Rhododendron / Azalea
These garden wonders paint landscapes with vibrant hues. Delve into their care, explore the diverse types, and create stunning displays that elevate your garden's aesthetic.
The genus Rhododendron contains woody ornamental flowering shrubs, known as azaleas and rhododendrons. These shrubs can be deciduous or evergreen and offer multi-season to year-round interest, with many deciduous varieties providing fall color. Azaleas and rhododendrons are similar in appearance; however, rhododendron leaves may be scaly or dotted on the underside, and their bell-shaped flowers have 10 or more stamens. Azalea leaves are scaleless but are often covered with hairs, and their funnel-shaped flowers have 5 stamens. Color, shape, size, and bloom time varies widely, depending on variety. Although most bloom once in spring, some hybrids bloom for months, often until frost. Their huge flower clusters come in shades of red, pink, purple, orange, yellow, or white. Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds adore them.
Rhododendron is a massive genus with approximately 1,000 recognized species, ranging from tiny mat-like plants to trees, with many hybrids and around 30 North American natives. Rhododendrons and azaleas typically have a rounded habit and grow 6 to 10 feet tall and 5 to 8 feet wide. A few popular species for home gardens include R. arborescens (sweet azalea, smooth azalea, tree azalea) a fragrant deciduous shrub; R. calendulaceum (flame azalea) a deciduous shrub with yellow, orange, or red flowers and fall color; R. periclymenoides (pinxterbloom azalea [syn. R. nudiflorum]) a native deciduous shrub endemic to moist woods and swamp margins in eastern U.S; R. prinophyllum (mountain azalea) a fragrant deciduous shrub; and R. viscosum (swamp azalea) a native deciduous shrub endemic to swamps and bogs in eastern U.S.
Versatile plants, rhododendron and azaleas have many uses in the landscape. They grow best in organically rich, well-draining, acidic soil and prefer a dappled sun location protected from afternoon sun, making them excellent understory shrubs in naturalized areas. But they are extremely popular specimens and landscape shrubs.