Azaleas for zone 5


Winter Protection For Azaleas: Caring For Azalea Shrubs In Winter

Azalea blossoms brighten the spring garden, blooming generously in areas of light shade. But these are truly ornamentals for all seasons, offering rich, green foliage all summer long. Some deciduous varieties explode into shades of yellow and crimson in autumn, while others hold onto green leaves though winter.

Although these are low-maintenance shrubs in summer, as the colder season arrives, you’ll have to think about winter care for azaleas. Caring for azaleas in winter is not difficult if you know what to do and when to do it. Preparing azalea shrubs for winter will ensure your plants are hale and hearty when temperatures rise in spring.

How to Take Care of Azalea Bushes

If you are wondering how to take care of azalea bushes, remember that this type of rhododendron plant is picky about soil. The roots of azaleas are delicate rather than strong, and easily damaged. This means you must work hard to prepare the soil before planting.

Excellent drainage is essential when you are learning how to take care of azalea bushes for stronger plants that can withstand winter weather. Drainage is just as important for azalea care in the winter as in the summer.

You’ll need to work the soil carefully to remove rocks to a depth of 18 inches and 30 inches wide. The soil must be good quality, loamy topsoil, and acidic, with a pH between 4.5 and 6. Plant in an area with filtered sunlight rather than direct sun or deep shade for best results.

Winter Protection for Azaleas

Azalea winter care begins in fall, when you should slow down and eventually stop irrigating your plants. Cut back on water by about one-third during the autumn months to toughen the plant for winter, then water thoroughly after the first two or three hard freezes. Soaking the roots at this time hydrates the plant as it goes dormant and protects the plant from drying out when moisture evaporates through the leaves. It provides them with sufficient moisture in the soil to last until spring.

If you like to fertilize your azalea, be sure not to fertilize the plant after midsummer because new growth that late in the season is more susceptible to cold damage.

Preventing azalea winter damage is also accomplished by spreading 3 to 5 inches of mulch (such as pine needles, wood chips, straw or dry grass) around the plant in preparation for the first hard freeze. Don’t use leaves as mulch unless you chop them first; whole leaves have a tendency to form dense mats that can smother the azalea. Add your mulch around the base of the plant once it is dormant. If you mulch earlier, move the mulch away from the stems in autumn to permit hardening before winter.

Additionally, you should leave a ring of unmulched soil directly around the trunk; if mulch mounds against the trunk, it can cause moisture damage and may also attract rodents and insects that will gnaw on the wood.

Caring for Azalea Shrubs in Winter

Winter care for azaleas isn’t involved. Just watch the weather report and cover the azalea if temperatures drop below 25 degrees F. (-3 C.), especially if the drop in temperature is sudden or the plant is young. Icy winds and excess sun can damage evergreen azaleas in winter. You’ll see split bark or dried leaves if your plant is injured. If your azalea shows signs of winter damage, you’ll need to provide some protection.

To cover the plant, drive stakes in the ground, then drape porous material, like old bed sheets or burlap, over the shrub. Don’t let the cover touch the foliage and avoid covering the plant with plastic, which can trap moisture that can freeze and damage the plant. If you live in a climate where sub-freezing temperatures are common, it may save a lot of trouble if you install stakes while the ground is still unfrozen.

If you are careful to select varieties hardy to your climate and zone, you may not need to offer much azalea care in the winter. And remember that leaf curl on cold days is perfectly normal.

JARS v63n4 – Designing with Low Growing Azaleas

Designing with Low Growing Azaleas
Connie LeClair
East Orleans, Massachusetts

In my Cape Cod garden, I have grown very fond of low growing azaleas. These often are called Rock Garden Azaleas, and are very useful in the garden. They work well planted under trees, on banks, for corner plantings and for layering between larger rhododendrons. Their finer texture contrasts with the coarser texture of the large rhododendrons.

Photo by Connie LeClair

One of my favorites, Rhododendron ‘Balsaminiflorum’, is a hose in hose coral pink. I have it growing on a northeast bank under an oak tree. It never fails to bloom profusely every year and never has winter damage here on Cape Cod. I also grew it in Connecticut with no damage. It doesn’t need pruning so is very low maintenance. It is difficult to find at garden centers but can be mail ordered. They bloom at the same time as the oriental poppies and match the salmon pink varieties in color. The coral color is difficult to use and should be repeated in the garden and paired with white. I have ‘Balsaminiflorum’ growing between R. kiusianum ‘Album’ on one side and R. ‘Gumpo White’ on the other. R. kiusianum is a little fussier than ‘Gumpo White’. It did not do well for me with a western exposure but does well on the northeast. The Gumpo selections come in white or pink. I have used this azalea group in client gardens often as it is readily available. All three of these are happy, although any ‘Gumpo’ will suffer if it doesn’t have enough water.

