If you are looking up Azaleas in your gardening books or perhaps on the internet you may not find any listed unless you look under Rhododendron as this group of plants actually belong to that particular plant genus. As the gardening public and horticulturists have known them as Azaleas for so long that tends to be what they are more commonly called and as we don't wish to add to the confusion we'll stick with Azalea as well.
Azaleas can be either deciduous or evergreen and the two are really very different.
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Evergreen Azaleas are really like very small compact Rhododendrons and enjoy similar growing conditions i.e. rich soil that has an acid ph and perhaps a nice leafy layer of mulch. Most prefer a little afternoon shade but this is not absolutely essential as long as the surface roots don't dry out. There are mainly 2 groups of evergreen Azaleas grown in New Zealand. Azalea indica which has large showy flowers in single or double forms and the brightest of shades. Azalea kurume is not quite as bold and brassy as A. indica and has small rounded leaves and dainty little single blooms. The size of the blooms is more than made up for in quantity. This Azalea is very long flowering and the blooms are produced in absolute profusion. A. Kurume is more cold tolerant as well. Both varieties are invaluable for winter display and mass planting.
If you want something a little more dramatic then it would be worth considering deciduous Azaleas. These come in very hot shades of orange, yellow and gold along with quieter pastels. Many are strongly perfumed. Extremely hardy to cold yet tolerant of quite a lot of sun. Grow them in the same soil conditions as other Rhododendron/Azalea forms, mulch regularly and they will be hapy. The large flowers apear in spring and are simply breath-taking. The new foliage often has an attractive bronze undertone but eventually turns green. In autumn the foliage changes again and provides an excellent colourful display.
So no matter if an Azalea is really a Rhododendron, when the debate about the name ends their beauty will still endure.
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Wairere Nursery 826 Gordonton Road, R D 1, Hamilton 3281 Ph: (07) 824 3430 Email: Open 7 days 8:30am-5pm