Great Plants for Northern Gardens: Day 3 — Northern Lights Azaleas

Northern Lights pink

Northern Lights Pink azalea

In early spring, gardeners are hungry for color, and one of the best ways to get that color is by planting spring flowering shrubs. Northern Lights azaleas are rock-solid hardy members of the rhododendron genus that were bred at the University of Minnesota. The Northern Lights azaleas come in a variety of pink, white, salmon and yellow colors and tend to bloom in early to mid-May about the same time as daffodils.

Azaleas are not difficult to grow, but they have some specific requirements. They need sun or partial sun, but do not tolerate heat well. A hot area next to the house would not be a good location for Northern Lights, nor would a windy area. Their root systems are shallow, so they need to be watered during dry periods, and they do best when planted in soil with lots of compost or other organic matter to retain moisture. If your soil is clay, be sure to add plenty of organic matter.

Azaleas in bloomAzaleas (and rhododendrons) also are acid-loving plants, and do best in a soil with a pH of 5.5 or lower. Twice a year fertilizing with an acid fertilizer will keep the plants growing and blooming.

Another super hardy rhododendron is the ‘P.J.M.’ rhododendron, which has the pink color of many azaleas and rhododendron but tends to be larger in size than the Northern Lights azaleas.

What’s your favorite shrub for spring flowers?