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.
Outstanding bloomer displaying snow-white blooms with distinctive chartreuse blotch on throat from late winter to mid spring. Useful as low hedge or showy landscape accents. Nice in containers. Evergreen. Plant in slightly acid soil plant. Prefers semi-shade.
Colour: White Habit: Compact Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 80cm x 100cm
This lovely little Japanese Azalea is smothered with small bright purple-pink flowers from late winter until early summer. Well behaved and easy to grow it is ideal for mass planting in morning sun or semi-shade. Fresh green foliage that has bronze tones in winter. Evergreen.
Colour: Purple / Pink Habit: Compact Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.2m x 1.2m
This pretty little Kurume Azalea has small green leaves and soft mauve flowers that smother the bush from late winter onwards. Prefers morning sun or light shade. Requires acid soil so avoid lime. Evergreen.
Colour: Mauve / White Habit: Spreading Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 40 x 30cm
The hot salmon pink blooms of this Kurume Azalea simply smother the green foliage in late winter early spring. Will really light up a shady corner which is where it likes to grow. Happiest in well drained soil, avoid lime. Evergreen.
Beautiful frilled blooms in shades of orange and red will light up the garden in late spring. The blooms are delightfully fragrant and are followed by fresh green summer foliage. Plant in sun or semi-shade in acid soil for best results. Avoid Lime. Deciduous.
Colour: Orange / Red Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1.2m
Set the spring garden on fire with the glowing coppery red blooms of this showy deciduous Azalea. The blooms are large, rounded and frilled and carry a delicate scent. Plant in sun or part shade in well drained acid soil. Fresh green summer foliage with autumn tones prior to leaf fall. Deciduous.
Colour: Red Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1m
Very fragrant and very beautiful soft pink flowers flushed with a deeper pink tone and highlighted with an orange flare. Easily grown in sun to part shade and acid soil. Prune, if required, after flowering in spring. 'Delicatissima' means "most charming" and indeed it is. Deciduous.
Colour: Pink / Pink Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1.2m
A rewarding and easy to grow evergreen shrub that has neat and tidy dark green foliage that is set alight with fiery double red blooms from winter to spring. Prefers a semi-shaded spot, well drained soil that is on the acid size. Generally hardy.
Colour: Red Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 75cm x 50cm
Pretty blush pink blooms highlighted with a large golden flare have the added bonus of a sweet perfume. Simply beautiful in early spring. Quite hardy but prefers a sheltered spot in sun or part shade and will do best in deep acid soil. Deciduous.
Colour: Pink / Gold Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1.2m