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Azaleas and Rhododendron

Azaleas vs Rhododendrons

  • All azaleas are Rhododendrons but not all Rhododendrons are azaleas.
  • Most Azaleas are deciduous, but true Rhododendrons are usually evergreen.
  • Azaleas have funnel shaped flowers. Rhodi flowers tend to be bell-shaped.

The Difference Between Azaleas and Rhododendrons

Many people get these two plants confused. The thing to remember is all azaleas are rhododendrons but not all rhododendrons are Azaleas. Azaleas are in the genus Rhododendron. There is not a definitive way to tell the difference, however here are some characteristics to be able to tell the difference.

Most Azaleas are deciduous, meaning they will lose their leaves in the fall. Most Rhododendrons are evergreen (keep their leaves during winter), with the exceptions of R. mucronulatum and R. dauricum.

Azaleas have appressed hairs which is hair parallel to the surface of the leaf. Instead of having hair, most Rhododendrons are often scaly or have dots underneath the leaves. Azaleas also have tubular or funnel shaped flowers. Rhodi flowers are more bell shaped.

Lastly, Rhododendrons have more than 10 stamens or 2 per lobe. Azaleas usually have 5 stamens per lobe, and have 5 lobes in a flower.

More Azalea Information

Azaleas are a deciduous flowering shrub that are classified as rhododendrons. Although they are typically smaller than rhododendrons, these bushes typically have bright flowers that grow in clusters, and are often very fragrant. The most common flower colors are shades of red, pink and white. Plant Addicts has a very large selection of azaleas for sale.

Azaleas are great in southern gardens, but can be grown from zones 6 to 10. We love growing azaleas in planters. We made a guide to growing azaleas in planters to help other gardeners do the same. The plants like well drained soil, with mulch to help protect the shallow roots and keep moisture in the dirt. Most azaleas like full sun, but can tolerate partial shade.


American Rhododendron Society - New York Chapter
Dirr, Michael A. 1998. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. 5th Edition
Greer, Harold 1996. Greer’s Guidebook to Available Rhododendrons. 3rd Edition