If you are looking up Azaleas in your gardening books or perhaps on the internet you may not find any listed unless you look under Rhododendron as this group of plants actually belong to that particular plant genus. As the gardening public and horticulturists have known them as Azaleas for so long that tends to be what they are more commonly called and as we don't wish to add to the confusion we'll stick with Azalea as well.
Azaleas can be either deciduous or evergreen and the two are really very different.
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Evergreen Azaleas are really like very small compact Rhododendrons and enjoy similar growing conditions i.e. rich soil that has an acid ph and perhaps a nice leafy layer of mulch. Most prefer a little afternoon shade but this is not absolutely essential as long as the surface roots don't dry out. There are mainly 2 groups of evergreen Azaleas grown in New Zealand. Azalea indica which has large showy flowers in single or double forms and the brightest of shades. Azalea kurume is not quite as bold and brassy as A. indica and has small rounded leaves and dainty little single blooms. The size of the blooms is more than made up for in quantity. This Azalea is very long flowering and the blooms are produced in absolute profusion. A. Kurume is more cold tolerant as well. Both varieties are invaluable for winter display and mass planting.
If you want something a little more dramatic then it would be worth considering deciduous Azaleas. These come in very hot shades of orange, yellow and gold along with quieter pastels. Many are strongly perfumed. Extremely hardy to cold yet tolerant of quite a lot of sun. Grow them in the same soil conditions as other Rhododendron/Azalea forms, mulch regularly and they will be hapy. The large flowers apear in spring and are simply breath-taking. The new foliage often has an attractive bronze undertone but eventually turns green. In autumn the foliage changes again and provides an excellent colourful display.
So no matter if an Azalea is really a Rhododendron, when the debate about the name ends their beauty will still endure.
Masses of vivid, deep orange-red single blooms make a dazzling display from late winter until the end of spring. The bronze winter leaves change to a fresh green in spring-summer. This Azalea would look fabulous planted with Clivia under deciduous trees or combined with terracotta. Evergreen.
Colour: Orange / Red Habit: Compact Est. Hgt. 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1m
Outstanding bloomer displaying snow-white blooms with distinctive chartreuse blotch on throat from late winter to mid spring. Useful as low hedge or showy landscape accents. Nice in containers. Evergreen. Plant in slightly acid soil plant. Prefers semi-shade.
Colour: White Habit: Compact Est. Hgt. 7/10 yrs: 80cm x 100cm
Deliciously double crisp white blooms contrast nicely against the dark green foliage of this reliable little evergreen Azalea. Long flowering period that starts in autumn through to spring. Happiest in semi-shade and acid soil. Mulch roots regularly to keep cool.
Colour: White Habit: Compact Est. Hgt. 7/10 yrs: 70cm x 50cm
This lovely little Japanese Azalea is smothered with small bright purple-pink flowers from late winter until early summer. Well behaved and easy to grow it is ideal for mass planting in morning sun or semi-shade. Fresh green foliage that has bronze tones in winter. Evergreen.
Colour: Purple / Pink Habit: Compact Est. Hgt. 7/10 yrs: 1.2m x 1.2m
A compact evergreen Azalea that hails from Kurume in Japan. Fresh green spring-summer foliage and very pretty white blushed pink flowers in spring. The foliage shows bronze tones in winter. Puts on a beautiful display. Plant in morning sun or semi-shade and group plant to create real impact.
Colour: White / Pink Habit: Compact Est. Hgt. 7/10 yrs: 1m x 1m
This pretty little Kurume Azalea has small green leaves and soft mauve flowers that smother the bush from late winter onwards. Prefers morning sun or light shade. Requires acid soil so avoid lime. Evergreen.
Colour: Mauve / White Habit: Spreading Est. Hgt. 7/10 yrs: 40 x 30cm
Autumn Carnival is a repeat flowering Encore Azalea that amazingly has blooms in spring, summer and autumn. It boasts bright pink flowers. An ideal shrub for specimen and mass plantings in gardens and borders. Fluorescent blooms create a stunning contrast with the deep green foliage of this compact variety.
Colour: Pink Habit: Rounded Est. Hgt. 7/10 yrs: 90cm x 100cm
The hot salmon pink blooms of this Kurume Azalea simply smother the green foliage in late winter early spring. Will really light up a shady corner which is where it likes to grow. Happiest in well drained soil, avoid lime. Evergreen.
Kerrigan Indica. . This lovely evergreen azalea has clear white double flowers with masses of petals that make a splendid show in spring. This compact grower is happiest is a slightly acid soil in filtered sunlight where soil doesn't dry out. Great in woodland, borders and containers. Evergreen
Colour: White Habit: Compact Est. Hgt. 7/10 yrs: 80cm x 80cm
Beautiful frilled blooms in shades of orange and red will light up the garden in late spring. The blooms are delightfully fragrant and are followed by fresh green summer foliage. Plant in sun or semi-shade in acid soil for best results. Avoid Lime. Deciduous.
Colour: Orange / Red Habit: Upright Est. Hgt. 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1.2m