Azaleas for Iowa: Winter Hardy 'Lights' Series

rosy lights azalea
Rosy Lights

The ‘Lights’ series of deciduous azaleas are introductions from the University of Minnesota.  They are known for their flower bud hardiness and incredible floral displays in May in Iowa. Like most deciduous azaleas, they bloom before the leaves fully emerge.  Flower buds withstand at least -30°F temperatures during the winter.  This makes them reliable spring bloomers across the Upper Midwest.

Since the 1980’s there have been several introductions of Lights azaleas.  There is a wide range of flower colors and heights available.

Lights Series Azaleas for Midwest Gardens

Cultivar NameHeight (feet)Flower ColorComments
Candy Lights5-6Light pink w/yellow streaksFragrant flowers
Electric Lights Double Pink6Double flowers; pinkBud hardy to -30°F
Electric Lights Red4Cardinal redBud hardy to -30°F
Golden Lights4-6Peachy yellow  Fragrant flowers
Lemon Lights5-6Primrose yellowNarrow, upright habit
Lilac Lights3-5Pinkish purple 
Mandarin Lights5-7Bright orangeExtremely hardy
Northern Hi-Lights5-6White with yellow petal 
Northern Lights4-7pinkFragrant flowers
Orchid Lights2-3Orchid pink/purpleEarly flowers; extremely hardy
Rosy Lights4-6Rosy pinkFragrant flowers; extremely hardy
Spicy Lights5-7Salmon pink 
Tri Lights5Light pink w/yellow highlight 
White Lights5-6White w/yellow highlight 
golden lights azalea
Golden Lights
mandarin lights azalea
Mandarin Lights


Plants prefer partial sun, but can perform well in full sun, especially when protected from the hot, afternoon sun.  At least 4-6 hours of direct light per day ensures good bloom. 

They require and well-drained soils and don't require low soil pH like other members of the Rhododendron genus.  Most perform well in the pH levels typical to Iowa and the upper Midwest.  

Plants are relatively shallow-rooted so they benefit from a layer of mulch and consistent moisture (just not wet).  

After planting protect plants over winter from rabbit damage.  

Northern Hi-Lights Azalea
Northern Hi-Lights
electric lights red azalea
Electric Lights Red

More Information

Last reviewed:
May 2024