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Garden Guide: Follow these tips for perfect azaleas!

They're a popular and beautiful landscape shrub, but there are a few things you may not have known about azaleas!

Alex Calamia

May 15, 2024, 10:06 AM

Updated 37 days ago


Azaleas are one of the most popular choices for spring blooms in shady garden spots - and for a good reason. They stay green, have a long lifespan, and are usually pretty affordable too. There are more than a 1,000 species of rhododendron and more than 10,000 different varieties. Each offers a variation of different growth habits, bloom times, and colors. There's an azalea or rhododendron that will fit in your garden, and that's what makes them so beloved.

Did you know: Azaleas are actually Rhododendrons?

Gardeners usually consider azaleas and rhododendrons to be distinct plants, but azaleas are actually just a classification of rhododendron. Azaleas are classified as a type of rhododendron, but with small and fuzzy leaves. Azaleas and Rhododendrons are in the same genus and have the same growing requirements: part sun and acidic soil.

A common problem

Azaleas are generally low maintenance, but they do encounter problems with their foliage.
If you have an issue with spotty white leaves developing in mid-summer, it could be too much heat, or it could be a pest called lace bugs. These dig into the leaves and can cause leaf drop. A systemic insecticide should help with this and with sap sucking insects that create brown, sticky foliage.
Azaleas are also prone to fungal issues. Place in an area with good airflow, or apply a fungicide to prevent the spread of the damage. Fungal issues can turn the leaves black on azaleas.

Some azaleas are fragrant!

It’s hard not to pass by a neighborhood that has at least a few Azalea, but most of those azaleas that look kind of similar are actually native to Asia not to a United States. They come in shades of pink, red, and white and are usually evergreen.
However, our native azaleas are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves in the wintertime. They have the same flower power as Asian azaleas - with a few bonuses. Many native azaleas have fragrant flowers and the blooms have a warmer color pallet like orange, pink, and yellow (and sometimes a kaleidoscope of all three colors on the same plant!). These plants are also helping our native pollinators.
Evergreen azaleas occasionally suffer from leaf fungal issues during humid or rainy weather, native azaleas are found in the wild in the southeast United States so they are very tolerant of humid weather.

Not all azaleas bloom in spring!

Azaleas are famous for their spring blooms, but some azalea and rhododendron bloom in the autumn and during the summertime.
Korean Rhododendrons lose their leaves during the winter, but are usually the first to bloom in spring. In some years, they will bloom in February! The buds burst around the same time as crocus.
There are several native azaleas that bloom when they first leaf out, but some species bloom exclusively in the summertime. The azalea pictured here “Garden Rainbow" blooms in June after the leaves sprout for the summer.
There are also several newer varieties of landscape azaleas that are capable of reblooming in the autumn. Reblooming azaleas usually produce their biggest flush of flowers in mid-late spring, and then sporadically bloom from September through October.

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