‘Gumpo’s White’.
Photo by Connie LeClair
R. kiusianum ‘Album’.
Photo by Connie LeClair

R. ‘Hilda Niblett’ has wonderful two-toned flowers of white and pink. In my garden it is planted as a focal point, a group of three, on a corner in my woodland. It is a late bloomer and a real showpiece in bloom. It hasn’t needed pruning to stay low. R. ‘Sir Robert’ is similar.

‘Hilda Niblett’.
Photo by Connie LeClair

R. ‘Michael Hill’ is one of Polly Hill’s Tisbury azaleas. It is planted under a Cornus kousa. The pink color contrasts well with the cream C. kousa and blooms at the same time. It occasionally needs a little pruning. Many of the Tisbury azaleas are low growing. The rabbits love them so I put chicken wire around them when they are first planted until they gain some size.
R. ‘Nancy of Robinhill’ is a lovely pale pink with a blotch. I have several planted on the southwest corner of our house, originally under another C. kousa dogwood. The C. kousa has been removed and a small Acer palmatum planted to replace it. There is some shade from a nearby oak, but the additional sun has not affected them. I have also planted this azalea in front of R. ‘Pleasant Bay Fragrance’* and they look well together. ‘Nancy of Robinhill’ needs occasional pruning.
R. ‘Conversation Piece’ is another two-toned pink that works as a corner planting. This azalea needs a little more pruning. It sends out some long shoots every year.
R. ‘Wintergreen’ is in our Orleans Display Garden and is planted at the top of a wall. It is a deep coral color and has performed well in a difficult site.
Another use for the low growing azaleas would be to combine them with the taller deciduous azaleas for that layered look. I like to mix my evergreen and deciduous plants for a better winter effect. I also like Helleborus foetidus growing under tall deciduous azaleas. The hellebores bloom in the winter while the azaleas are dormant. This has worked well in the Orleans Display Garden.

* = not a registered name.

Connie LeClair is a member of the Cape Cod ARS Chapter.

Azaleas are beautiful plants known as the “Royalty of the Garden” because of their notoriously vibrant and colorful blossoms. The various shades of azaleas include pinks, purples, reds, oranges, whites and more. The number of unique blossoms for each type of azalea varies, as well as the shape of the petals. With proper azalea care, the plant makes for a wonderful addition to your garden.

Learning how to care for azaleas successfully does not take much time. The most important step is learning about the specific type of azalea you are bringing home. Some azaleas require more attention or different requirements. For example, the white azalea should be saved for climates that do not reach above 80ºF or so, since the white petals will shrivel up in the heat.

An azalea bush makes for a wonderful welcoming plant for your front porch, however, an azalea still makes for a lovely houseplant! With our information and tips to care for your azalea plant, we are sure your plant will thrive for years. Use the menu below to skip to your preferred section:

  • Azalea Overview
  • Types of Azalea
  • Azalea Care Tips
  • Azalea FAQs

Azalea Plant Overview

Azaleas come from the genus Rhododendron, as do rhododendrons. The leaves of each plant from the Rhododendron genus differ — azalea leaves are much smaller and pointed, and the leaves of the rhododendron are much larger and leathery.

There are various sizes of azaleas, including low-ground growing azaleas that are one to two feet tall and azalea shrubs that can grow as tall as 25 feet! Azaleas can thrive either indoors or outdoors — their care all depends on where they are placed.

The temperature that the azalea is placed in does not matter too much as long as it’s not below freezing and has shade in a warmer climate. Be careful as well, since azaleas are poisonous for animals and children who consume the blooms. The best rule of thumb is to water your azaleas regularly until they are established with lots of blossoms.

Azaleas have been hybridized for many years, and now there are over 10,000 varieties registered. The two main groups of azaleas include evergreen and deciduous. These two varieties drop their leaves in the fall and can be found almost anywhere in North America.

Azalea color and flower shape are the most distinctive features of each type. Some azalea blossoms have narrow petals, while others have overlapping rounded petals. There are some azaleas that grow five petals on their blossoms and some that have 10 to 12 petals. Read on to learn about some of the most common types of azaleas.

White Evergreen Azaleas (White Tsutsuji Rhododendron)

The white azalea plant is often grown in the eastern United States and requires more shade than most azaleas. The blossoms are large and consist of rounded white flowers. The foliage is a lighter green than most. It grows low to the ground and grows well in mass plantings.

Pink Azaleas (Rhododendron Subgenus Azalea)

The pink azalea plant is well known for being hardy and able to handle extremely cold climates, even below zero! The beautifully fragrant plant attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. This variety of azaleas has the most coverage in blossoms.

