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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.

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.

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