Encore azaleas

‘Autumn Twist’ azalea (below) began with a few scattered blooms early in August, and from the start of September and into mid October there are dozens of flowers clustered at branch tips. Other Encore azaleas hold off until cooler temperatures arrive in mid September before beginning to flower, and these will bloom through the first early frosts, often with a few flowers into early November in my northwestern Virginia garden.

I first planted Encore azaleas to test their cold hardiness, and to see if they would reliably rebloom in late summer and early autumn. My first experience was disappointing, with only a few flowers on azaleas planted in medium shade. I was encouraged by the nursery grower to plant in a sunnier location, and many varieties now bloom in spring and late summer without fail. Now, even the original shaded azaleas have begun to flower dependably.

Along the way I noticed that the Encore azaleas did not suffer lacebug damage nearly to the extent of the old favorites that I planted in my early gardens, ones that I gave up on as their vigor diminished each year. For years I had only a few scattered azaleas remaining in the garden, and I was convinced never to plant another until the Encores were introduced.

I’ve not been converted to an azalea lover, but the Encores are less bother than many other evergreen azaleas, and their extended bloom into early autumn is welcomed when there are few other flowers.

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8 thoughts on “Encore azaleas

  1. Hi Dave,
    My encore Azalea took a year to adjust and now for the last two years it has finally bloomed in spring and late summer and is in almost all shade. I have reverted to giving all azaleas systemic Bayer brand every 6 weeks and have had no issues with any since and my Camilia is popping buds right now like popcorn. It is loaded with buds and has many more than it ever has since using the Bayer flower and disease control. My roses love the stuff too!

    I also planted my American Smoke Tree that came yesterday and they sent me one 18 inches and one about 12, so I planted them about 6 inches apart in same two foot wide hole in yard and placed pine straw around them but not close to the trucks. I think this way I can get a double truck tree effect. they didn’t send any planting instructions so that is what I concluded. I also did amend the soil as usual with manure (natures helper). Let me know if you think of any other suggestions for me and I will water when soil is not too damp as this is a drought tolerant tree with cooler weather now… Oh, it gets sun from 8:00am till 3:30ish. Will get more sun in summer obviously, but that is more or less what it will get in the winter.

    Have a great evening!

    • After my initial disappointment it seems to me that an Encore azalea that is vigorously growing will bloom dependably. Although I don’t fertilize my azaleas, the growth that it encourages does not seem to be at the expense of forming bloom buds.

      I am assuming that the smoke trees that were delivered were container grown, since this would be early for bare root trees. There is no harm in planting the two trees closely, and two will fill in more quickly to look more substantial sooner.

      I am a believer that amending soil is overdone (even in heavy clay), and in some cases a rich soil mix can be detrimental to a tree’s survival. But, when mixed in moderation with the existing soil there is seldom a problem. The primary concern that I have is planting at the proper depth (slightly above the surrounding soil level to allow for settling), and the initial watering after planting.

  2. While nowhere near as eloquent, could have penned the same praises of the Encore Azalea from my full-sun garden in Millersville, MD. Two years ago, I clustered five different varieties pentagon-style as a focal point, albeit with more hope and desire than the basis of experience. Three have absolutely flourished while the remaining two have done OK but are not nearly as full, more spindly thin branches. All five have flowered continuously since early Sep and are just now starting to drop their flowers. Definitely competing with my neighbors Mums for colorful attention! Have only fertilized lightly with Hollytone 2-3 times Spring/Summer. Would you recommend a fall feeding this late? THANKS! for a great newsletter.

    • In the early years of my twenty-two year old garden I fertilized regularly with MIracleGro since I was impatient and wanted plants to fill in more quickly. In the twenty years since I have applied no fertilizer at all, and the only compost is dumping shredded leaves in dry shade areas.

      Most soils (except sandy soils) contain adequate nutrients for plants without fertilizing, so I recommend supplemental fertilizer only when a nutrient deficiency is obvious (such as chorosis) or when you want to boost growth a bit. My primary concern is that fertilizer costs money, and why waste it when plants grow just fine without.

      In any case, no fertilizer should be applied to evergreens after early August since there is a possibility that it will encourage new growth that will be injured by early frosts or freezes.

  3. Yes Dave,
    I do believe that they are container grown and because the root ball was so small the hardest part was getting it at the right depth. I planted them as close to surface soil as I could manage and still have them stand up, I hope that is going to be okay? Just keeping soil damp, not drenched… I amend just a little since a small bag lasts quite some time. I just mix in the clay like the Clemson extension tells you here to do a little till you get a better soil…. This is new land and had to purchase a pick ax to get through the clay!!

    The main reason that I put the Bayer Systemic down on Azaleas is because now I NEVER get disease and that is what is the worst thing about the work involved with keeping Azaleas!! If that starts happening again to me I agree with you and will have no problem finding something less touchy to replace them!! This stuff has also done miracles with my roses that climb and others that are of course not the always easy and beautiful double Knockouts!!

    I will watch tree closely and sure appreciate your input and Love reading all your information and looking at your beautiful photo’s and video. Have a nice evening.

  4. Hi Dave,

    I’m getting ready to plant azaleas throughout my front and back gardens. If you wouldn’t mind, I have a couple questions about Encores and your experience with them. I live in Maryland, Zone 7A, so likely similar to your area. The sun on our back garden is unobstructed for about 8 hours during the summer, but the front garden (against the house) doesn’t get much direct sun until early to mid-afternoons depending upon the season, so about 4 to 5 hours direct sun in summer. Would you be hesitant about planting Encores in either the front or the back? i.e. would regular azaleas possibly be better?

    The a second question, how well do Encores bloom in the spring? Do they bloom as heavy as a normal azalea would? I didn’t know if the flowers were more sparse, more rhododendron-like, than a normal flower-covered azalea.

    Thanks for your thoughts, and great article by the way.

    Tom

    • Encore azaleas are culturally the same as other azaleas, so there’s no advantage in planting an azalea that flowers only in the spring. Encore azaleas set more flower buds with more sun, though azaleas typically appreciate a break from the hottest afternoon sun. With more sun I’d recommend spending a bit more to improve the soil so it is more moisture retentive. By mixing leaf compost with the clay soil, or by adding topsoil to raise beds the soil is better suited to the azaleas’ cultural requirements (moist, but well drained soil). In more sun azaleas might also require more regular irrigation, but these conditions wouldn’t bother me too much. Some of mine are planted in almost full sun with no additional care given at all, and they grow and bloom well.

      Overall, I’d say that Encores flower slightly less in spring than the heaviest blooming Kurume azaleas that are completely covered in late April. Still, they flower comparably to most spring only blooming azaleas, and the late summer, early autumn blooming period lasts for more than a month compared to spring flowering of only a few weeks.

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