azalea [Gr.,=dry], any species of the genus Rhododendron, North American and Asian shrubs of the family Ericaceae (heath family) that are distinguished by the usually deciduous leaves. Azaleas are handsome shrubs with large clusters of pink, red, orange, yellow, purple, or white flowers. The better-known native American azaleas, often cultivated, include the flame azalea (R. calendulacea) of the Appalachians; the pinxter flower (R. nudiflora) and the fragrant white azalea, or swamp honeysuckle (R. viscosa), of the E United States; and the Western azalea (R. occidentalis) of California and Oregon. Most azaleas grow in damp, acid soils of hills or mountains. The rose-purple R. canadense, a rare species with an unusually northerly range (from Pennsylvania to Newfoundland) is the rhodora immortalized by Emerson. Many of the brilliantly flowered garden varieties are native to China and Japan, where the genus is most abundantly represented. The popular Ghent azaleas are hybrids. Dwarf azaleas are grown by florists as pot plants. Azaleas are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Ericales, family Ericaceae.

Azaleas are flowering shrubs making up part of the genus Rhododendron. Originally azaleas were classed as a different genus of plant, but now they are recognised as two of the eight sub-genera of rhododendrons - subgenus Pentanthera (deciduous), and subgenus Titsuji (evergreen).


One major difference between azaleas and the rest of the rhododendron genus is their size. Another is their flower growth; rhododendrons grow their flowers in stripers, while most azaleas have terminal blooms (one flower per flower stem). However, they have so many stems that during the flowering season they are a solid mass of colour. Azaleas are recognised by these flowers blooming all at once, in a showy display for a month or two in spring. The exception to this rule is a small group of azaleas which grow their flowers in tight terminal clusters.

The Satsuki azalea group, derived from Rhododendron indicum and related species, are very popular.

A traditional alcoholic beverage made from azalea blossoms, called Tugyonju (literally "azalea wine"), is produced in Korea.

Also, azaleas are the most common toxic plant that dogs ingest.


Plant enthusiasts have created azaleas for hundreds of years. This human genetic modification has produced over 10,000 different cultivars which are propagated by cuttings. Azalea seeds can also be collected and germinated.

Azaleas grow best in well-drained soil or in plant pots in a cool, shady position. They are easily damaged by excessive soil moisture and grow best in acidic soil (4.5 - 6.0 pH). Fertilizer is optional, although some species do need regular pruning.

Several commercial nurseries in Semmes, Alabama, a suburb of Mobile, are major national suppliers of azaleas in the U.S.

Azalea festivals

Many cities in the United States have festivals in the spring celebrating the blooms of the azalea, including Wilmington, North Carolina; Norfolk, Virginia; Valdosta, Georgia; Palatka, Florida; Pickens, South Carolina; Muskogee, Oklahoma; South Gate, California; Mobile, Alabama; and Dothan, Alabama. Tyler, Texas features an eight mile azalea trail in the spring that has been featured in several magazines.


Azalea leaf gall can be particularly destructive to azalea leaves during the early spring. Hand picking infected leaves is the recommended method of control. Information on azalea leaf gall can be found on Cornell University's Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic web site. Azalea Leaf Gall Fact Sheet


Motoyama, Kochi also has a flower festival in which the blooming of Tsutsuji is celebrated and Tatebayashi, Gunma is famous for its Azalea Hill Park, Tsutsuji-ga-oka.

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