Alabama is blessed to have the longest growing season in America: 300 days a year. This means gardeners in Alabama can grow just about anything they like, except for flowers that cannot abide high temperatures. It also means that spring comes early, with many colorful spring blooms. A number of spring-blooming flowers are quite commonly seen in Alabama.
By many accounts, azaleas are the most popular flowering bush in Alabama. Choose plants that are at least 12 inches tall--any smaller and they may not be mature enough to handle the winter months, the first year they are planted. Although you may be tempted to purchase your azalea plants when they are in bloom, during the spring months, fall is a better time to plant. When planted at that time of year, these plants will have a stronger foundation by the time the hotter climate hits the following year. You need an acid soil of a pH 5.5, or close to it.
Purchase a pH test kit from your local garden center or nursery. It is difficult to maintain an acid soil if yours is too much more alkaline. If you can’t meet the soil requirements, consider growing yours in a large planter, where you have more control over the acidity of the soil.
Azaleas come in an array of colors, most of which grow well in Alabama. However, a particular native azalea, the Alabama Azalea (Rhododendron alabamense), blooms in early spring and has a lemon scent. This particular azalea is white and yellow, with an occasional blush of pink.
Red geraniums are classic flowers in window boxes, potted, in flower beds and are frequently found in paintings. However, when choosing a variety of a certain flower, it’s safest to choose one that is natural to the location. By doing so, you have a good chance of growing it successfully. The Spotted Geranium (Wild Geranium, Spotted Cranesbill or Wood Geranium) is found in much of Alabama, as well as other states in the eastern half of the U.S.
This perennial (comes back every year) grows to a height of up to 18 inches, in full sun or partial shade locations. Its colors are light blue, pink or purple. It will withstand a pH value from 6.1 to 7.8. This means it will do well in a mildly acidic, to neutral, to mildly alkaline soil. If you have soil that is outside of these variances, consider planting your geranium in pots or planters.
Two of the varieties of gardenias, which grow especially well in Alabama, are Cape Jasmine and Radicans. The two give you a choice between a larger gardenia bush and a small one. Both plants offer white, rounded petal flowers with the gardenia’s unforgettable scent.
The Cape Jasmine can grow to 6 feet in height and spread to 5 feet. Take care to allow enough room for this variety when planting. The Radicans is a smaller version, growing to a height up to 3 feet, spreading to 6 feet. Both varieties like moist soil that is a bit on the acidic side. Plant them in a partial-shade area for best results.