Rhododendron Vs Azalea: Know The Real Difference

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Rhododendron and azalea are two lovely plants that you’ve probably heard of if you have an interest in ornamental plants. These plants’ lovely blossoms are renowned for their seductive charm, which may enchant and beautify any garden.

In many nations and many traditions, these plants are appreciated and treasured. For instance, unique flower festivals are held throughout the US when azalea blooms are at their optimum.

Rhododendron Vs Azalea
Source: pinterest.com

But what is so special about these two plants that we have dedicated an entire article to them? Well, the blossoms on both of these plants symbolize springtime. In addition, they are quite stunning in the garden in their different shapes and hues.

Azaleas are a variety of rhododendrons. So, while all rhododendrons are not all azaleas, all azaleas are rhododendrons.

These plants, which are related species, have several characteristics in common, frequently creating the impression that they are the same. However, there are several significant distinctions between these; thus, they are not the same. So let’s dissect it to discover the true distinctions between rhododendrons and azaleas.

Rhododendron- The Basics

Rhododendron The Basics
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Rhododendrons are unquestionably lovely. Any onlooker can be drawn in by their gorgeously magnificent flowers. Rhododendrons, an emblem of spring’s splendor, are indigenous to eastern Asia and the Himalayan region. However, these plants can also be found in Australia, Europe, and North America. Rhododendrons are the state flower of West Virginia and Washington in the United States and Nepal’s national flower due to their beauty.

This table lists the fundamentals of rhododendron. It will aid in your better understanding of this beautiful plant.

Common NameRhododendron
Subgenera• Azaleastrum
• Choniastrum
• Hymenanthes
• Rhododendron
• Therorhodion
Native ToEastern Asia and the Himalayan region
TypeShrub/ Broadleaf
Mature Size1 ⅓ to 16 feet tall
Bloom TimeApril-May
Blossom colorLavender, pink, and white, and sometimes red

What is Azalea?

What is Azalea
Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Rhododendron’s subgenus includes azaleas. It is at par with rhododendron in terms of its beauty and charm. As a spring flower, it can make your garden come alive with color. The flowers bloom between April and May in the northern hemisphere, whereas they do so between October and November in the southern hemisphere. Azaleas are a rhododendron variation that thrives in partial shade and prefers to grow next to canopies or higher trees.

About 10,000 different azalea cultivars may be quickly multiplied through stem cuttings thanks to extensive hybridization. This blossoming shrub is truly beautiful, but it’s also dangerous. The plant has andromedotoxin in both its nectar and leaves, which, if consumed, can irritate the stomach.

Different Varieties of Azalea

Over 10000 different cultivars of azaleas have been produced as a result of extensive hybridization. That being said, there are two types of azaleas: evergreen and deciduous. These two types are widely distributed throughout North America.

Here, we’ve included a list of some of the best azalea kinds you may readily find and plant on your lawn.

Hardiness ZonesBloom TimeBlossom ColorHeight (Max.)Sun ExposureAttracts
Flame Creeper6-9May- JuneCoral to cherry3 feetPartialButterflies
Bollywood6-9Earl to late springWatermelon pink3 feetPartialButterflies
Lemon Lights4-8April- MayBright yellow to burgundy red6 feetPartialButterflies
Hot Shot6-9MayFirey orange and red3 feetPartialHummingbirds, Butterflies
Fireball5-8May- JunePink and red6 feetPartialHummingbirds
Fashion6-9April- MayPink4 feetPartialHummingbirds, Butterflies
Mandarin Lights3-7Mid to late springOrange5 feetPartialHummingbirds, butterflies, and birds
Sweet Azalea4-7May- JulyWhite20 feetPartialHummingbirds, butterflies, and birds
Pink-Shell Azalea5-7AprilPink15 feetPartialHummingbirds, butterflies, and birds
Cumberland Azalea5-8JuneOrange7 feetFull Sun-Part ShadeButterflies

Are Azaleas and Rhododendrons the Same?

Are Azaleas and Rhododendrons the Same
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One question that frequently triggers in our minds is if azaleas and rhododendrons are the same. Unfortunately, the answer to this question is NO.

Let us reiterate ourselves to state that azaleas are a type of rhododendron. So, both are different though they share certain common features. But in no way can we use azaleas interchangeably with rhododendrons.

