Azaleas are flowering shrubs making up part of the genus Rhododendron. Originally azaleas were classed as a different genus of plant, but now they are recognized as two of the eight subgenera of rhododendrons - Pentanthera (deciduous) and Tsutsuji (evergreen). Azaleas bloom in spring, in damp mountainous places, their flowers dying only a few weeks later. They do not need as much sun as other plants; they live near trees and sometimes under them. Azalea is also the flower of the astrology symbol Sagittarius.
Plant enthusiasts have created azaleas for hundreds of years. This human genetic modification has produced over 10,000 different cultivars which are propagated by cuttings. Azalea seeds can also be collected and germinated.
Azaleas grow best in well-drained soil or in plant pots in a cool, shady position. They are easily damaged by excessive soil moisture and grow best in acidic soil (4.5 - 6.0 pH). Fertilizer is optional, although some species do need regular pruning.
Several commercial nurseries in Semmes, Alabama, a suburb of Mobile, are major national suppliers of azaleas in the U.S.