Both Azaleas and Rhododendrons are essential flowering shrubs for the southern landscape and may even be a southern favorite. Azaleas and Rhododendrons are often treated as separate plants but they both are in fact part of the genus Rhododendron. It’s easy to distinguish between the two as rhododendrons have larger leaves. Rhododendron flowers are bell shaped and have ten or more stamens. Azaleas have funnel shaped blooms with five stamens. Azaleas make up two of the eight sub-genres of rhododendrons; Tsutsuji (evergreen) and Pentanthera (deciduous). Azaleas generally put on a spectacular show of blooms in spring but, with selective breeding for hundreds of years, new cultivars with extended bloom times have been developed. Azaleas are wonderful en masse along the foundation or in the woodland border.
Planting & Caring for Azaleas
Select a spot suitable for their light requirements, which varies by species, but most prefer part sun or dappled shade beneath trees. Too much sun will burn leaves and prevent abundant blooms. North and East facing locations are preferred over South and West, with well drained, organically enriched, acidic soil. For proper planting, amend wet, clay soil and be sure the top of the root ball is slightly above the soil level. See our proper planting guide here.
Azaleas absorb water through their leaves as well as their roots so be sure to water both the foliage and the root zone. Sprinkler watering works well but to prevent fungal diseases water in the morning so leaves dry during the afternoon.
Azaleas require little fertilizer and most varieties rarely need pruning. Mulch them in spring after blooms fade, and apply a high acid fertilizer. Insects and disease seldom bother healthy azaleas – they are a great low-maintenance landscape shrub!
New Blooming azaleas have been developed under brand names such as Encore, Re-Bloom and Bloom-A-Thon. They bloom in spring and then bloom again mid summer and continue to bloom until frost. Unlike traditional azaleas, Encores prefer more sun and can tolerate full sun. Plant in an area where plants will receive 4-6 hours of sun or bright shade. Encore azaleas come over two dozen colors and even work in containers. Bloom-A-Thon & Re-Bloom azaleas feature evergreen foliage that is disease resistant and maintains excellent year round color. They tolerate part sun and roughly grow to 3-5 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide. Bloom-A-Thon azaleas are offered in several colors.
Too see a list of our current selection of azaleas including Encore and Bloom-A-Thon varieties, see our latest gallery, here.