How to tell a Rhododendron from an Azalea..

ididitMay 10, 2005

They look the same to me...??? What's the difference in the 2 plants?

THanks in advance! :)


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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

The group, Rhododendron, includes both Rhododendrons and Azaleas. Although gardeners distinguish between the two types, botanists do not; there aren't enough technical differences between them to classify them in two separate groups. In this genus (Rhododendron), both Rhododendron and Azalea are used as common names. The distinctions that follow are sometimes made by gardeners: (and are broad generalizations)

The plants called Rhododendrons are usually evergreen and those labeled Azaleas are deciduous, although there are evergreen Azaleas. Rhododendrons have ten or more stamens, while Azaleas have five. Rhododendrons have large, paddle-shaped leaves and large, bell- or funnel-shaped flowers borne in terminal trusses. Azaleas have small, elliptical leaves and trumpet- or tubular-shaped flowers at the ends of the shoots. Rhododendrons may be erect, growing up to 80 feet high, while Azaleas are more twiggy, spreading bushes, often reaching a height of no more than 8 feet.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2005 at 6:04PM
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reg_pnw7(WA 7, sunset 4)

Rhodies have 10 stamens per flower and azaleas have 5. that's how botanists distinguish them. Gardeners know one when they see one.

Those of us who garden in mild winter areas think of azaleas as being evergreen. Although there are many deciduous azaleas, that's not at all what I think of when I'm thinking of Azaleas unless someone specifies Deciduous ones or yellow or orange flowered ones. I used to work at a nursery where a customer came in and asked one of the new employees for a yellow azalea. She turned to me and asked in a stage whisper, 'you ever heard of a YELLOW azalea???' I said, 'sure, the deciduous ones can come in yellow.' She was flabbergasted - 'there's DECIDUOUS azaleas???'

My grandmother's garden in Alabama (Mobile) was thickly planted with azaleas of all types and not a deciduous one in the lot.

In California no one plants deciduous azaleas. Azaleas are evergreen, period. Here in Washington it's about half and half.

More azaleas are deciduous than rhodies but I would never characterize azaleas as being deciduous plants. Some are, many aren't. Very few rhodies however are not evergreen and those are rarely planted in the average garden- usually they're a collector's item.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2005 at 2:36PM
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