Lemon Lights Azalea (Rhododendron ‘Lemon Lights’)

This is part of the Northern Lights series of azaleas and beams a bright yellow color. The petals of the blossoms are open-facing and narrow. Interestingly enough, it loses all of its foliage in the winter, but its blossoms stay strong.

Orchid Lights Azalea (Rhododendron ‘Orchid Lights’)

The orchid lights azalea is covered in lavender/light pink flowers. The blossoms are trumpet-shaped with fuchsia spots at the ends of the branches. This azalea does carry fruit but it is not ornamentally significant. It’s also one of the hardiest azaleas.

Hot Shot Girard Azalea (Rhododendron ‘Girard’s Hot Shot’)

This azalea is an ideal size for shrub borders or low hedges. The azalea keeps a bright and fiery orange/red color throughout the year. The foliage is evergreen and the plant grows up to two to three feet tall and can spread about 24–30 inches wide.

Fireball Hardy Azalea (Rhododendron ‘’Fireball’)

One of the faster-growing azaleas, the fireball hardy azalea has strikingly reddish-orange blossoms with petals that look rippled. The foliage has tints of dark green and deep red. This azalea is a more compact shrub and requires little to no pruning.

How to Care for Azaleas

Whether your azalea is a houseplant or an outdoor plant, the care guidelines are the same. Show your plant some love with the proper upkeep or even create homemade plant food! A quick note: If you are in a warmer climate, purchase azaleas that come in a three-gallon pot rather than a one-gallon pot since small plants with fewer roots struggle to consume enough water in warm months.

Sunlight: The ideal place for planting your azaleas is in a happy medium spot. You’ll want to avoid putting your azaleas in full shade or direct sunshine all day. It is said that azaleas do best when they are planted in a spot that has morning sun and afternoon shade.

Water: Depending on climate and the amount of light your azaleas receive, watering requirements vary. Azaleas in a more shaded area and cooler climate prefer less water, about two or three times a month. If planted in a sunnier and warmer climate, water azaleas about one to two times a week. Keep in mind that azaleas are shallow-rooted plants and need to be kept moist, but are unable to tolerate soggy soil.

Temperature: Different azaleas can withstand various extreme climates. White azaleas cannot withstand temperatures that reach above 80ºF, as their blossoms will wither and fall. On the other end, azaleas from the Northern Light series can withstand temperatures as low as -20ºF. However, most azaleas are very hardy and can withstand average temperatures between 30ºF and 85ºF with no issues.

Toxicity: Azalea’s honey produced from the blossoms is toxic and referred to as “mad honey.” Dogs and cats are the most likely victims to poisoning from azaleas. The honey leaks all over the plant, leading to potential dangers. Severe toxicity is rare, but people who intentionally eat the plant can experience life-threatening symptoms.

Pests: Azalea lace bugs are the most common pests to affect the plant. A plant that has become a victim to lace bugs will show signs of yellow to white-looking foliage with clusters of black bugs on the bottom side of the leaves. To control this, insecticidal soap is the most effective in late spring or fall.

Azalea leafminers and bark scale are also pests that affect the plant. Leafminers rest between the upper and lower surfaces of leaves, causing browning or yellowing on the leaves. Bark scale causes the azaleas to be covered in sooty mold or appears as cotton masses within the joints of branches. In both cases, the best treatment is to remove the affected part of the plant and use horticultural oil.

Problems: Since azaleas are hardy, they are commonly planted in colder climates. This leads to potential frost damage, driving the plant to wilt and die. To prevent frost damage, cover the azalea shrubs with sheets or burlap when frost or below freezing temperatures are expected.

Azaleas are susceptible to fungal diseases, such as petal blight, rust and leaf gall. The best way to protect the plant from fungal diseases is by spraying it with a fungicide starting late spring until mid-June, every two to three weeks. If the plant becomes infected with a fungus, prune and dispose of diseased leaves/branches immediately.

Repotting: First, set up the pot by filling it up halfway with soil. Azaleas grow best in loose, well-draining soil. If you use potting mixture, it’s beneficial for the longevity of the plant to mix in organic mulch to create a loose soil mix.

When repotting your azalea, tilt the pot upside down and gently shake the plant out of the pot — do not pull the plant since this could damage the roots. Once removed from the original pot, place the azalea roots on top of the soil and mulch mix in the new pot. Once settled into the pot, scoop dirt around the plant without packing it. Fill in the gaps with new soil mixture. Lastly, fill the pot to the rim with mulch and leave an inch of space around the stem without any mulch.

Propagation: The two main propagation strategies for azaleas are stem cutting and planting azalea seeds. Depending on the method, your azalea plant will grow differently. Going the seed route, the new plant will grow to look like either parent or a mixture of both. Use the stem method if you want your new plants to look like the parent.

