Aurora Borealis! The Bright Dancing Colors of the Northern Lights Azaleas!
Northern Lights Azaleas have been a hot topic in recent years!
In zones 4 and even zone 3, gardeners value these shrubs for their bright spring blooms. Even in zones 5-9, these cold hardy azaleas are still a delightful addition to any garden. Compact in size, colourful, mostly scented and having excellent fall color; they are a highly prized shrub.
In temperate regions of the world the genus Rhododendron is perhaps the most significant of the flowering shrubs. There are thousands of hybrids with more being developed every year. The problem with this genus is that most are not particularly hardy, especially the evergreen types. Deciduous azaleas are slightly hardier since they don’t have winter foliage. However, the standard azalea hybrids; the Exbury, Knap Hill and Ghents, are still only reliably hardy to USDA zone 5.
Lately there has been significant breeding to grow tougher azaleas and rhododendrons. In Finland a whole series of super hardy evergreen rhododendrons are being developed, closer to home, we have a series of very hardy deciduous azaleas called the ‘Northern Lights’ azaleas. These hybrids were developed at the University of Minnesota. Most of the Northern Lights azaleas are hardy to -30 F or -34 C, allowing them to be grown in Zone 4, with some even thriving in Zone 3. Many of these hybrids were created by the crossing the very hardy American species, R.prinophyllum and R. canadense to different Exbury-type Azaleas. Most are highly scented and have excellent red, orange and purplish fall colour.
‘Northern Lights’ selections at Kato’s Nursery
‘Rosy Lights’ – is extremely hardy selection which provides a massive display of exceptional rose-colored blooms in early spring, Its form is mounding with lustrous green foliage. It is excellent for use as an accent plant, or for mass plantings and shrub borders. Rosy Lights is a moderate grower to 4 to 6 ft. tall and wide.
‘Orchid Lights’ – is bathed in stunning clusters of lilac purple trumpet-shaped flowers with fuchsia spots at the ends of the branches in mid spring before the leaves. It has green foliage throughout the season. Orchid Lights is an open multi-stemmed deciduous shrub with a more or less rounded form. Orchid Lights will grow to be about 3 feet tall by 4 feet wide.
‘White Lights’ – is smothered in stunning clusters of lightly-scented white trumpet-shaped flowers with a yellow blotch which emerge from shell pink flower buds before the leaves. Plant blooms in mid spring. It has green foliage throughout the season. The narrow leaves turn an outstanding purple in the fall. White lights will grow to 4 feet tall and wide at maturity.
‘Lemon Lights’ – is covered in stunning clusters of lightly-scented lemon yellow trumpet-shaped flowers with a yellow spot. Plant blooms in mid spring before the leaves. It has green foliage throughout the season. The narrow leaves turn an outstanding purple in the fall. Grow to 5 feet tall by 4 feet wide at maturity.
‘Mandarin Lights’ – is an extremely hardy selection that provides a massive display of bright, mandarin orange blooms, similar to those of the famous Exbury hybrid, ‘Gibraltar’. The small mounding form with lustrous green foliage is excellent for use as an accent plant, or for mass plantings and shrub borders. Plants reach 6-8 feet at maturity.
‘Northern Hi-Lights’ – has a lovely two-toned flower; pale creamy-yellow to white with a noticeable yellow blotch. The flowers are medium sized and plants reach to 4-6 feet tall and wide.