I’ve written in the past about Encore reblooming azaleas, though I blame no one for failing to pay full attention. I’ve been known to occasionally pay only part of a mind to reading or conversations, and to remember nothing a few minutes later. Ask my wife.
For those who have read and remembered I won’t bore you with the full story, but after initially planting old Kurume type azaleas in my new garden twenty some years ago, I let them fade and fail, due in equal parts to lacebug infestations and poorly drained clay soil. For years I had no azaleas in the garden except for the dependable and perhaps indestructible Delaware Valley White, and a few deciduous types, until I was introduced to Encore azaleas. The grower claimed these would flower in three seasons, and though I had witnessed this along the Gulf coast, I was determined to test and find out for myself.
The first Encore azaleas were planted in what I figured to be ideal azalea growing conditions, part to mostly shade and as well drained an area as I could manage. From the start most flowered poorly, in spring, summer, or autumn until the grower informed me that the best blooming was achieved by planting in nearly full sun. The second batch was planted with varying amounts of sunlight, but more than the first group, and they’ve bloomed dependably in the spring and from early to mid September (very late summer) into October (early autumn). Thus, two periods of flowering cover parts of three seasons, but (not to be too nitpicky) this is a considerably longer period of bloom than typical spring flowering azaleas.
By the time the second batch of Encores began to flower, many of the ones first planted caught on and began to bloom dependably. My son and I removed a few overhanging branches from tall maples and tulip poplars that border the garden, and though the area remains quite shaded it’s apparent that there is now just enough sunlight to promote blooming. Flowering in this shaded area starts a bit later in the spring and a little sooner in late summer than in the sunny spots, and the flowers persist longer without direct sunlight.
There were perhaps ten varieties of Encores planted in the first batch, and many of the same with a few additions in the second group. After a few years a couple varieties grew and flowered poorly, and unfortunately I’m not much of a record keeper so I can’t recall which ones didn’t perform well enough. In recent years several new Encores have been introduced, and with more testing there is more information on which varieties have greater cold hardiness. My own planting has confirmed the ones that flower most dependably in late summer and early autumn (pictured on this page), with a couple that flower late enough that occasionally cold weather creeps in before they have bloomed.
I’ve had Encore azaleas flower into December when abnormally warm temperatures persist, but with several varieties planted it’s reasonable to expect flowering from mid-September through October, and a few varieties that will bloom for the first few weeks of November. With cooler temperatures flowering in late summer and early autumn is much longer than the typical two weeks of bloom in the spring, and some varieties will flower for nearly two months.