Wild or native azaleas (Rhododendron spp.) grow in moist woodlands in North America, Europe and eastern Asia and are easiest to find when in flower in spring. Acquire wild or "species" azaleas for the garden from a reputable plant nursery or more specifically a native plant nursery. Native plant nurseries ethically grow plants without harming natural habitats.
In their Native Habitat
Walk into deciduous woodland habitats in mid- to late spring in regions where azaleas are native, including the southeastern United States, Pacific Northwest, eastern Asia or eastern Europe.
Look for azaleas in bloom, the fastest, easiest way to spot them in spring in the woodland environment.
Examine flower-less plants, looking at their foliage. Leaves are small ovals, sometimes lightly fuzzy or tinted with pale purple tones in sunlight exposures or in winter cold. Some azaleas are deciduous and will be bare-branched in winter. Plants may be knee-high to well over head-high in size.
Contact or visit local plant nurseries and ask sales staff if they carry any native, non-hybrid, azaleas in their inventories. Inquire who supplies the native azalea plants to them, trying to learn if you can also purchase native azalea plants from them, perhaps with a broader selection.
Become a member of the local native plant society or rhododendron or azalea club. You will meet plant enthusiasts with sound knowledge of wild azalea species, their identification and where to obtain plants to add to the garden.
Join a tour group scheduled to visit stands of wild azaleas in bloom in the springtime. Although unethical to remove wild azaleas from their natural habitat, you will learn more of their growing conditions and likely meet other people interested in gardening as well as learning of resources concerning rhododendrons and azaleas.
About this Author
James Burghardt has written for The Public Garden, Docent Educator, numerous non-profit newsletters and for Learn2Grow.com's comprehensive plant database. He holds a Master's degree in Public Horticulture from the University of Delaware and studied horticulture and biology in Australia at Murdoch University and the University of Melbourne's Burnley College.