The mission of the Azalea Chapter of ARS is to promote the awareness, the conservation and the utilization of evergreen as well as deciduous native azalea plants and habitats of the Southeast through community outreach, education and example.
We are one of 66 chapters of the American Rhododendron Society, which is now an international organization with chapters in Canada, Great Britain, Europe, and India.
ARS was founded in 1944, and our chapter was chartered in 1967. We serve members primarily in Georgia and Florida, but have members from all over the southeast and the United States.
Most ARS chapters tend to concentrate on large-leaved evergreen rhododendrons. We see our primary role as providing accurate information on and encouraging the use of azaleas, which belong to the large Rhododendron genus, not to the exclusion of other rhododendrons, but as an emphasis.
We are fortunate that more species of deciduous azaleas, our native azaleas, grow in the southeastern United States than any other place in the world. While these plants lose their leaves in the winter (as do dogwoods, flowering cherries, hydrangeas, witch hazel, etc.), many have spectacular yellow and orange flower colors along with white, pinks, and reds, and many have a wonderful fragrance as a bonus, as well as delightful fall foliage color. These are features not usually found in other rhododendrons.
As surprising as it may seem today, evergreen azaleas, native only in Japan and eastern Asia, were originally thought to be a greenhouse plant, too tender to survive outdoors. Yet, we have found the southeastern United States has an almost perfect environment for these floriferous plants.
Thus, we exist to learn and share information on azaleas, other rhodys, and other desirable companion plants. We do this through monthly programs where one can learn about various plants, culture, propagation, photography, botanical gardens, and native sites. We host a free seed exchange from rare and unusual plants, a co-op purchasing program allows members to buy plants and supplies economically, and members and guests obtain free plants and seedlings at our meetings. We organize and host field trips and garden tours. Through a newly-formed Native Azalea Study Group, we are expanding our knowledge of these plants. See our Calendar, News Blog, and Photo Gallery for more details on what we are currently doing.
Our members range from novice to expert. Many additional advantages can be found to being a member of the American Rhododendron Society. To join, go to our membership page. If you are already an ARS member, consider becoming an associate member of the Azalea Chapter.
For the public, we offer plant sales of hard-to-find varieties, a speakers bureau to present programs on various plant topics, and much information via this web site. In addition, our events are free and open to the public. Check us out and, if you have a question or comment, contact us.