Azaleas descend from Asian shrubs and were originally cultivated by Budhist monks in their monasteries. Please pronounce Buddhist as it is spelled in English pronouncing the "d" before the "h." (This is the pali dialect of the Sanscrit.) If you have an East Indian friend, as the writer and his wife have, named Sudha please honor that same pronunciation.
Way back the seeds of the rhododendron were shipped to England from the Black Sea area. These became the parents of many azalea hybrids.
The azalea is the state wild flower of Georgia. Their official state flower is the Cherokee Rose.
The world's largest azalea garden is in Calloway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Georgia.
The azalea is the national flower of Napal.
Many flowers have legends concerning their origin. The azalea is no different. An old legend from China tells of an emperor's violent assassination. The emperor, upon his death, turned into a coo-coo bird. At this point we may begin to suspect that this is a legend and not a historical fact.
The Emperor's death was so violent that he, as a coo-coo bird, sang a violent, bitter, sorrowful song causing blood to begin to gush from his bill.
Where the dripping blood fell it turned the beautiful white azalea blossoms he was perched upon a bright red. Now we know. It all makes sense.