As Rhododendrons and Azaleas come from the same family, often people are confused about the differences between each one. There's no ultimate way to distinguish azaleas from rhododendrons, but each has its own characteristics that help us all to tell them apart, in which then can help you decide on which one is for you...
Evergreen vs. Deciduous
Firstly, Rhododendrons are evergreen, and Azaleas are deciduous. This means Rhododendrons will cling onto their leaves throughout the whole year, whereas Azaleas will drop their foliage every autumn. There is only one evergreen Azalea to look out for, and this is known as the Japanese Azalea.
How Big They Grow
Rhododendrons tend to be quite large specimens with longer stems, and produce plenty of large flower clusters that fill out the plant. Azaleas, on the other hand, are a much smaller version of Rhododendrons- they're more like a shrub.
Azalea leaves are quite small and narrow with hairy undersides. Rhododendrons, on the other hand, product smooth, oval leaves that are much larger in size and have little dots on their undersides.
Rhododendron flowers are big and bell-shaped, in large clusters all over the bush. Azaleas are more tubular-shaped, and much smaller in size. One thing to note is that they both bloom in spring, so it's not possible to tell the difference this way.