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Unbeknownst to many, the azalea are flowering shrubs in the genus Rhododendron and because of their popularity now have over 10 000 different varieties. Azaleas have been popular among plant and gardening enthusiast for hundreds of years and because they are relatively easily to cultivate continue to grow in popularity.

Red azalea

The differences between the azalea and the rhododendron are often difficult to distinguish, though the difference that generally defines the two is that rhododendron are evergreen plants and azalea are typically deciduous.

Blooming in early spring, the flowers will last many weeks and with the right care and attention will continue to bloom and provide beautiful flowers for many years to come. A good sign that you azalea is healthy is that shortly after the flowers drop for winter, the blooms will start to show quiet quickly.

To look after your azalea as best you can, they need about four hours of sunlight each day, but intermittent sunshine and shade, if possible, are best. Imagine the conditions they have in their natural habitats; woodland and forest floors in China and other parts of Asia. Water them frequently and once they have bloomed, aim to fertilize them at least once a fortnight.

Don’t be fooled by its beauty and popularity however, it is important to ensure your azalea is kept out of reach of animals and children as it is highly toxic, containing adromedotoxins in its leaves and its nectar. It is said that both the azalea and the rhododendron were so renowned for their toxicity that to receive a bouquet of their flowers was considered a death-threat.

Thankfully, that reputation has subsided and sending an azalea to someone today means loyalty and lasting friendship, gratitude for having them in your life and with azaleas lasting for many years, the belief that your friendship will continue for as long.

Particularly popular over Christmas likely due to the fact the azalea typically blossoms in spring, in recent years it has come a close second to the iconic poinsettia, finding its place in homes across the country and around the world.