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Apologies, I'm sure there is an easy answer to this, but what is the difference between a rhododendron and an azalea ?  I thought it was if they had small leaves - azalea big leaves then a rhodo, but now completely confused.  Any answers ? 


Hi peanuts3.

Hope this helps to explain.

All azaleas are rhododendrons but not all rhododendrons are azaleas. Azaleas have been reclassified and are now in the genus Rhododendron. There are no clear cut lines for distinguishing all azaleas from all rhododendrons but here are a few characteristics to look for.

True rhododendrons have 10 or more stamens which is 2 per lobe. Azaleas usually have 5 stamens or 1 per lobe. Azaleas have 5 lobes in a flower.

Azaleas tend to have appressed hairs which is hair parallel to the surface of the leaf. This is particularly true along the midrib on the underside of the leaf. It is easily seen in "evergreen" azaleas. True rhododendrons instead of hair are often scaly or have small dots on the under side of the leaf. Azalea leaves are never dotted with scales and are frequently pubescent.

Many azaleas are deciduous. True rhodi's are usually evergreen with the exceptions of R. mucronulatum and R. dauricum.

Azaleas have tubular funnel or funnel shaped flowers. Rhodi flowers tend to be bell-shaped.

Note: This information was obtained from:

Dirr, Michael A. 1998. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. 5th edition. Champaigh, Ilinois: Stipes Publishing.

Greer, Harold. 1996. Greer's Guidebook To Available Rhododendrons. 3rd. edition. Eugene, Oregon: Offshoot Publications.


...very interesting Edd and thank you for that.... what I find is that people are still using the old nomenclature, including Garden Centre's... I don't often see the Azalea referred to as Rhododendron.... I grow several of both and there's no way I'm going to call my Azalea 'Mother's Day'... Rhododendron 'Muder Dag'... either... me, Azalea's have a distinct enough shape and growth habit, for me to continue to separate them out... we don't always have to go by what officialdom would like us to....


I never knew that either but often wondered!


Thanks Edd - that is really helpful 



To be honest a azaleas is a azaleas just like Salino Says. Its a visual thing and you get to know what it looks like, there is no need to have to understand the botany stuff like i do, but it is nice to know, for future reference. 

I bet you will forget it in the morning, just like me, that is why i keep notes. My memory is vast for stupid info like quiz questions but lacks the indexing for the important stuff, unfortunately. That is why i write it down. ( only use a computer for quick ref (when it is working) as they tend to brake down and the electric goes off, now and again. Then where would you be?


I have to agree Mike but i still like them in their natural habitat rather than my garden. I do have azalea in pots but they never last more than two years with me. 

When i say natural habitat, I meen the lake district and that is personal to me. Its the first place that springs to mind when the words are mentioned. Please do not judge me on that one image as it is a beautiful picture in my head and one i will always come back to.


Mike, do you remember the tv programme Geoffrey Smith's World of Flowers where he took us all over the world to find the origins of our garden plants - he was such an interesting man. 


Mmm could be entirely wrong - but thought Rhododendrons and Azaleas had been reclassified by the powers-that-be in the world of horticulture and now appear under the Rhododendron umbrella.  Hope I am not talking complete nonsense here, all clarifications welcomed

By the way, talking of such things, I wonder if anyone has been to the Himalayan Garden, Grewelthorpe, Masham, N. Yorks.  A small garden in progress with lakes only open to the public for about 6 weeks in spring, difficult to get the timing for blooms right but well worth a visit if in the area. 



Hi Mike, your clarification on Rhododendrons/Azales was most useful, thanks

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