Hardy Azalea Varieties: How To Choose Zone 5 Azalea Shrubs

zone 5 azalea
zone 5 azalea
(Image credit: y-studio)

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 to 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 1980's. 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
Darcy Larum