Azaleas are one of the most popular flowering plants on earth. They come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. There is an azalea for every climate zone; they can be found all around the world from tropical to arctic regions.
There are over two-hundred species of azalea, depending on where you live. In North America we have about fifteen types that range from deep pinkish-reds to pure white flowers with yellow centers and even some that have red, orange or yellow leaves.
Characteristics of Azaleas
Some varieties produce lots of color while others just produce one color at a time. The ones with mixed colors usually change them throughout the season so it’s always worth a second look (and sniff).
Azaleas are a popular choice for home landscaping, mostly because of their long lasting flowers that come in so many different colors. They can be grown just about anywhere including the ground or in containers; some varieties do better than others depending on where you live and how much care they receive.
These plants are fairly easy to grow and can be in full bloom by late spring. Azaleas are a good choice for your shade gardens, wildlife and even to attract butterflies.
Beside the beautiful flowers and evergreen foliage, they also produce seeds that birds love to eat so it’s easy to see why they have become one of the most popular choices of home landscapers.
Types of Azaleas
The following are some types of azaleas you may find in your area.
• Large-flowered Mollis
The Large-flowered Mollises are especially popular in the eastern United States. These flowers usually grow not quite as big as those of other varieties but come in all kinds of colors. Some have even produced purple leaves and white or pinkish buds.
Also called the early flowering azaleas, they begin to flower right after Christmas and are some of the first to come into bloom in spring. Their flowers are a deep pink color that appear sporadically throughout the season.
Mollis azaleas are well suited for cooler weather (above 60° F) while other types do best during the warm and sunny days of summer.
Many gardeners swear by them because they are easy to care for and their blooming season can last for months on end.
This type is especially popular because it’s the easiest to grow in colder climates and even in sun exposed areas of the garden.
Plantaginea azaleas are popular in the southeastern part of the United States and go by many different common names like Caddis Azalea, East Coast Azalea, FootHills Rosebay and Plateau Azalea.
They are a cross between Mollis and other species of azaleas; they have the deep pinkish-red color of Mollis and the hardiness of other varieties.
Plantaginea have lovely foliage that is one of their strongest selling points. Their leaves are bright green in spring, turning a dark forest green in summer (especially if grown in full sun), then they fall into a brown or yellow color in the fall.
Their flowers can be found in many different colors, shapes and sizes. They may grow as tall as twelve inches or as short as six inches! A typical Mollis flower is about two to three inches wide but that can vary greatly from plant to plant.
A lot of Plantaginis have stems that are covered with white flowers. They start off as a bright pink in the spring, changing to white and sometimes yellow in summer.
• Flowering Rhododendron
The flowering rhododendrons are another popular choice due to their bright color and ease of care. They can usually be found in the southeastern states, especially around the Carolinas and Virginia, but have been known to thrive up north as well.
There is a very wide range of flower colors and plant sizes. The yellow flowered ones are sometimes called Golden Azaleas and the blooms can be found on plants that range from three or four feet to over fifteen.
You may find many different colored rhododendrons in bloom all at once, which is very beautiful but unfortunately not true of all varieties.
They have a wide range of soil and sunlight conditions that they can tolerate, so the Rhododendron is a very versatile plant. They need to be planted in rich organic soil with lots of compost or peat moss mixed in.
Their foliage can be anywhere from dark green to light orange-red and their flowers can bloom at almost any time of the year (but usually between April and October).
• Lowbush Azalea
The lowbush azaleas are the smallest variety of all the types. They grow on shrubs that are less than three feet tall with large flowers. These varieties have been known to be especially popular in southern regions.
The flowers can come in a wide variety of colors, and the petals are usually tightly wrapped around the center.
Lowbush azaleas have been known to be especially fragrant; they give off a sweet smell that is hard to describe but most people agree is “delicious.”
A great thing about this kind of azalea is that they are almost always in bloom throughout the spring and summer. Their blooming season lasts longer than other varieties, about three months or more.
Lowbush azaleas do not have any issues with sun exposure but their leaves may tend to get scorched if they don’t receive enough water. They also do not need much pruning but you may have to let them grow for a while before you can enjoy their full beauty.
• Korean Azalea
The Korean azalea is probably the most popular species of the rhododendron family. It has been known to grow in zoos, botanical gardens and even some famous people’s backyards.
The Korean azalea does not have many disease or insect problems, as it has built up a natural resistance to them over the years. The only real problem is that they are susceptible to cold weather and cannot handle being frozen. This can be a problem in northern states but if you live in Alaska or Canada then this type of azalea is probably not right for you.
These plants do best when they are planted in loose, well-draining clay soil with a pH level of about 6.5. They enjoy full sun and can become slightly drought tolerant if there is a long dry period. They also have lovely starry flowers that come in many different colors.
The flowers are round and flat which makes them very pretty, but this also makes the plant more prone to frost damage. They should not be planted too late in the fall or they may lose most of their leaves before they have a chance to grow back in spring. If you live in an area that gets below freezing then plant them on the south or east side of your house.
• Small-flowered Mollis
This azalea is smaller than the Large-flowered Mollis and usually grows to be around six feet tall. The flowers are a lot smaller, but still colorful with white, pink or red blossoms.
This type of azalea is a good choice for people who have small gardens or want to plant something that will grow in pots.
The flowers on the Small-flowered Mollis are more widely spaced apart, but they still make nice additions to flower beds and borders. They can also be pruned into topiaries, hedges and other interesting shapes.
They usually bloom in the spring and summer months, but can bloom sporadically throughout the fall too. Their flowers are very fragrant and they have a sweet, fruity scent to them. As with all azaleas, the flowers attract bees for cross-pollination which means that they'll produce more fruit.
• Southern Indica Azaleas
These azaleas are mostly grown in the southern areas of the United States and have large flowers that change colors throughout the season. Most are larger shrubs with colorful blooms, they come in shades of red, pink, purple and white. They bloom all year round.
Southern Indica azaleas are among the oldest of the cultivated. These varieties have heart-shaped leaves which is nice for people looking to plant a border or screen.
They grow best in acidic soil, so any additions of lime can improve their growth rate and increase the size of their flowers. They do best in full sun but can handle partial shade. If you live in a very hot area, they may suffer from solar scorch but other than that they are fairly disease and pest resistant.
They don’t really need much pruning but if you want to keep them tall and bushy then remove the older, weaker stems every spring after their leaves have fallen off. This will keep the plant young and healthy looking.
• Edging Azaleas
These are a type of deciduous azalea that do not produce many flowers, but they have brightly colored leaves in the spring that attract attention from passers by.
They take around three years to start flowering so you may not see much of them for the first few years you have them. After a few years they will start producing flowers that change color from white to dark pink.
This type of azalea likes acidic soil and should not be over-watered too often. If they get too dry then their leaves may curl and burn in the sunlight. Make sure that you don’t let them get too dry.
These plants are not very tall and they should be planted in front of taller flowers or shrubs to create a nice backdrop for the other plants around them. They also look great when you space them out along an edge of your garden bed and pair it with other flowering shrubs.
They thrive best when planted in a full sun, but they can handle partial shade and some pruning to keep them thick groves of leaves. If you don’t want any flowers on your plant then remove the blooms after they have bloomed so that it will put all its energy into creating lush green foliage.
• Coral Bells Azaleas
Coral bells azaleas are a very rare flower that only blooms for one to two weeks in early spring. They have flowers that range from white to pink and grow on small shrubs no higher than three feet tall.
This type of azalea is hard to find in the garden center or even local nurseries. You will most likely have to order them through mail-order companies that specialize in rare and hard-to-find plants. They are a unique type of flower and add a really interesting look to your garden or yard.
• Wild Azaleas
These flowers are a type of azalea that have adapted to grow in areas with lots of sunlight and few water sources. They are grown in the wild mostly along the Appalachian mountains and can handle long periods of drought. The flowers on these plants change from white to pink often, which is why they were named "wild."
Because they are adapted to dry conditions, they need little care to survive in your garden. They like acidic soil and can be planted along a shady border or as a shrub for understory trees.
When it comes time to prune these plants you should do very little work on them. After the blooms have bloomed in early spring you should trim them back a little to remove dead wood. If you want to get rid of any older stems, then wait until the following spring and cut down stems that are brown or thick with leaves.
- What time of year should I plant azaleas?
As long as you plant them during the right season, then you can have beautiful flowers blooming in your garden. If you live in an area that has very cold winters and hot summers, then wait until spring to plant it so that the flowers will bloom in summer.
- How much sunlight do they need?
Azaleas will grow in partial sunlight, but they need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. If the sun is shining directly on your plant then move them into shade or turn a spotlight on it to get more light.
- When should I prune my azalea plants to keep them healthy and bushy?
If you prune them in the spring then it will encourage new growth from the branches that bloomed last year. Come autumn you should also trim off dead wood so that sun and air can reach into the center of your plant.
- How do I know when to fertilize my azalea plants?
The best time to fertilize your azalea is in the early spring. Make sure to use fertilizer for acid loving plants so that it will get all the nutrients it needs to grow into a healthy shrub.
Azaleas are gorgeous flowering shrubs that add a touch of beauty to any garden or yard. There are many different types of azaleas and they can be grown in any climate as long as you keep them properly watered.
They make great hedges and borders along the edges of your garden beds. Some of them are really tall and thick while other types like to grow in clumps and spread out over large areas. You can also mix blue azalea plants with pink or purple ones for a nice contrast that will look beautiful when they start blooming.