We have highlighted a few contrasts between these two to help you comprehend their variances. You can use these to learn about the fundamental distinctions between azaleas and rhododendrons.

Despite everything, we must admit that it may be difficult to distinguish between the hybrids if you are not an expert in gardening. As a result, it would take some research and practice to tell an azalea from a rhododendron at first glance.

Rhododendron Vs Azalea: The Major Differences

Rhododendron Vs Azalea The Major Differences
Source: pinterest.com

These two plants are frequently confused by people. And it makes sense because there isn’t really a method to determine the difference. However, there are some traits that we may examine to distinguish between the two. To highlight the true differences, however, one would need to take a very close look at their traits or qualities.

It’s intriguing that rhododendrons and azaleas once belonged to separate plant genera. These two plant species are now grouped under the same genus, nevertheless. Additionally, these two hardy shrubs may grow and prosper in USDA zones 3 through 9 in partial shade.

Here is a little fact for you before moving on to the parts that emphasize the distinctions between azaleas and rhododendrons:

Azalea” is frequently used to describe the fall-leaving deciduous form of rhododendrons. On the other hand, plants with broad evergreen leaves are typically referred to as “rhododendron” species.

Rhododendron Vs Azalea: Identification

So, how to identify if you are looking at an azalea or a rhododendron?

To know the answer refer to the table below.

BloomTube or funnel-shapedBell-shaped
Folliage• Pointed
• Narrow
• Fussy

The deciduous varieties shed leaves during the fall months.
• Bigger
• Broader
• Leathery

May have speckles or scales on the underside of the leaves.
Bloom TimeApril (usually) but may vary with species. Late spring
Flower colorWhite, cream, pink, red, lavender, purple, orange, and yellowWhite, orchid pink, purple, and red.

Sometimes, in yellow hues as well.
TypeDeciduous and EvergreenEvergreen

Rhododendron Vs Azalea: Growing Conditions

Azaleas and rhododendrons also have certain differences in terms of their growth needs and conditions. Refer to the table below to learn more in this regard.

Bonus Read: Philodendron vs Pothos: What’s the Difference?

Growing NeedsAzaleaRhododendron
Hardiness Zones3-94-8
Sun ExposureFiltered sunlight & partial shade

The deciduous varieties can thrive under full sun
Filtered sunlight & partial shade
Soil pH4.5 to 6.04.5 to 6.0
Soil TypeWell-drainedMoist/ well-drained/loamy
FertilizationEarly springEarly spring
PestLacebugs and spider mites-
DiseasesLeafy gall
Phytophthora root rot
Phytophthora root rot
Prunning Fall- Winter March
ToxicityStomach irritationCan be toxic to cats, dogs, horses, and livestock

Rhododendrons and azaleas are related to several other plants. The plants listed below are some significant relatives of azaleas and rhododendrons.

1. Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel
Source: pinterest.com

It is a broadleaf evergreen shrub growing locally in eastern North American forests. Mountain Laurel, also known as Calico Bush and Spoonwood, blossoms throughout the spring and summer.

2. Alpine Azalea

Alpine Azalea
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3. Japanese Andromeda

Japanese Andromeda
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These bushes, also known as Lily-of-the-Valley Shrub, Japanese Pieris, Fetterbush, and Japanese Andromeda, produce hanging blooms.

4. Catawba Rhododendron

Catawba Rhododendron
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This type is a real rhododendron and grows up to 8 feet tall. Hummingbirds are drawn to the garden by the white, lavender, and crimson flowers Catawba Rhododendron produces.

5. Golden Bells

Golden Bells
Source: britannica.com

This deciduous flowering shrub is native to Asia and belongs to the Forsythia spp. Genus. It thrives in well-drained solid and can be grown in hardiness zones of 5-8.


It can be challenging to tell them apart because Azaleas and Rhododendrons are both Rhododendron genus members. Since there are essentially no botanical distinctions between these two varieties, the complexity can be much higher.

And the likelihood is strong that you won’t know one from the other if you’re inexperienced. However, the distinction doesn’t make it really important when cultivating them, which is the good news.

However, based on our observations, we would argue that the stamens and blossoms are the best indicators of whether a plant is a rhododendron or an azalea. With about 10 stamens, rhododendrons create larger blooms. Azaleas, on the other hand, produce flowers that are smaller and have 5 stamens.

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