Japanese Azaleas

Japanese Azalea is the common name for evergreen to semievergreen rhododendrons, known generically as Rhododendron japonicum. Most are complex hybrids or species from Japan such as Kyushu azalea (R. kiusianum), Torch azalea (R. kaempferi), Kurume azalea (R. obtusum x kiusianum), and Kirishima azalea (R. obtusum), among others. These have been bred for over 500 years and with thousands of cultivars available, it can be a difficult decision to choose just one for your garden. So, here a is a quick overview of some of the varieties that can be found locally, followed by some cultural advice.

‘Ben Morrison’ (Zone 7 / 4’ tall)

Azalea ‘Ben Morrison’
‘Ben Morrison’

Spectacular bicolour blooms of salmon-pink generously edged in white make this hard-to-find cultivar worth looking for.

‘Blaauw’s Pink’ (Zone 6 / 3-4’ tall)

Azalea ‘Blaauw’s Pink’
‘Blaauw’s Pink’

Lightly fragrant coral-pink flowers with a hose-in-hose form are very popular with local gardeners.

‘Blue Danube’ (Zone 5 / 4’ tall)

Azalea ‘Blue Danube’
‘Blue Danube’

An older cultivar with unusual magenta-violet trumpet flowers accented with darker purple spotting. Good plant vigour.

‘Elsie Lee’ (Zone 5 / 3-4’ tall)

Azalea ‘Elsie Lee’
‘Elsie Lee’

This ‘Desiree’ x ‘Rosebud’ hybrid features showy lavender-pink semidouble blooms, usually in May.

‘Gaiety’ (Zone 6 / 3’ tall)

Azalea ‘Gaiety’

Over the years, I have seen this variegated cultivar go by many names, including ‘Variegata’ and ‘Silver Sword’. The bright pink flowers age with reddish overtones and this variety is only semievergreen.

‘Girard’s Fuchsia’ (Zone 6 / 3-4’ tall)

Azalea ‘Girard’s Fuchsia’
‘Girard’s Fuchsia’

One of my personal favourites, the intense fuchsia-coloured flowers literally glow at a distance.

‘Girard’s Hot Shot’ (Zone 5 / 3-4’ tall)

Azalea ‘Girard’s Hot Shot’
‘Girard’s Hot Shot’

This cultivar has unusual reddish-orange ruffled blooms that mimic the intense colours we have come to expect from deciduous azaleas.

‘Gumpo Pink’ (Zone 7 / 2-3’ tall)

Azalea ‘Gumpo Pink’
‘Gumpo Pink’

A compact variety with very dense foliage that hugs the ground, overlaid with large shell-pink flowers.

‘Hahn’s Red’ (Zone 6 / 3-4’ tall)

Azalea ‘Hahn’s Red’
‘Hahn’s Red’

An older cultivar featuring large cherry-red blooms and bronze winter foliage.

‘Hino Crimson’ (Zone 6 / 3’ tall)