To root azalea cuttings, find stems that are able to bend, but not too easily. You will find these types of stems when the leaves are mature after spring growth. Trim the stem just below a point of leaf attachment. Remove all leaves from the bottom third of cutting and all flower buds. Dip the end of the stem in a rooting hormone.

Use a well-draining rooting medium. Insert the lower third of the stem cutting into the rooting medium. Water the cuttings slowly and place clear plastic caps (or slice the upper part of a clear plastic water bottle) over each stem cutting so that the moisture is held over the plant. Place in bright, indirect light and water when dry to the touch. Check on the stems often.

Within two months the azalea stem cuttings will grow roots. Check to see if there is a slight resistance when tugging the stem— if so, remove the clear plastic caps. You may also now place the plant in direct sun only in the morning. After four months, place each new azalea plant in its own pot until next spring when the plant can be placed outdoors.

Common Azalea Plant Care Questions and Concerns

How much sun does an azalea need?

Azaleas do best when planted in all-day dappled sun or where they can receive morning sun and afternoon shade. If planted in direct sun, make sure the azalea is only exposed for four to six hours.

Are used coffee grounds good for azaleas?

Yes, coffee grounds are great for acid-loving plants such as azaleas. Coffee grounds allow the soil to become more acidic, establishing more nutrients.

Do azaleas grow back every year?

The Encore series of azaleas grows back every year in the fall and spring. Other series’ of azaleas do not grow back every year, unless you prune them before mid-summer.

How do you prune azaleas?

When pruning azaleas to revive the plant, find a handful of the largest branches and cut them by a third or half. With the remaining branches, cut them to maintain the plant shape desired.

Welcoming guests to your home with azaleas is a great use of the beautiful plant, and with its hardy attributes, anyone in any climate is able to care for this plant. Truly, azaleas are the “royalty of the garden” since they are usually the first plants that catch the eye. Showcase your indoor azalea plants with DIY plant stands, that beautifully fill your home.

‘Coral Bells’

Hybrid Azaleas

Azalea x ‘Coral Bells’ Coral pink 2′ – 4′ has a low growing, spreading form great in small gardens or as landscape accent. Dwarf to semi dwarf. The abundant coral pink flowers of ‘Coral Bells’ is a welcomed site in early spring when a winter landscape begins to wake. A low growing, evergreen plant with glossy gray green leaves, ‘Coral Bells’ is an excellent choice for planting in groups and is a low maintenance pick for Georgia gardens.

‘Delaware Valley’

Azalea x ‘Delaware Valley White’ White 3′ – 4′. Glenn Dale hybrid. Low, spreading habit on a vigorous evergreen shrub. ‘Delaware Valley White’ has single, pure white flowers in mid spring to early summer and medium green leaves. Plant as an accent or low border, the white of ‘Delaware Valley’ looks lovely when partnered with other pink and red azalea bushes.

‘Formosa’ Azalea

Azalea indica ‘Formosa’ Lavender pink 8′. Profuse lavender pink flowers on a tall growing azalea bush. Features evergreen foliage on an upright shrub, ‘Formosa’ is a good choice for hedges and back of the garden borders. Large flowers bloom in early spring add a colorful, bright display to a landscape.

‘George Tabor’

Azalea Southern Indica ‘George Tabor’ Pink white 6 – 8′. A large azalea bush with trumpet shaped, pink flowers in mid spring. ‘George Tabor’ is an attractive plant for groupings or as a natural hedge. Grows more rapidly than other azalea bushes and is heat tolerant, perfect for Georgia climates.

‘GG Gerbing’

Azalea indica ‘Mrs. G. G. Gerbing’ White 6′ – 8′. Abundant pure white flowers and a classic in southern gardens. ‘Mrs. G. G. Gerbing’ is a large bush which is lovely as a natural hedge or in large or small groups. Showy, medium sized flowers appear in early spring, foliage is dense and medium green.

Girard ‘Crimson’

Girard ‘Crimson’ Reddish Pink 2′ Dwarf. Large, showy flowers are a deep crimson pink on a compact bush. Dark green leaves contrast beautifully with the crimson pink blossoms, new growth is a light green. ‘Crimson’ is the perfect size to plant n front of taller bushes or in a perennial bed.

Girard ‘Pleasant White’

Girard ‘Pleasant White’ 3′ – 4′. Dwarf to semi dwarf. Evergreen azalea with a compact and low habit. Leaves are a lustrous dark green, flowers are large and white. The single, rounded white flowers can be up to 3″ across. ‘Pleasant White’ large, spreading habit makes it a great landscape plant for front of the borders and mass plantings. Green foliage color is lighter than other Girard varieties.

