(Species: Rhododendron - Family: Ericaceae)
Azalea and its origins
Azaleas are flowering shrubs that are part of the Rhododendron family, and are native to hilly areas in Asia, Europe and North America. The garden Azaleas today are descended from Asian plants and were originally cultivated by Buddhist monks.
Seasonality: Azalea in flower
Azaleas flower profusely over a long period in spring, in shades from white and yellows to pinks and purples, making them desirable and hardy garden plants.
Most are daintier and more compact than rhododendrons and have smaller, thinner leaves which take on autumnal tints before falling in winter. There is also a group of dwarf evergreen Azaleas bred mainly from Japanese species, such as deep pink Azuma-kagami and deep crimson Hatsugiri.
How to plant: Azalea
Like their close relatives the Rhododendrons, Azaleas thrive in acidic soil, so if your soil is neutral, add plenty of humus or leafmould to the planting hole and mulch with organic matter regularly.
Azaleas will flower best in part shade, in a sheltered site. Be prepared to water freely through dry periods.
Cut out damaged branches after flowering, reshaping if necessary.
Propagation of Azalea
Either take semi-ripe Azalea cuttings in late summer, or layer plants between mid-spring and late summer (which may mean it takes up to two years for plants to form a substantial root system).
Did you know?
The Azalea is the national flower of Nepal.
The world's largest Azalea garden was founded in 1930 at Pine Mountain, Georgia, US. Callaway Gardens is now a 13,000 acre tourist centre and garden with an Azalea Bowl that holds over 3,400 hybrid Azaleas.