Difference Between Azaleas and Rhododendrons (With Table)

Nowadays, flowers are used as ornamentals to give a touch to a house. Most of the gardens are loaded with shrubs which is a woody plant and smaller than a tree. It gives a spectacular display for all garden sizes.  Azaleas and rhododendrons are two flowering shrubs to give an exuberant display. They are generally used as showy. They both are members of the same genus, namely rhododendron. Several distinctions are covered up in this article. 

Azaleas vs Rhododendrons 

The main difference between azaleas and rhododendrons is the type of vegetation. Most azaleas are deciduous, which means that in the time of fall, they lose their leaves. On the other hand, most rhododendrons are evergreen which means in winter they keep their leaves.  

Azaleas are one of the flowering shrubs in the genus name rhododendron. They bloom in the spring, and their flowers often last for several weeks. Because they are shade tolerant; they prefer living under or near trees. It is a member of a family, namely Ericaceae.  

Rhododendron is a large genus of approx. 1,024 species of woody plants in Ericaceae. They are majorly found in Asia and also widespread throughout montane and lowland forests in the northeastern United States and Pacific Northwest California. 

Comparison Table Between Azaleas and Rhododendrons 

Parameters of ComparisonAzaleasRhododendrons
Type of vegetationDeciduousEvergreen
Stamens5<10
FoliageLong, thick, and leatheryThinner, smaller, and more pliable
Flower shapeTube or funnel-shapedBell-shaped
Bloom timeBeginning in AprilLater in spring

What are Azaleas? 

Azaleas are certain species of rhododendron. Most of the varieties have been bred from native species of hilly regions of North America and Asia. Many azaleas are grown as a form of ornamentals for showy flowers. As a shrub, it produces several stems but only one flower blossoms on one stem. Still, this shrub looks covered in blossoms. 

Azaleas grow slowly and do their best in well-drained, acidic soil. The need for fertilizers is in low amounts. It is native to many continents like Europe, North America, and Asia. As an ornamental, they are abundantly planted in Southern Asia, Southwestern Europe, and the southeastern US. They are typically deciduous. The hairs are parallel to the leaf surface, which is generally packed.

When it comes to Chinese culture, it is known as sixiang shu or thinking of home bush. In the poetry of Do Fu, it is immortalized. In the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil it is also one of the symbols. Once, it is famous for its toxicity. The flower colors palette is in several shades such as pink, lavender, white, red, cream, orange, yellow and purple.  

During the early spring, Azalea leafy gall can be destructive to azalea leaves. The recommended method of control is handpicking infected leaves. In hot conditions, they can also expose to phytophthora root rot in moist. The azalea city is Valdosta, Georgia in which they grow in profusion. They are commonly found in the Southern and northern hemispheres

What are Rhododendrons? 

Rhododendron is a diverse genus of approx. 1,024 species of woody plants. It is notable for its handsome foliage and attractive flowers. Underneath the leaves, there are generally dots or scales. In the north temperate zone, they are chiefly native, especially in the Himalaya’s most acidic soil. Large rhododendrons in some areas can be pruned for the encouragement of a more tree-like form.

Rhododendron generally means red tree, which refers to the woody growth and red flowers of some species. They range from tall trees to low-growing ground covers and deciduous to Evergreen. A number of its species are cultivated as a form of ornamentals. Rhododendrons with large leaves lend themselves well to woodland gardens, informal plantings, and specimen plants.

In the United States, rhododendron is the state flower of West Virginia and Washington. In China, it is the provincial flower of Jiangxi. In Nepal, it is the national flower. Most of its species have flowers in bright colors which bloom from late winter to early summer.   

For a long time, rhododendron species have been used as traditional medicine. In vitro and animal studies have identified possible hepatoprotective and inflammatory activities. This is due to the antioxidant effects of phenolic compounds the plants contain. They are valued for their size, structure, and flowers.

Main Differences Between Azaleas and Rhododendrons 

  1. Azaleas are generally small to medium-sized shrubs with several smaller stems, while rhododendrons are larger plants with hardly any stout stems.  
  2. The hairs of azaleas are packed, which is parallel to the leaf surface. On the other hand, most rhododendrons do not have hairs but they often have dots or scales underneath the leaves.  
  3. Azaleas are commonly found in the Southern and northern hemispheres. On the flip side, rhododendrons are mostly found in Northern America and Asia.  
  4. Flower colors of azaleas are in several such as pink, lavender, white, red, cream, orange, yellow and purple. But the shades of rhododendrons are restricted to purple, white, red, orchid pink, and occasionally yellow.  
  5. Azaleas have only one flower per stem, but as a shrub, it produces so many stems. As a result, this shrub looks covered in blossoms. The growth of rhododendrons is in round clusters at the branch end. 

Conclusion 

It can be concluded that both azaleas and rhododendrons are flowering shrubs that keep a spectacular display. They both belong to the same genus, namely rhododendron. In the time of fall, most azaleas lose their leaves, while most rhododendrons keep their leaves in winter.  

Azalea’s flower is a tube or funnels shaped which blooms at the beginning of April. On the other hand, the rhododendron flower is bell-shaped, which blooms at the time of later spring. When it comes to foliage, azaleas have long, thick and leathery, whereas rhododendrons have thinner, smaller, and more pliable. Azaleas are generally small to medium-sized shrubs, while rhododendrons are larger plants. 

References 

  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2438339
  2. https://www.cabdirect.org/cabdirect/abstract/19620306927
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