Girard ‘Renee Michelle’

Girard ‘Renee Michelle’ Pink 3′. Known for its profuse, bright pink flowers, is a great choice for a front yard or along the edges of sidewalks and paths. A bit taller than a dwarf, ‘Renee Michelle’ adds just enough height but is not to tall to use in compact spaces or side yards.

Girard ‘Rose’

Girard ‘Rose’ Rose Red 2′ – 4′. Dwarf to semi dwarf. A lovely mid spring bloomer in a deep rose color. Set against semi evergreen dark red foliage, really ‘pop’ in a landscape design. A low growing, mound forming bush, ‘Rose’ is a convenient plant to use to hide the legs of taller bushes or small trees. Use in mixed borders, woodland garden edges or as front yard accent plantings. Like many azaleas,’Rose’ makes a beautiful statement when used for mass plantings.

Girard ‘Hot Shot’

Girard ‘Hot Shot’ Red 2′ – 4′. Dwarf to semi dwarf. With prolific blooms of single, reddish-orange flowers, ‘Hot Shot’ is perfect for the homeowner who prefers red colors in their landscape. The compact, round form is is useful for adding color to a shady area and the evergreen leaves are handy for front yard planting where you want something in the winter time. A great pick for perennial beds, mailbox landscaping and under small trees.

Gumpo White

Gumpo White White 2′ – 3′. Dwarf to semi dwarf azalea bushes. Beautiful, pure white flowers late in the season. Gumpo White is a dependable, hardy azalea for the south. Its small size make it a good choice for urban and small space gardens. Gumpo White is stunning when planted in mass with other flowering bushes to pull out color or as an accent plant.

Gumpo Pink

Gumpo Pink Pink 2′ – 3′. Dwarf to semi dwarf azalea bushes. Lovely pale to medium pink flowers emerge later in the spring, extending your azalea blooming season. Evergreen shrub, a perfect solution for hiding the base of taller, leggy bushes. Compact and dense, Gumpo Pink is perfect for a small space garden, along walkways and paths or when planted at a mailbox.

‘Hershey Red’

Rhododendron ‘Hershey’s Red’ Red 3′. Dwarf to semi dwarf azalea bushes. Stunning rose red flowers, a dense, compact form. A great landscape design solution for small space gardens. ‘Hershey’s Red’ looks wonderful planted in masses or used as borders. They may also be useful in a shade garden and can provide a spot of evergreen color in winter time.

‘Hilda Niblett’ Azalea

Azalea indica ‘Hilda Niblett’ Low growing and spreading habit, 1′ – 2′. Pink and white flowers. ‘Hilda Niblett’ is a classic southern bush, old fashion and delicate. Blooms are large and showy.

‘Mildred’ Azaleas

‘Mildred’ Lavender 3′. Low, mounding shrub. Dwarf to semi dwarf. An old time favorite, ‘Mildred’ is a profuse bloomer with lavender pink flowers and a compact form. Leaves are deep green and evergreen. ‘Mildred’ is a good choice for mass planting or as a low growing, informal hedge along a path or border.

‘Poukhanenese’ Azaleas

Rhododendron yedoense var. poukhanense Korean azalea ‘Poukhanenese’ Rose purple to lavender 3′ – 6′. Showy, fragrant flowers. ‘Poukhanenese’ is evergreen in mild winters, deciduous in cold climates. An old fashioned bush, ‘Poukhanenese’ has a delicate appearance which is great in cottage or Asian gardens. Flowers are large and showy in a gentle, lavender pink shade. ‘Poukhanenese’ is noted for its prolific blooms.

Bloom ‘N Again Azalea

Repeat blooming from the Gardner’s Confidence Collection.

‘Kristin’s Blush’

‘Kristin’s Blush’ 3′ – 4′. Gardner’s Confidence Collection baby pink.

Encore Azaleas

Encore Azaleas are a beautiful addition to any landscape and perfect for the azalea lover with repeating blooms in spring,summer and fall. The Encore varieties first set of flowers appears in the spring season. Once the spring of blooming closes, new shoots begin to grow and set new buds. The second set of buds then produce a new set of flowers when they bloom into full flower mid summer. Additional varieties we sometimes carry: autumn Monarch, Autumn Bravo, Autumn Royalty, Autumn Angel.

Encore Azalea ‘Autumn Amethyst’

Dark purple to pink 4′. Single deep pink to purple flowers. Sun tolerant.

Encore Azalea ‘Autumn Belle’

Bicolor Pink 5′. Semi double petals in a beautiful light pink with deeper pink throats. Best when given more sun to encourage flowering.

Encore Azalea ‘Autumn Carnation’

Medium Pink 4.5′. Repeat blooming, semi double flower.

Dwarf Encore Azalea ‘Autumn Cheer’

Pink 3′. Dwarf size, single petals.

