En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - What is difference between Rhododendrons and Azaleas

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
1 rating

Wednesday - April 23, 2008

From: Smithtown, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Plant Identification, Shrubs
Title: What is difference between Rhododendrons and Azaleas
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I am replanting my entire front yard as a native woodland garden (I am on Long Island, NY). I am having a hard time finding native rhododendrons and/or azaleas. I would prefer to remain true to the regions natives, but will any cultivar that I can find locally suffice? Also, I am a bit confused on the issue of rhododendrons and azaleas, They look very different, but have similar Latin names. Can you clarify?

ANSWER:

First, let's clarify the difference between rhododendrons and azaleas. An article from Virginia Cooperative Extension, "Azaleas and/or Rhododendrons", tells us that the main difference is that an azalea has five stamens while a rhododendron has ten. Other differences are: rhododendrons all are evergreen, while azaleas are either deciduous or evergreen; rhododendrons grow larger than azaleas and their blossoms and foliage also tend to be larger. Nevertheless, the botanical taxonomists have put both rhododendrons and azaleas in the same genus, Rhododendron.

The following are the Rhododendron species native to New York:

Rhododendron arborescens (smooth azalea)

Rhododendron calendulaceum (flame azalea)

Rhododendron canadense (rhodora)

Rhododendron lapponicum (Lapland rosebay)

Rhododendron maximum (great laurel)

Rhododendron periclymenoides (pink azalea)

Rhododendron prinophyllum (early azalea)

Rhododendron viscosum (swamp azalea)

You can search in our National Suppliers Directory to find nurseries in your area that specialize in native plants. In a quick preliminary search on nurseries in your area I found Fairweather Gardens in Greenwich NJ that advertised a large inventory of Rhododendron spp. Most nurseries list their plants with the botanical names. If you find any of the species listed above, even though they are a cultivated variety of that species, they should be fine for your area. You would want to avoid using any introduced species (e.g., R. japonicum (Japanese azalea)) or any of the species not native to New York or adjacent states (e.g., Rhododendron austrinum (orange azalea)). You can find a list with maps showing the location of Rhododendron species growing in North America in the USDA Plants Database.


Rhododendron arborescens

Rhododendron calendulaceum

Rhododendron canadense

Rhododendron lapponicum

Rhododendron maximum

Rhododendron periclymenoides

Rhododendron prinophyllum

Rhododendron viscosum
 

More Plant Identification Questions

Plant identification
May 06, 2010 - My neighbor has a few trees in his pasture that his horses love to eat the fruit off of. The fruit looks like a lemon but smaller and has lots of seeds inside of it. The trees have very long thorns on...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
October 01, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Ever since we received this (much needed and wonderful) rain in Austin, my gardens and yard are being swamped with these tiny, green clover-like plants. I've never seen it ...
view the full question and answer

Looking for name of fragrant, night-blooming plant with flower resembling gardenia
January 05, 2008 - The plant that I am looking for is a night bloomer, strong scented and has leaves and flowers similar to gardenia. I have seen a picture of the plant but not the actually plant. Can you give me an id...
view the full question and answer

Correct photos of Cynoglossum virginianum
April 30, 2008 - I recently found some "wild comfrey" (Cynoglossum virginianum) growing in woodlands in Atlanta,GA. When I used the photos on Wildflower Center website to ID this plant, I found what appears to be t...
view the full question and answer

Identity of bulbs from digging in an anthole
June 13, 2012 - I was digging in an ant hole and it collapsed and as I dug it out, I found around 50 white bulbs that did not have a smell or roots. They resembled onion bulbs. I have a picture of these and they are...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center