SIMILAR IN APPEARANCE
Once classified in separate plant groups, azaleas and rhododendrons are now placed together in the same genus due to their similarities. Both gardeners and nurseries, however, still refer to them by their common names to distinguish between them. Although they have many characteristics in common, there are differences between the two shrubs. Whereas azaleas may be deciduous or evergreen, rhododendrons are usually evergreen and only sometimes deciduous. Azalea leaves tend to be thin and soft, whereas evergreen species of rhododendron have large, thick leathery leaves. The number of stamen also varies, with azaleas typically having five or six compared to 10 or more in rhododendrons. Evergreen azaleas generally produce one to three flowers at the end of their many small stems, and rhododendron flowers are often grouped in large clusters, or trusses, with fewer, stouter stems. Some rhododendrons have small dots, or scales, on the underside of their leaves, which are absent on azalea leaves.