Azaleas are the biggest teaser of all flowering plants. Its commanding blooms in the spring turn every head from butterfly to bee to human. But, as summer approaches, the azalea decides that flowering time is over. Your memories of an azalea Eden will have to sustain for ten more months.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Thanks to the miracles of modern horticulture, there are azaleas out there that just start their show in the spring. They return for an encore in the summer, and then again in the fall. You can cheer three times for this wonder plant, which is appropriately called the Encore Azalea.
A Little History
For hundreds of years, hybrid experts have experimented with azaleas to create new colors, sizes, and seasonal adaptability. Over 10,000 different azaleas are registered and named. The new champion of this azalea metropolis is the Encore. Its journey to the top began with azalea expert, Robert Lee. The Louisiana native began experimenting on azaleas in his backyard. He crossed the traditional spring blooms with the Rhododendron oldhamii, a scarce Taiwanese summer bloomer. For fifteen years, Lee worked to perfect the azalea. In 1997 (with marketing from PDSI and Flowerwood Nursery), the Encore became commercially available. Word spread faster than crabgrass, and it soon became the world’s best selling reblooming azalea with presently 29 varieties to choose from.
The Same Care
Despite its star status (with fans ranging from Southern Living to HGTV), the Encore requires the same care as the traditional azalea. Most Encores thrive in growing zones 6-10, and its evergreen status means color even in the doldrums of winter.
Maintenance? Check this out…
● Pest and disease free
● Rarely needs pruning
● No fertilizer once mature
Azaleas love a slightly acidic soil (ph 5.5-6). Mulch with with pine bark or pine needles to not only keep moisture in, but also to lend some acid to the azalea’s home. Avoid the “wet feet” syndrome by providing a moist but not saturated soil. Fertilizing is optional, but if you’re a glutton for more blooms, feed three times before each bloom with an organic azalea fertilizer (4-3-4). Finally, you can have the shade garden of your dreams since the Encores thrive in a partial shade setting.
Which Encore is Right for You?
Basically, you are looking for desired color and size in your Encore Azalea. All of them bloom three times a year, all of them are evergreen (unlike every other North American azalea species), and all of them attract butterflies. The Encores can accompany almost any garden design, from a regal row hedge to a perennial flower bed backdrop to even a container garden.
Autumn Debutante Encore
The Debutante is the only pink azalea to bloom in all three seasons. The blooms reach up to 3” in size. This azalea can grow to four feet high and wide, making it a versatile choice in the landscape. Although it can handle full sun, a partial shade environment is best.
Autumn Angel Encore
This angel of the azalea world lends its white blooms in spring, summer, and fall. The abundant 3 inch blooms can either stop the show in the garden or as a cut flower in floral arrangements. The Autumn Angel reaches 3 feet high and wide at maturity, providing a centerpiece without hogging all the garden space.
Autumn Royalty Encore
The Autumn Royalty is the queen of the Encore series, thanks to its Azalea of the Year award in 2004 by the American Rhododendron Society. It casts its purple reign of flowers all growing season until winter begs it to stop. Its mid-size at maturity (5 feet high and wide) makes it an impeccable choice for a royal purple hedgerow.
Autumn Embers Encore
You’ll be seeing red all through the growing season. The orange-red 2.5 inch double blooms of the Autumn Embers will show up every flower on the block. Its cozy size (3 feet high and wide) makes it a great choice for a groundcover.