Azaleas certainly brighten spring, but they can be a challenge to grow in many places. Maybe they aren't quite hardy, maybe they're tricky to grow, maybe they're slow to grow and develop a presence, and here in the upper midwest most of those things are true to some extent. Around this latitude (a hard zone 5), one of the earliest and hardiest (zone 4) azaleas is also one of the easiest and least fussy to grow, the Manchurian/Korean azalea (Rhododendron mucronulatum). These deciduous shrubs grow fairly quickly and easily to 6 feet, and they spring forth with bright, rosy-pink flowers in small clusters. They look just great in border areas mixed with other shrubs, so says the Prophet Dirr. However, this species is not the most common in the trade, so you may have to look a bit to find one.