Dwarf Encore Azalea ‘Autumn Embers’

Deep Orange Red 3′. Semi double in a unique orange red shade.

Encore Azalea ‘Autumn Empress’

Pink 4′. Semi double

Encore Azalea ‘Autumn Fire’

A red flowering, dwarf variety. Evergreen leaves of Autumn Fire change to a deep purple red in winter time.

Dwarf Encore Azalea ‘Autumn Lilac’

Light Purple 3′. Dwarf size, single petals.

Encore Azalea ‘Autumn Monarch’

Tall 5′ variety for a background plant. Light green foliage with striking ruffled blooms. Flowers are orange pink with specks of red.

Encore Azalea ‘Autumn Moonlight’

White with yellow throats 5′. Evergreen repeat blooming, semi double flower.

Dwarf Encore Azalea ‘Autumn Princess’

Salmon Pink 3′ – 4′. Evergreen repeat blooming, semi double flower.

Encore Azalea ‘Autumn Rouge’

4′ tall variety with lustrous, dark foliage and beautiful semi-double, deep pink flower. Easy care.

Dwarf Encore Azalea ‘Autumn Ruby’

Red 3′. Dwarf size, single petals.

Encore Azalea ‘Autumn Sangria’

Dark Pink 4′ – 5′. Evergreen repeat blooming single flower.

Encore Azalea ‘Autumn Sunset’

Vivid Orange Red 4′. Evergreen repeat blooming semi double flowers.

Encore Azalea ‘Autumn Sweetheart’

Soft pink to almost white 4′. Soft pink to almost white blossoms with lavender freckles

Encore Azalea ‘Autumn Twist’

White with purple stripes 4.5′. Evergreen repeat blooming spring and fall. Unique white with purple stripes flowers and occasional solid purple flowers mixed in.

Azalea bushes for sale in our plant nursery garden center are subject to change.

Hardy Azalea Varieties: How To Choose Zone 5 Azalea Shrubs

Azaleas are usually associated with the South. Many southern states boast having the best azalea displays. However, with the right plant selection, people who live in northern climates can have beautiful blooming azaleas, too. In fact, most azaleas are hardy in zones 5-9, and since they can suffer from excessive heat, northern climates can be perfect for growing azaleas. Continue reading to learn about hardy azalea varieties for zone 5.

Growing Azaleas in Zone 5

Azaleas are members of the Rhododendron family. They are so closely related to rhododendrons that it is sometimes hard to tell the difference. Rhododendrons are broadleaf evergreens in all climates. Certain azaleas can also be broadleaf evergreens in southern climates, but most zone 5 azalea shrubs are deciduous. They lose their leaves each fall, then in the spring, the flowers bloom before the foliage comes in, creating quite a display.

Like rhododendrons, azaleas thrive in acidic soil and cannot tolerate alkaline soil. They also like moist soil, but cannot tolerate wet feet. Well-draining soil with lots of organic material is a must. They can also benefit from an acidic fertilizer once a year. Zone 5 azaleas grow best in an area where they can receive a lot of sunlight, but are slightly shaded by tall trees in the afternoon heat.

When growing azaleas in zone 5, reduce watering in fall. Then, after the first hard frost, water the plants deeply and thoroughly. Many azaleas can suffer or die because of winter burn, a condition caused by the plant not taking up enough water in fall. Like lilacs and mock orange, azaleas are deadheaded or pruned right after flowering to avoid cutting off next year’s bloom sets. If heavy pruning is required, it should be done in winter or early spring while the plant is still dormant and no more than 1/3 of the plant should be cut back.

Azaleas for Zone 5 Gardens

There are many beautiful varieties of zone 5 azalea shrubs, with a wide variety of bloom colors like white, pink, red, yellow and orange. Oftentimes, the blooms are bicolor. The most hardy azalea varieties are in the “Northern Lights” series, introduced by the University of Minnesota in the 1980s. These azaleas are hardy to zone 4. Members of the Northern Lights series include:

  • Orchid Lights
  • Rosy Lights
  • Northern Lights
  • Mandarin Lights
  • Lemon Lights
  • Spicy Lights
  • White Lights
  • Northern Hi-Lights
  • Pink Lights
  • Western Lights
  • Candy Lights

Below is a list of other varieties of zone 5 hardy azalea shrubs:

  • Yaku Princess
  • Western Lollipop
  • Girarad’s Crimson
  • Girarad’s Fuchsia
  • Girarad’s Pleasant White
  • The Robe Evergreen
  • Sweet Sixteen
  • Irene Koster
  • Karen
  • Kimberly’s Double Pink
  • Sunset Pink
  • Rosebud
  • Klondyke
  • Red Sunset
  • Roseshell
  • Pinkshell
  • Gibraltar
  • Hino Crimson
  • Hino Degiri Evergreen
  • Stewart’s Red
  • Arneson Ruby
  • Bollywood
  • Cannon’s Double
  • Cheerful Giant
  • Herbert
  • Golden Flare
  • Fragrant Star
  • Dawn’s Chorus
  • Compact Korean

Dwarf Azalea

Rhododendron spp.

