10 Types of Azaleas for the Flower Garden

Azaleas are susceptible to iron deficiencies.
Photo © Jamie McIntosh

In many parts of the United States, especially the Southeast, it just wouldn’t be springtime without azaleas (Rhododendron). Established neighborhoods are especially hospitable to growing these flowering perennial shrubs, as their mature trees provide the dappled shade and leaf litter that azaleas appreciate. Having been selectively bred for hundreds of years, there are more than 10,000 different cultivars of azaleas.

They generally prefer rich, acidic soil. And their colorful blooms, which are on display for several weeks in the spring, are typically funnel-shaped. ​Bumblebees are in heaven around azaleas, as they adore their blossoms. Recognizing the broad appeal of this perennial shrub, breeders continue to add more fragrance, cold tolerance, and color combinations to the azalea family. Here are 10 popular types of azaleas to grow in the garden.

  • 01 of 10

    'Northern Hi-Lights' (Rhododendron 'Northern Hi-Lights')

    'Northern Hi-Lights' azalea
    Wendy Cutler/Flickr/CC By 2.0

    ‘Northern Hi-Lights’ features showy, fragrant blooms that are cream to pale yellow with bright yellow highlights. This variety was developed by the University of Minnesota and has good cold tolerance, as well as some resistance to mildew. It grows best in humusy, acidic soil with a moderate moisture level and good drainage. Plant it in a location that gets at least four hours of sun per day and has some protection from strong winds. In terms of maintenance, remove spent flowers to promote further blooming, and water regularly to ensure the soil doesn’t dry out. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 7
    • Height: 4 to 5 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
  • 02 of 10

    'Encore Autumn Amethyst' (Rhododendron 'Conlee')

    Encore azalea
    Drew Avery/Flickr/CC By 2.0

    Azaleas from the Encore series, such as 'Encore Autumn Amethyst' with its magenta flowers, produce blooms on new growth periodically throughout the growing season, rather than just flowering in the spring like most azaleas. There are more than 30 Encore varieties available, meaning you'll likely be able to find a hue to complement your landscape. Remove spent blooms promptly to promote further flowering. The blooms will attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators to your garden all season long.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Height: 4 to 6 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
  • 03 of 10

    'Lemon Lights' (Rhododendron 'Lemon Lights')

    'Lemon Lights' azalea
    Hennepin County Master Gardeners/Flickr/CC By 2.0

    The 'Lemon Lights' azalea hybrid sports blooms in the spring that are a lighter yellow on the edges blending into a more golden tone near the throat. These showy flowers are excellent at attracting pollinators. The shrub grows slowly, topping out at around 6 feet. Make sure you maintain adequate soil moisture, especially as the plant is establishing itself. Lightly prune to shape the shrub after it’s done blooming.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 7
    • Height: 4 to 6 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
  • 04 of 10

    'Hot Shot' (Rhododendron 'Girard's Hot Shot')

    'Hot Shot' azalea
    Jamie McIntosh

    You should reserve a place of honor for this azalea with vivid red blooms in your landscape. Like other hybrids in the Girard series, ‘Hot Shot’ is a low-growing azalea that works well when planted in the middle of a border. It’s an evergreen azalea, which makes it susceptible to winter weather damage. Give it a sheltered position away from wind and low-lying troughs that can freeze, which can kill the plant's buds. Also, avoid heavy clay soil with poor drainage, which can lead to root rot. However, water your plant consistently to prevent the roots from drying out.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Height: 2 to 3 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    'Variegated Gem' (Rhododendron 'Girard's Variegated Gem')

    'Girard Variegated Gem' azalea
    Jamie McIntosh

    'Variegated Gem' is a variety for gardeners who demand three seasons of interest from their azaleas. This hardy shrub will grace your garden with bright pink spring flowers, white-edged summer foliage, and red leaves in the fall. 'Variegated Gem' is small and generally doesn’t need much pruning outside of shaping it and removing dead or damaged portions. Plant it in a location that’s sheltered from winds, and consider using mulch around its base to maintain soil moisture.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Height: 2 to 3 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
  • 06 of 10

    'Fireball' (Rhododendron 'Fireball')

    'Fireball' azalea
    Miguel Sanz/Getty Images

    The Exbury azalea hybrids like 'Fireball' are good plants for beginners. Like other deciduous azaleas (i.e., azaleas that shed their leaves annually), they exhibit good cold tolerance and flower freely in the spring. The upright growth habit of 'Fireball' will ensure that its showy red blossoms won’t get lost among your other spring flowers. This variety has a moderate growth rate but typically needs little pruning. Just make sure your soil stays moist, fertile, and acidic for it to grow to its fullest potential.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Height: 4 to 6 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
  • 07 of 10

    'Fashion' (Rhododendron 'Girard's Fashion')

    'Fashion' azalea
    Jamie McIntosh

    The showy coral blooms of this Girard azalea hybrid might attract the first hummingbird visitors of the season to your garden. A partially shady location with acidic soil will keep this evergreen shrub happy for many years. Unless you get a lot of rain, plan on watering at least weekly to ensure adequate soil moisture. And keep the roots cool and moist with a layer of mulch. Moreover, fertilizing your shrub after it blooms can help to promote more vigorous growth.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 9
    • Height: 2 to 4 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
  • 08 of 10

    'Mandarin Lights' (Rhododendron 'Mandarin Lights')

    'Mandarin Lights' azalea
    Hennepin County Master Gardeners/Flickr/CC By 2.0

    The ruffled rust-colored blooms of 'Mandarin Lights' will positively glow in the dappled shade of your landscape. Early blooms precede foliage on this deciduous variety. And the sweet fragrance of the flowers is a bonus. 'Mandarin Lights' grows up to 5 feet tall and looks stunning when planted in a woodland garden. It prefers evenly moist soil enriched with composted leaves or manure to increase acidity.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 7
    • Height: 4 to 5 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    'Snow' (Rhododendron 'Snow')

    'Snow' azalea
    Sergejs Kartasovs/Getty Images

    This azalea hybrid produces trumpet-shaped clusters of white blooms in the spring that pop against a backdrop of green leaves. The foliage remains deep green through the winter. The shrub has a slow growth rate and typically doesn’t require much pruning. If you need to prune to shape the plant or remove dead portions, do so right after it’s done flowering. This azalea is very particular about its planting site and must have soil that’s rich, acidic, evenly moist, and well-draining. It also benefits from mulch around its base to keep the roots cool and the soil moist.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 9
    • Height: 5 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Part sun
  • 10 of 10

    Korean Azalea (Rhododendron yedoense var. poukhanense)

    Korean azalea blooms
    NataBene/Getty Images

    The Korean azalea is a hardy shrub. Because it blooms before the foliage has fully emerged, you get a showy display of rose-colored, fragrant flowers in the early spring. Plus, the shrub’s dark green foliage turns an orange-red in the fall. This slow-grower tends to extend wider than it is tall. Like most azaleas, it prefers rich, acidic, evenly moist soil with good drainage. A layer of mulch is helpful to protect its shallow root system.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Height: 3 to 6 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade