How To Plant And Care For Encore Azaleas

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This article provides instructions for planting and caring for Encore Azaleas
by Brent Wilson · All Zones · Shrubs · 0 Comments · April 02, 2011 · 10,051 views

More Blooms, More Often

Encore Azalea 'Autumn Belle'People who like spring blooming azaleas are really gonna love the Encore Azaleas. Why? Because Encore Azaleas bloom in spring, summer and fall!

Each of the many Encore varieties begins their performance with the spring flowering season. Once this "first act" of blooming concludes, new shoots begin to grow and set buds. The Encore Azalea's "second act" opens when these buds begin blooming into full flower during summer. This unique bloom season continues through the fall, the curtain dropping with the onset of cold weather. But, the show goes on. As an "encore," these exceptional azaleas flower again with traditional spring azaleas and the process starts over.

Invented by plant breeder Robert E. "Buddy" Lee of Independence, La., the evergreen Encore Azaleas enjoy more sun than traditional azaleas, but offer the same easy care. Lee first envisioned Encore Azaleas in the early 1980s when he found a tray of azalea cuttings blooming in the summer sun at his small Louisiana azalea nursery. Inspired, he began crossing traditional spring-blooming azaleas with the rare Taiwanese summer-blooming azalea, Rhododendron oldhamii.

Planting & Caring for Encore Azaleas

The Plant: Encore Azaleas are similar to traditional azaleas in that they require proper planting, watering and care to thrive in their new home. Here are a few simple guidelines to help your new plants grow to their fullest potential:

Sun Exposure: Encore Azaleas perform best in full sun to light, filtered shade, preferably an afternoon shade. (In the deep South, and hotter regions, Encore Azaleas prefer morning sun with afternoon shade). A minimum of four to six hours of direct sunlight per day is required for proper blooms. Care must be taken to prevent exposure to drought or other heat related stress conditions associated with full sun exposure. However, too shady an area can result in skipped or significantly reduced bloom cycles.

Ground Preparation: Dig a hole at a depth equal to the height and two to three times the width of the container your Encore Azalea was growing in and fill it with water. If the hole drains within a few hours, you have good drainage. If the water is still standing 12 hours later, improve the drainage in your bed, perhaps by establishing a raised bed. A soil sample is always a good idea. Azaleas are acid-loving plants, so optimum PH levels in the soil are between 5.5 and 6.5.

Planting: Turn and break up the soil removed from the planting hole. Mix some organic compost or peat moss with the soil. (This is especially important if you have sandy or heavy clay soil.) Remove your Encore Azalea from its container and carefully but firmly loosen the root ball. Set the plant into the hole you've prepared, making sure the top of the root ball is slightly above the soil level. Pull your soil around the plant, water thoroughly and cover with mulch.

Spring & Summer Planting Care, Feeding & Watering: Water your Encore Azalea well when you first plant it, and keep the soil moist, but not wet, until winter. New azaleas will die quickly if the soil dries excessively and they can develop root rot if the soil stays constantly soggy wet. Your new Encore Azalea should not need regular watering after the first year unless there are periods of excessive drought. Just make sure to keep the soil moist, but not wet during the first year and then water as needed based on rainfall and weather conditions. Fertilize with the recommended levels of azalea feed soon after planting. Do not fertilize after August. This fertilizing schedule is highly recommended for areas with sandy soils.

Fall & Winter Planting Care: Encore Azaleas do well and are easier to establish when they are planted in Fall or Winter. New roots produced in the Fall will help the azalea benefit from an early spring root flush so it will flourish in the next growing season. Although less watering is necessary when planted during the cool season, do not allow the roots to become dry. Cover your young azalea with insulating covering when extreme cold weather approaches. As your Encore Azalea matures, it will need less winter care. Do not fertilize until after the last frost in Spring, preferably just after the spring flush of blooms. When you do fertilize, use azalea feed (or a natural or organic plant food as directed). This fertilizing schedule is highly recommended in areas with sandy soils.

Pruning: Encore Azaleas require very little pruning to retain good form and do not need "dead-heading." When pruning Encore Azalea needs pruning, do so immediately after the spring flowering for maximum bud set. Light pruning of more established plants will stimulate growth and flowering.

Spacing: Encore Azaleas should be planted the same width apart as the mature dimensions specify. This measurement should be taken from the center of one plant to the center of the other. For example: Autumn Angel's mature dimensions are 3 feet wide. In order to have mature Autumn Angel Encore Azaleas bunched next to each other, you should plant them 3 feet apart, starting at the center of one plant and measuring to the center of the other. If you would like space between your azaleas, you should separate them by more than the mature width dimensions.

General Tidbits: If your Encore Azalea has been thriving for a year or more but is not producing blooms, we recommend a soil test to pinpoint any problems. If you're soil remains consistently wet this can cause root rot and diminish health.

Your local landscape professional or county extension agent can help you decipher your soil test and provide you with additional care instructions.

Brown foliage can be an indicator of over-fertilizing and under-watering.

Leaves that slowly turn black or brown from the tips inward can be a sign of root rot caused by consistently wet soil conditions. Azaleas prefer consistent moisture but do not like wet feet. Planting in well-drained sites is recommended.

To see all Encore Azalea Plant Files type in the words "Encore Azalea" in the site search at the top of this page

Brent Wilson

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Brent Wilson - Brent Wilson is an avid gardener and one of the co-founders of Gardenality. He is co-owner of Wilson Bros Nursery & Garden Center in McDonough Georgia

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