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 · 10,787 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 in spring, 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

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

Sun Exposure
Encore Azaleas perform best in sites that offer anywhere from full sun to part shade. All day filtered sun or morning sun with afternoon shade are okay. A minimum of four hours of direct sunlight per day is required for proper blooms. Too much shade can result in skipped or significantly reduced bloom cycles.

Check Soil Drainage
Encore Azaleas grow best in a soil that is well-drained but moist. As with many other plants, they do not like a constantly soggy or wet soil, which can lead to root rot and other plant diseases. If you are uncertain about soil drainage in the area you intend to plant your Encore Azaleas, it's well worth taking the time to test the drainage before planting. To test soil drainage, dig a hole 12" wide by 12" in the planting area. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Then, after it drains, fill it with water again, but this time clock how long it takes to drain. In well-drained soil the water level will go down at a rate of about 1 inch an hour. A faster rate, such as in loose, sandy soil, may signal potentially dry site conditions. A slower rate indicates poor draining soil and could be a caution you might need to improve drainage, plant in a raised mound or bed, or look for plants that are more tolerant of wet or boggy conditions.

How you intend to use your Encore Azaleas will determine how far apart you space them. When planting a hedge, space plants 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. If you want space between plants separate them by more than the mature width dimensions.

Dig a hole at a depth equal to the height and two to three times as wide as the container your Encore Azalea was growing in. Turn and break up the soil removed from the planting hole. Mix some compost, such as Root Zone Organic Planting Mix with the soil. This is especially important if you have heavy clay soil. Remove your Encore Azalea from its container and carefully but firmly loosen some feeder roots around the surface of 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 a 1- to 1.5-inch layer of shredded wood mulch or pine straw.

Water your Encore Azalea deeply when you first plant it. During the first growing season 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. So just keep the soil moist during the first growing season. Your Encore Azaleas should not need regular watering after the first year unless there are periods of excessive drought. Wilting new leaves are a sign your plants need a good deep soaking.

Fertilize with the recommended levels of azalea food or a "goof proof" organic fertilizer such as Nitroganic soon after planting. Therafter, feed after the first bloom cyscle in spring. To avoid damage from an early frost in fall, cease feeding after August.

Fall & Winter Planting Care: Encore Azaleas do well and are easier to establish when they are planted in fall. New roots produced in fall will help the azalea benefit from an early spring root flush so it will flourish in the next growing season. During the first winter, it's a good idea to cover your young azalea with insulating covering when temperatures are foecast to drop below 20 degrees F. As your Encore Azalea matures, it will need less winter care. Although less watering is necessary when planted during the fall or winter seasons, do not allow the roots to become dry.

Encore Azaleas do not have to be pruned, or their flowers deadheaded. That being said, they respond very well to pruning and, in fact, will benefit from it. Encore Azaleas are unique in that they bloom in the spring, summer and fall. So when is the best time to prune them? Unlike most other types of azaleas, which only set flower buds one time a year during fall and then bloom in spring, Encore Azaleas produce buds every time new growth is produced. So, pruning Encore Azaleas immediately after the spring bloom cycle will encourage more new growth, and consequently more flower buds. When pruning a healthy Encore Azalea, use sharp pair of bypass hand pruners to cut back branches that have outgrown the rest of the shrub and are spoiling the shape of the plant. Cut these branches back to a point just a couple or few inches above the main form of the plant. Make your cuts about an inch or so above a leaf.

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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