The beauty of dwarf azaleas is that they bloom on and off all year – even in shadier areas – staying small and manageable.

These azalea bushes can be kept small – 3 feet or less – and grow more slowly than full-size azaleas.

Dwarf shrubs like the popular Red Ruffle azalea work well in almost any kind of light, and are especially appealing in a formal landscape.

The most compact are dwarf azalea varieties that grow 2 to 3 feet. They include:

  • Red Ruffle – rose-red flower with ruffled edges
  • Madonna White – bright white ruffled blooms
  • Variegated Dogwood – pink and white flowers
  • Fashion – bright coral-pink blossoms

Semi-dwarf azaleas can grow to 4 feet or more (though you can trim them shorter). They include:

  • Duc de Rohan – little leaves like boxwood and bright salmon-pink flowers
  • Duchess of Cypress – pale pink blooms
  • Little John – burgundy-leafed cultivar with similar colored blossoms (doesn’t flower often but foliage is colorful)

Plant specs

A dwarf azalea will grow in full sun to full shade.

If you’re going to plant in a sunny area, make sure the nursery you buy from has grown it in – or acclimated it to – full sun. (For tips on acclimating the plant yourself, see Plant Light Requirements.)

Most of these plants prefer part sun to part shade. In full shade an azalea will grow leggy with fewer leaves, though it will flower.

Azaleas are evergreen, and the dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties are slow to moderate growers. Very cold hardy anywhere in Florida, they do best in Zone 9B and inland areas of Zone 10A.

If you live near the beach, don’t plant azaleas. They will not grow in coastal areas because the soil is too alkaline.

The heaviest bloom usually happens between February and April, with occasional flowers throughout the rest of the year.

Depending on variety, a dwarf azalea can be kept 2 to 3 feet tall.

Plant care

Azalea care is a bit more involved than most.
When planting azaleas, cut an X across the bottom of the root ball and very gently loosen the roots. These plants have fibrous roots that won’t always spread out on their own.

Use Canadian sphagnum peat moss when you plant. Add it to the hole and then fill the hole with water. Squish the moss with your hands to make it absorb the moisture. Canadian peat helps the plant’s root ball retain moisture and it also lowers the pH.

An azalea bush needs acidic soil to flourish. Planting with Canadian peat moss will help.

But if you’re planting a large bed of azaleas, you might want to have your soil tested first before investing in a lot of plants.

Azaleas prefer a pH of 5.5 or less. You can treat the soil with sulfur (or certain sulfates) to lower the pH, at least temporarily. Consult your local plant nursery for a soil-acidifier product recommendation.

Avoid using these plants in coastal areas, where the soil is very alkaline, or near concrete that can leach into the soil and turn it too alkaline.
Regular watering is a must. You can help keep your azaleas from going too dry between waterings by planting with water retention crystals. (See the page on Watering for more info.)

Mulch around the shrub to help keep roots moist, but keep the mulch at least 6 inches away from the plant’s base.
Fertilize after the spring bloom with a granular azalea fertilizer. Apply fertilizer again in late summer or early fall.

DO NOT FERTILIZE AFTER OCTOBER 1st – flower buds will fall off before opening.

For supplemental feedings between October and spring (or if the leaves are yellowing), apply essential minor elements (EME) to keep your azaleas green and happy.
Prune lightly after flowering in spring and trim to shape anytime. Because they’re smaller overall and grow at a slower rate than larger varieties, you won’t have to do a hard pruning.

Plant spacing

Place small azaleas 2 feet apart.

Avoid planting too near concrete foundations, walks and drives…space the shrub at least 3 feet away.

These plants can be grown in containers but do best in the ground.

Landscape uses for dwarf azalea

  • small shrub for front of the border
  • lining a low wooden fence
  • accent plant or group plantings for a garden bed
  • around the trunk of a tree or palm
  • along a walkway
  • surrounding a mailbox or lamppost

GOOD SNOWBIRD PLANT? YES (with regular irrigation)

COMPANION PLANT SUGGESTIONS: In a partially shaded location, use chenille plant, firespike, downy jasmine, heliconia, peace lily, dracaena and cordyline, golden shrimp plant, and star jasmine.

