The Differences Between Rhodoendron and Azalea

white rhododendron flowers
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The Differences Between Rhodoendron and Azalea

Easy and Rewarding Flowering Shrubs

The weather has been going a little crazy the last few years, and each year it seems that more and more of the country is affected by drought conditions.  It’s no surprise, then, that drought landscaping (sometimes called xeriscaping) is becoming a hot topic.  There are a lot of easy things you can do in your garden to conserve water.  A rain barrel under your house gutters is an obvious solution, and one that’s becoming more and more popular (I’ll be installing a 55-gallon barrel at my parents’ house tomorrow).  Putting down a thick layer of mulch can help a lot of plants to retain moisture.  Many landscapers are recommending less grass, most types of which require a tremendous amount of water.  In the place of grass natural areas and planting beds are taking over.

Long known as a staple of Southern gardens, they are actually hardy for all but the coldest regions of the country and make any garden a showstopper.

Rudbeckia Denver DaisyRudbeckia Denver Daisy
Rhododendron 'Mandarin Lights' Azalea

But What Are the Differences Between the Two Plants?

Did you know that all Azaleas are Rhododendrons but not all Rhododendrons are Azaleas? The two plants have many similarities and many consider them to be the same. However, there are some important distinctions between the two. Knowing those differences allows gardeners to properly care for the shrub.


  • Azaleas can either be deciduous or evergreen.
  • The leaves are typically thin and smooth with fuzzy undersides.
  • This shrub typically produces 1 to 3 flowers per stem and each bloom can host 5 to 6 stamen. 
  • Another notable difference is the smaller stems and branches when compared to Rhododendrons.


  • Rhododendrons are almost always evergreen with only a few exceptions. 
  • Instead of fuzz, the undersides of their leaves are dotted and scaled. 
  • The flowers appear in large clusters or trusses at the end of the stems, which are far fewer and stouter than those of azaleas. 
  • The colorful blooms of rhododendrons have many more stamen, usually 10 or more per blossom.

Producing an abundance of color from spring to summer and even into the fall both Azaleas and Rhododendrons are a popular shrub for gardens of all sizes. Now that you know the difference plant them with confidence and watch them transform your landscape.