Forty deciduous azalea (Rhododendron sp.) cultivars from commercial sources were evaluated for powdery mildew (Microsphaera sp.) resistance. Plants were established in two duplicate field plantings in Ohio and Minnesota and evaluated in 2002 and 2003. Plants were scored using a disease symptom rating based on the percent of leaf area infected, evaluating both ab- and adaxial leaf surfaces. Highly significant differences were found for cultivar, location, year, cultivar × location and cultivar × year for disease severity. Calendulaceum × speciosum, `Fragrant Star', `Garden Party', `Late Lady', `Millennium', `Parade', and `Popsicle' showed no powdery mildew symptoms in both locations. Another group of plants with only minimal symptoms (<25% leaf area affected) included `Jane Abbott', `Magic', `Northern Hi-Lights' and `Snowbird'. The symptom-free cultivars exhibited glaucous foliage, suggesting a potential, common resistance mechanism. The mean scores for the abaxial and adaxial leaf surfaces were 2.34 and 1.64, respectively, although four cultivars had more disease symptoms on the adaxial surface. `Arneson Gem' showed nearly a two-point difference between abaxial and adaxial scores. Evaluations of azalea powdery mildew susceptibility should consider both leaf surfaces and use the highest score as the best estimate of host resistance.
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