Auburn, Alabama—When looking to add color and variety to your spring garden, planning ahead during the fall months is the best way to go. Azaleas and rhododendrons are perfect flowers to harvest and plant during the fall months that provide you with beautiful blooms when springtime comes.
You might be wondering, “What is the difference between azaleas and rhododendrons?” If you read the scientific name of azalea, you’ll see the genus is, Rhododendron. That’s because an azalea is a common name for plants in the Rhododendron genus. Under the plants commonly called azalea, there are some deciduous and evergreen azaleas, but there are some plants in the rhododendron genus that are referred to by the common name, rhododendron.
Mallory Kelley, a regional agent in Home Grounds, Garden and Home Pests with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, described the difference between the two plants. “When in doubt you should call all them different types rhododendrons,” Kelley said. “In recent years ‘rhododendron’ has become a common name for those plants in the genus, Rhododendron that have large, leathery, evergreen leaves. The leaves on azalea plants tend to be smaller and as stated previously, can be evergreen or deciduous. Also, in general, azalea flowers have five stamens, while the rhododendron flowers have 10 stamens.”
Kelley suggested that fall is the best time of year to plant azaleas and rhododendrons so the root system can develop while the temperatures are cooler and there is plenty of rain. “October through December is best!” Kelley said.
In Alabama, we have Native Azaleas that are native to our area of the United States. “Most all azaleas like a humid and mild climate,” Kelley explained. “The plants best perform in an ideal acid soil pH of 5-6.”
When looking for a variety of azaleas and rhododendrons, it is best to choose the more popular selections that are grown in your state. It is important to research the cold hardiness in your area when selecting azaleas to plant. Cold hardiness zones are based on the average winter temperature of a region of the United States. For example, the Alabama Azalea is one that is grown and prosperous all over the state. It has a lemony-spice fragrance.
To keep your azaleas and rhododendrons coming back each spring, Kelley said, “It is best to always prune right after they bloom so you do not risk cutting off the buds that are set for flowers.”
Follow these few suggestions in preparing your spring garden, and you will have a beautiful bloom of azaleas and rhododendrons.