Other shrubs you might like: Azalea (full size), Dwarf Tibouchina

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Gardening in South Africa

Gently remove the plant from its container and place it on top of the soil, fill with the remaining soil, tapping it down gently. Make sure that the plant is not buried too deeply, or it may rot. Water thoroughly and mulch with a suitable material. Clay aggregate pebbles work well to keep the roots cool and well aerated. Place the pot in a shaded position and keep the soil moist but not sodden. No further feeding will be required until the plant is well established, after which it can be fed with a liquid fertiliser for acid-loving plants.

Rhododendron ‘Rubra’Growing Azaleas Indoors:

The many cultivars of Rhododendron simsii (often called Rhododendron indicum) are popular indoor pot plants which are ‘forced’ to bloom in warm, humid conditions, making them available out of season. These frost tender evergreens do not do well outdoors in cold regions, and will grow 45 to 60cm tall, with an equal spread.

If their specific needs are met they can be grown indoors for a long time. They love a cool, humid atmosphere indoors, with plenty of indirect light. The plants will deteriorate if they suffer long periods in hot, dry conditions indoors. Mist the foliage down daily, and water as needed, to encourage new root and shoot growth. Rain water is the best, as hard water can damage potted azaleas. Remove spent flowers regularly, and once the plant has finished blooming, if you can, place it outdoors for a couple of months, selecting a spot which is sheltered and cool, with bright shade. Feed regularly during the growing season with a liquid fertiliser for acid-loving plans, and bring your plant indoors again in autumn, to overwinter. Potted azaleas are not the easiest of plants to get to re-flower indoors, but it is possible with a little TLC, and hopefully yours will reward you with flushes of flowers for many years.

Rhododendron ‘Little Girl’Propagation:

If you want plants that are identical to the parent plant, you will have to grow them from semi-ripe cuttings taken in mid-summer. Make short cuttings, 6 to 7cm long, and remove flower buds and any excess foliage. “Wound” the base of cuttings by removing some bark on both sides with a sharp knife, before dipping the end of each cutting in a rooting hormone, and inserting the bottom inch of the cutting into container filled with potting medium (1/2 Peat, 1/4 Sand, 1/4 Perlite.) Enclose the containers in clear plastic bags, to increase humidity, and place in bright window out of direct sun, or preferably under fluorescent lights with “long day” conditions (16 to 24 hours of light each day.) Keep the soil moist but not wet, since excess moisture causes rotting.

Cuttings should root within 2 to 4 months, but often it is better to leave them undisturbed for another month or so, to ensure that a substantial root system will be present before repotting. After potting them into individual little pots, keep them evenly moist, but a little on the dry side, to encourage root growth. For their first winter, continue to grow them under lights indoors, or provide cold frame protection outdoors. In spring, feed with a very weak liquid fertiliser for acid-loving plants, and once all danger of frost is over, move the pots outdoors into a cool, shady spot to acclimatise. Once your plants are nice and strong, plant them out into the garden or larger pots. In cold regions they will need winter protection for their first year outdoors.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

A healthy Rhododendron, growing in the proper environment, and with the proper care, should have few problems. Occasionally they can be bothered by insects and diseases, which are more prevalent if the plants are grown in enclosed, or walled-in spaces, and especially underneath roofs. Watch out for insects like aphids, lace bugs, mealybugs, spider mites, scale, thrips, and whitefly. These can be controlled with an organic insecticide. They can also be affected by diseases like petal blight, black spot, rust, and powdery mildew, which can be controlled with an organic fungicide.

Azalea gall attack is a very distinctive and curious-looking disease which forms galls, varying in size from that of a pea to a small plum. These can grow on the leaves or the flowers, and the leaf or flower involved is practically replaced by the fleshy, irregular gall. Galls start out pale green or very rarely reddish, later becoming white, due to a floury bloom, which is a superficial coating of fungal spores. Galls can affect certain rhododendrons and azaleas growing outdoors, and is often seen on indoor potted plants of Rhododendron simsii, the popular Indian azalea obtained from florists. This common disease is caused by the fungus Exobasidium japonicum, and although it disfigures the plant, it does not kill it. There are no fungicides available to amateur gardeners for the control of azalea gall; and because it spreads by airborne spores, remove and dispose of them immediately, before they become white and infectious. If the disease appears on indoor potted plants, avoiding an excessively moist atmosphere will help to control it. Because some cultivars are especially susceptible, if a plant is heavily and persistently affected, it is probably best to replace it. On outdoor specimens, it is thought that some insect pests may spread the spores of the fungus, and these should be controlled with an insecticide if possible.


All parts of Rhododendron are poisonous to humans and pets if ingested. Symptoms include: Nausea, salivation, vomiting, weakness, dizziness, difficulty in breathing, and loss of balance. The pollen of many, if not all species of rhododendrons, is also probably toxic, being said to cause intoxication when eaten in large quantities.

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