Each year, the American Rhododendron Society (ARS) carefully selects plants that will receive "Rhododendron of the Year" honours. The awards are designed to help gardeners choose rhododendrons and azaleas that will thrive in their area—they are selected based on what has historically done well in the gardens of ARS members. The winners represent all seven geographic regions of North America, so you're bound to find a plant that will do well in your zone.
Elepidote: ‘Janet Blair’ (Dexter hybrid x unknown)
A vigorous plant with frilled light pink flowers that have a golden bronze flare on the upper petal. It is both cold hardy and heat tolerant. It branches well, has a mounding growth habit with glossy green foliage and grows to six feet in 10 years. (Leach introduction of a Dexter hybrid formerly known as ‘John Wister.’)
Lepidote: ‘Ginny Gee’ (R. keiskei (prostrate form) x R. racemosum (Forrest 19404))
Two-toned pink and white flowers, changing in colour daily until they fade to white, totally cover this dense, compact plant in early spring. It is heat and drought tolerant. Small dark green leaves turn a dark maroon in winter. A dwarf plant, it grows to two feet in 10 years and is hardy to -23 C (-10 F). It won an ARS Superior Plant Award in 1985.
Photo by Ron Knight