ammonium-N (which will also lower soil pH).

See more about caring for these plants below, including planting information.

Orange Azaleas Attract Wildlife, Too!:

As attractive as such colorful bushes are to humans, they are just as attractive to some of the wildlife we most enjoy watching in our landscapes. These orange azaleas are plants that attract butterflies and are also useful in hummingbird gardens.

Deciduous vs. Evergreen:

While some shrubs in the genus, Rhododendron are evergreen, Gibraltar azaleas are deciduous. This fact holds 2 ramifications of significance to the gardener:

  1. Deciduous types are more sun-tolerant than evergreen types; in the North, at least dappled sunlight is required for optimal blooming on Gibraltar azaleas.
  2. Deciduous types offer no interest in the winter landscape.

Other Orange Azaleas, More Care Tips:

Examples of other orange azaleas hardy to at least zone 5 include:

  • 'Golden Lights': a golden-orange azalea
  • 'Mandarin Lights': a bright orange azalea

Proper Gibraltar azalea care begins at planting time. Because they are shallow-rooted bushes, dig a wide planting hole when installing these orange azaleas. Preparing a hole of generous width will give the root system friable soil into which they may expand.

Water well during the first couple of years or so, to help the plants become established. There's a tricky balance to keep between sufficient watering and overwatering, but the latter is much easier to avoid if you ensure that the soil is well-drained (see above).

Back to: Late Spring Blooming Shrubs

Related Video
Azalea Care Tips
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