En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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 Shrubs Questions

Survival of native yaupon in The Woodlands, TX after hurricane
September 25, 2008 - One of my large native yaupons trees (8ft) fell away from a group during the hurricane. I have uprighted and tied it off for stability. Now the leaves are all brown and falling. Is the tree dead or...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification of shrub with thorns and purple flowers
July 05, 2011 - I have a small tree or shrub, it has very small or thin thorns on the branches. It blooms in April / May. The flowers are purple. My mother-in-law said that it has been around for over 100 years, b...
view the full question and answer

Philadelphus ernestii under live oak in Pflugerville TX
April 05, 2010 - Will Philadelphus ernestii thrive in the root zone of live oak, or would the oak inhibit its growth? I'd like to plant it just at the edge of the canopy.
view the full question and answer

Native shrubs for privacy hedge in Lockhart, TX
December 21, 2008 - I will be retiring from the US Army to Lockhart, Texas in March. We have a small house with a 6' security fence. I have always been an advocate of Hedges for security, sound dampening and wildlife ...
view the full question and answer

Privacy screen from Simpsonville SC
May 04, 2013 - My neighbor cut down his part of our shared woods so now we see his whole "outside patio area". What kinds of fast growing shade loving trees and shrubs can we plant on our property line that will c...
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