Choosing azaleas for your landscape lets you explore 18th- and 19th-century links between America, Europe and Japan. The delicate foliage and abundant colorful flowers excited early plant hunters and naturalists and stimulated a broad range of experiments in hybridization. Results are evident in the still-growing variety of azaleas available to gardeners.
Choose native or hybrid azalea plants suited to your local climate. Originating in temperate-to-warm Mid-Atlantic and Southern mountain states, deciduous azaleas still display limits in heat and cold tolerance. Only one native azalea (Rhododendron occidentale) originated on the Pacific Coast. Evergreen azaleas originated in the moderate climate of Japan.
Determine the space requirements for the azaleas you choose. Varieties range from 1 foot to 6 feet tall when mature, usually with similar widths. While massed plantings can be visually impressive, start azaleas with adequate space for healthy maturation.
Plant azaleas in slightly acidic soil and mix in rotted leaf or other organic compost. Soil should be loamy, not hard-packed. Plant your shrubs in filtered shade and do not let them dry out; prolonged dry spells and intense heat damage azaleas of all varieties.