Azaleas: Wealth, Elegance

Azaleas: Wealth, Elegance

Azaleas (Rhododendron spp.) are perennial shrubs, with both evergreen and deciduous varieties, whose flower season lasts from early spring to early summer. The flowers grow at the tips of the branches, singularly or in a bundle, with five petals in each flower and a thin, long stamen slightly rolling upwards. Azaleas bloom in luxuriant, flourishing clusters.

Azaleas: Wealth, Elegance

With many fragrant sub-species, azaleas are eye-catching bloomers crowned with the title “King of shrubs”. Loved by people around the world, azaleas have over ten thousand hybrid varieties to choose from after decades of hybridization selection.

The common commercial varieties of azaleas are in colors like white, magenta, pink, salmon, crimson, and orange. There are also two-toned and remontant varieties. Blossoming azaleas attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and other types of birds, and are tolerant of hare disturbance. Fully bloomed azaleas are popular gifts for Valentine’s Day.

Azaleas: Wealth, Elegance
Azalea? Rhododendron?

Rhododendrons (or “Rhodies”) are usually larger plants in the genus Rhododendron with big blooming clusters, while azaleas are associated with smaller members in the genus.

Azaleas: Wealth, Elegance

There are some hybrid dwarf Rhodies that highly resemble azaleas in plant size and shape, such as Rhododendrons ‘Blue Diamond’ and Rhododendrons ‘Nova Zembla’.

Azaleas: Wealth, Elegance
The Rich and Colorful "Rhododendron Festival"

At the famous Rhododendron Festival in North Carolina, people tend to spend more time talking about the beauty contest held there, forgetting about the flowers. However, the endless fun activities taking place during the festival lure thousands of visitors to the region each year to witness a special moment for the plant.

The Rhododendron Festival takes place at both Bakersville, North Carolina, and Roan Mountain, Tennessee, simultaneously in the last two weeks of June each year. The highlight of the Festival is viewing the blossoming of famed Catawba rhododendron (Rhododendron catawbiense) native to Roan Mountain.

Azaleas: Wealth, Elegance

Besides relishing rhododendrons and watching the famous beauty contest, you can also take a stroll in the local handicrafts market, listen to live bands at the music festival, or take a look at the Classic Car Show for only 2 dollars. You can even sign up to join a USA T&F certified 10 km race.

Can I grow decent azaleas?

It’s no easy task to grow azaleas well. Azaleas like scattered light and mild temperature. They require some shading when planted in gardens to keep direct sunlight away. They also require humus-rich, acidic soil with good drainage. After planting in early spring, remember to add a few shovels of manure compost to the soil. Keep the plants safe from frost in early spring and from the freeze in winter. One bit of good news is that azaleas don’t need much pruning. Deadheading after the flowers fade is pretty much all that you need to do.

Azaleas: Wealth, Elegance

The challenge of growing azaleas lies in their delicate, shallow root system, which makes the plant intolerant to waterlogging, drought, and high-concentration fertilizers. One of the solutions for garden cultivation is to build flower beds and cover them with organic mulch, while another option is to use pot cultivation and water thoroughly once the surface soil turns dry. It’s advised to fertilize the plants frequently in small, diluted dosages.

Another challenge has to do with the chlorosis of the plant’s leaves. Gardening beginners can purchase soil and fertilizers specially tailored for azaleas to reduce the chance of chlorosis.

Azaleas: Wealth, Elegance

Please be aware that the entire azalea plant is poisonous. Keep your children and pets away from eating any of its parts by mistake.

Size: 1-8 feet tall; 2-10 feet wide

Hardiness: USDA Zones 3-11. Different azalea varieties vary dramatically in the cold-resistant capability. Please consult your local supplier for details.

Sunlight: Full sun, Partial sun

Soil: acidic (pH 5.0-6.0), moist and well-drained, rich in organic matter

Bloom time: early spring to early summer; mid-summer to early fall