If you are looking for the best Azalea and Rhododendron varieties, this list will tell you the ones that are the easiest to grow, most fragrant, and have the prettiest flowers.
Every time I go through my garden to take pictures, I realize that I’m a bit of a plant hoarder. If I like a particular species of plant, I collect a lot of them!
And Rhododendrons (including Azaleas) are one of those shrubs that I love to have in my garden…beautiful blooms, many are evergreen and like shade, some are fragrant, and all are easy to maintain. For me, they are the perfect plant!
So having grown a lot of them, I do have some favorite Azalea and Rhododendron Varieties, and I thought I would share my list in case you are looking to add to your Rhododendron collection as well.
Easiest to Grow – Rhododendron catawbiense
Zone: 4 – 8
Size: 6′ wide, 8′ to 12′ high
These are the ones that I grew in my first garden, and it turns out they’re a good variety to start with. They are evergreen and have large balls of flowers in the spring…and they’re pretty hard to kill.
In fact the American Rhododendron Society describes these Rhododendrons as “iron clad”…I think that’s about as tough as it gets :)
They can also get quite big, so make sure to put them in a spot where they have room to spread out.
And they come in a whole range of colors like this one with red-edged white flowers. You can find it HERE.*
Best Compact Rhododendron – ‘PJM’ Rhododendron
Zone: 4 – 9
Size: 4′ wide, 4′ high
The ‘PJM’ Rhododendron is a compact variety that is also quite easy to grow and does better in full sun that most Rhododendrons. It has evergreen leaves and lavender flowers, and provides structure to a perennial border.
‘Amy Cotta’ is a new version of the PJM Rhododendron that has lavender pink flowers. You can find it HERE.*
Best Cold Weather Plant – Northern Lights Azaleas
Zone: 3 – 7 (although some gardeners report growing them in zone 2)
Size: 4′ wide, 6′ high
The Northern Lights azaleas were bred at the University of Minnesota specifically to withstand cold temperatures. They are deciduous azaleas with pretty spring flowers that may be fragrant (depending on the cultivar) and have leaves that turn bright red in the fall.
With so many things going for them, I think they shouldn’t just be relegated to the cold :)
The Best Re-Blooming Bushes – Encore Azaleas
Zone: 6 – 9
Size: 3′ to 5′ wide and high
Encore Azaleas are a relatively new group of evergreen bushes that bloom twice every year…once in the spring and once in the summer to late fall.
Although they are advertised as a bush that should be planted in full sun, I have them growing in all conditions – full shade, part shade and full sun, and they seem to do quite well everywhere!
And as you can see from the picture, they can get bigger than the 5′ height that the label specifies. That arbor in the background is 8′ high.
There is also a new re-blooming variety called Bloom-a-Thon Azaleas that have very pretty double flowers. I haven’t tried them yet, but plan to add one of these to my garden, also.
Showiest Blooms – Amelia Rose Azalea
Zone: 7 – 9
Size: 6′ wide and high
The blooms on the Amelia Rose Azalea are so big and full, they almost look like roses. Except they grow on an evergreen plant that doesn’t have any thorns! These Azaleas can be a little hard to find, but I think they’re definitely worth the search!
Most Fragrant – Rhododendron colemanii
Zone: 6 – 9
Size: 6′ wide, 8′ high
This deciduous Azalea is a native to the Southeastern United States and has the most beautiful scent. It also has really pretty flowers that start out as pink buds and then open to be white flowers with a yellow stripe.
I found it at a local nursery that sells native plants, and haven’t been able to find an online source yet.
Best Variegated Foliage – Bollywood Azalea
Zone: 6 – 9
Size: 18″ wide, 24″ high
I found this compact, variegated Azalea while I was browsing plant pictures online. I don’t have it in my garden yet, but now that I know it exists, I will be getting one shortly! You can find it HERE.*
And I told you I was a Rhododendron fanatic…I can’t even get through creating a list of them without finding another one to buy :)
That’s the list of my favorite Azalea and Rhododendron varieties. Hopefully you have found one or two you want to add to your own garden.
Or if you’re trying to figure out why your Rhododendrons aren’t doing so well, click HERE to find some common Rhododendron problems.
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