Do Azalea Stay Green In Winter?

Winter is usually denoted by a dull appearance of bare branches and trees in the garden. But, if your garden is adorned by several azalea bushes, you could have color even during winter.

The leaves of Evergreen azalea bushes stay green during winter. But, the leaves of deciduous azalea bushes won’t stay green. They are likely to change color (yellow, purple, or red) before falling off completely!

Also, evergreen azaleas never lose all of their leaves. While deciduous azaleas lose all of their leaves in the winter season. This comes with a change of leaf color as the seasons pass by. 

There are some more features that separate these two azalea types. 

Not All Azaleas Stay Green During Winter!

Winter is a dreaded season, especially for garden enthusiasts. It causes plants to become dormant or even die!

First-time azalea growers will be eager to find out how azaleas handle winter. Particularly their first winter. 

When winter arrives, some of your azaleas will stay green while some will lose their leaves. How is this possible? Why don’t all azaleas stay green? The real reason is that there are two varieties of azaleas. 

Azaleas exist as either deciduous or evergreen types. Both are quite different, especially when it comes to winter. 

Worried about your azaleas as the winter season approaches? Want to know what this season has in store for your azaleas? Read, Can Azaleas survive winter? 

Deciduous Azaleas vs Evergreen Azaleas in Winter 

The most remarkable difference between these two types of azaleas is their behavior during winter. One does better than the other. But that’s no reason to not buy the other type.

  • Evergreen azaleas keep their green leaves throughout the year. Although in winter there is a reduction in the volume of leaves. No color change occurs in the leaves. Leaves are gradually replaced over several seasons.  
  • Deciduous azaleas lose their leaves in winter. It starts with discoloration and then death! After this the leaves will completely fall off. Leaves are completely regrown in the spring season. 
  • In addition to deciduous and evergreen azaleas. Some azaleas may exhibit a few characteristics from both. These are called semi-deciduous and semi-evergreen azaleas. These azaleas lose only a few of their leaves but not all. 

Different climates or severe out-of-season weather has the ability to do this to an azalea. Is this happening to your azaleas? Perhaps you are growing an exotic azalea. This basically means that it is not acclimatized to the weather in your country or zone. 

There isn’t a way to correct this unless weather conditions suddenly change to suit the azaleas. This is unlikely to happen! You are better off buying azaleas that are more tolerant towards your climate. 

Identifying Deciduous and Evergreen Azaleas

Upon hearing about these two types of azaleas and their differing ability to survive winter, many gardeners ask a common question.

Which azalea do I have? This is a good query actually. How can you distinguish between deciduous and evergreen azaleas? 

You could wait till the cold season approaches. Then see if your azaleas stay green in winter. But if you care about your plants enough you’ll want to identify them before winter! So, the other way to identify them is by looking at their appearance. 

Leaf Size

A greater indicator of what type of azalea you have is leaf size. Deciduous azaleas have considerably larger leaves than the evergreen variants.

Leaves of deciduous azaleas do not exceed 2 inches in length. But, leaves of evergreen azaleas can even reach a length of 6 inches. 

Leaf Types

On observing an evergreen azalea’s leaves carefully, you will notice two types of leaves!

  1. Their spring leaves are thinner, larger, and evenly dispersed on the stems. 
  2. The summer leaves are thicker, smaller, and highly concentrated on the ends of the stems. 

During the fall season, spring leaves fall off. Leaving behind the summer leaves remaining intact throughout the cold winter season. This leaf characteristic does not make an appearance in deciduous azaleas. 

Another interesting fact is that deciduous and evergreen azaleas may show a change in color in the fall. The leaves may turn yellow, brown, purple, or even red!

Have your azaleas taken a shocking turn, in terms of leaf color? Why is my Azalea turning red [Causes and Solutions]?

But, leaf color change is not a reliable way to identify between the two azalea types. It is just a fact that should be noted as occurring in both variants of this plant.

Otherwise, if you really want to find out which one you have use the other points above. Or else, you can wait till winter to confirm your suspicion! 

Flower Color

Did you know flower color could also be used as a gauge of telling which azalea type you have? I bet you didn’t. Well, it is possible! 

A yellow azalea is a sure sign of a deciduous azalea!

Azaleas as you already know come in a wide array of colors. Whites, pinks, reds, even corals. But, yellow is a special color that only one of the two azalea types can produce. That is the deciduous azalea! 

Evergreen azaleas will not display this color on their own. Although they may appear in a mixture with another color. 

Azalea Bush Appearance

Looking at the two azaleas side by side will obviously show some distinguished differences.

  • Deciduous azaleas grow to 4 or 5 feet in 10 years. They appear taller and more straight or upright.
  • Evergreen azaleas grow to around 3 feet in 10 years. They are considerably shorter and have a mounded shape to them.

