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
2 ratings

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

Cutting back a Rhododendron in Maryland
June 17, 2015 - I have a planting of six shrubs across the front of my house (alternating azalea & rhododendron). All have died except for one huge rhody & a small azalea next to it. Can I cut the huge rhody back to ...
view the full question and answer

Landscaping a Fence with Native Plants for Central Texas
March 08, 2013 - I'm looking to landscape my fence that I've lined with woven bamboo. The area gets the hot afternoon sun in summer and is pretty shady in winter. The plants need to be drought and heat tolerant. I'...
view the full question and answer

Native shrubs for wildlife santuary in Georgia
March 27, 2009 - We live south of Atlanta, GA and are trying to have our backyard certified as a Wildlife Sanctuary. Can you suggest native shrubs that thrive in partial sun, are habitats for bird and are deer resist...
view the full question and answer

Eight Foot Screen for Austin, TX
September 01, 2011 - I'm looking for a fast-growing shrub to "extend" the height of my fence and provide privacy in my yard in Austin. My lot is pretty much full sun and very dry, mostly clay soil. 8' is my goal. Than...
view the full question and answer

Low water hedge for Sedona, AZ
August 19, 2009 - I'm looking for a shrub to plant along a 90' property line with my neighbor in Sedona, Arizona (high desert). Ideally, the shrub would grow to about 8' and would not require too much water. What wo...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center