Difficult to grow outside the Pacific Northwest and California, Rhododendron occidentale it is found in thickets around moist areas, seepages and creek sides in the mountains and foothills along the Pacific coast of southwest Oregon to southern California. Professor Kruckeberg once recommended planting our native azalea in massed plantings, interspersed with evergreens. What a sight that would be and the fragrance intoxicating.
The western azalea, used extensively in breeding programs, is a parent plant for many highly sought after hybrids, especially for adding fragrance. Some of its offspring include ‘Delicatissimum’, ‘Exquisitum’ and ‘Irene Koster’. All won the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit. Although its progeny grows easily outside our region, R. occidentale itself is not easy to maintain outside the region.