But using azalea bush size as an indicator of azalea type is your last option. Climate change, age, and geographical location will influence the size of this plant.

Will you get to see a colorful garden in the fall? Do azalea bushes bloom in the fall?

Which Azalea Bush Is Better For Winter Prone Climates?

From reading through this blog you have probably been wondering which azalea is better for your garden. Especially if you have a colder climate than most areas in Northern America.

Evergreen azaleas keep their leaves and they also stay green in winter. Deciduous azaleas are more cold-hardy than its counterpart. 

So, which one is better to plant especially for the winter season?

It depends on a few aspects. How much sunlight do you get in winter? Evergreens generally require a bit more sunlight than deciduous azaleas. Deciduous azalea bushes will prefer and thrive better in lower light conditions. 

Also, you will have to decide on whether to plant a native variant or an exotic azalea bush. It is usually thought that you can’t plant exotic plants anywhere out of their natural habitat. This is not true. If the climatic and environmental conditions are compatible, you can plant it! 

Depending on the two points stated, you can plant an azalea bush. One that will live and produce flowers in your garden for many years. 

Which Azaleas Are Deciduous or Evergreen? 

North American native azaleas usually mostly belong to the deciduous group. Whereas azaleas native to Asia are from the Evergreen group. 

A few species from deciduous azaleas are indigenous to Asia and Eastern Europe as well. 

When talking about classifying azaleas, they are from two subgenera of Rhododendron. These are Pentanthera and Tsutsusi. 

  • Pentanthera represents the deciduous azaleas 
  • Tsutsusi usually contains the evergreen azaleas

That means that the Pentanthera genus is native to the USA and surrounding areas. Meanwhile, the azaleas native to Asia are from the Tsutsusi genus. But sometimes you get the odd hybrid that manages to grow somewhere in-between the climates. 

Will Azalea Bushes Die In Winter?

Different plants have different hardiness scores that are allotted to them depending on the severity of the winter season in that particular area.   

Naturally, a gardener may ask if azaleas will die in winter. 

It’s a valid question to ask. I mean there is no point in growing a plant that dies every winter. This would require you to dig up the old plants and replace them with new healthy plants. This takes a lot of time, effort, and possibly money as well. 

Evergreen azaleas are more suited to warmer climates. Deciduous azaleas are quite cold-hardy and are able to grow in USDA zones 4 to 9 (4 to 5 are most optimal). 

If you plan to grow azaleas in the USA, you will require a very cold-hardy azalea. That’s especially if you are living in a very cold area. 

Apart from hardiness scores, the ability of an azalea to survive winter will depend on a few factors:

  • Severity of winter (how low temperatures will drop)
  • Sunlight (duration and intensity of sunlight)
  • Winter protection efforts 
  • Location (sheltered from wind/rain or not)

Either way, you will definitely have to protect your azaleas from cold elements such as snow, frost, rain, and wind. This can be done by wedging 3 or 4 sticks into the ground.

Then use burlap or any breathable material and wrap it around the sticks.

Alternatively, you can use anything to build a structure around your azalea bushes. This does a lot to protect the vulnerable azalea plants from the cold and frost.

Azalea shoots and flower buds are especially at risk of being damaged by cold. 

How Long Does It Take For Azaleas To Grow? Help Them Grow Faster


Azaleas make the garden a pleasant place in spring, summer, fall, and possibly even winter as well! 

Evergreen azalea bushes stay green in winter! Plant them and you will know your garden won’t be completely dull in winter! Unfortunately, deciduous azaleas will not stay green in winter. Nor will they have any leaves at all during this season.  

Deciduous azaleas will only regrow their leaves in spring. Evergreens will replace their leaves gradually throughout their cycle occurring year-round. 

But, what if you do not have evergreen azaleas in the garden? You can protect your deciduous bushes against the cold. As temperatures increase and spring arrives, your azalea will start to shoot.

The result will be a full bloom of colorful flowers in the spring and even summer. With possibly some surprises! 


Do Azaleas lose their leaves in the winter?

Some azaleas lose their leaves in winter, but not all azaleas. That’s because some are deciduous and some are evergreen!
These two types of azaleas react differently when winter approaches. Evergreen will keep the majority of its leaves and they will stay green. But, deciduous azaleas will lose all their leaves after they have all changed color. 

Do Azalea leaves turn brown in winter?

Yes, azalea leaves can turn brown in winter. While this isn’t rare, it happens occasionally. However, it is not compulsory that all azaleas have their leaves turn brown.
Instead, their leaves could turn yellow or even red. This is due to a drop in temperatures and an alteration in air humidity.