Each spring, vivid displays of color dominate southern landscapes. Many native and hybrid azalea cultivars put on a floral show, but Encore Azaleas are perhaps the most popular.
Encore Azaleas are an azalea cultivar known for their extended bloom time. Their name derives from the fact that they bloom not only in spring, but also in summer and/or fall.
Encore Azaleas have many benefits that make them a favorite with southern gardeners. Our handy guide will help you understand what makes them so special and to choose the varieties that will flourish in your location.
How Do Encore Azaleas Differ from Other Varieties?
It would be easy to assume azaleas are all the same, except for the color of their flowers. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. While all azaleas are part of the genus Rhododendron, the “branches” of that family tree can be quite different.
For example, some azaleas are evergreen, while others lose their leaves each winter. Some have single blooms, some boast double, and some azalea varieties present tubular flowers. Additionally, some azalea varieties grow quite large, while others remain compact.
Encore Azaleas differ from other azalea varieties in several beneficial ways:
Extended Bloom Time
Like many flowering shrubs, different types of azaleas have different blooming seasons. The result of crossing spring-blooming azaleas with a rare Taiwanese summer-blooming azalea, Encore Azaleas bloom in the spring, summer, and fall. Some varieties continue to produce blooms for up to ten months a year. Comparatively, native azaleas in Georgia bloom only in the spring.
Azaleas vary greatly when it comes to mature height and width. Some hybrid cultivars are over 8 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Native varieties can reach up to 20 feet. That means it’s important to know what you’re getting before planting. If you’re looking for smaller foundation or bedding plants, consider Encore Azaleas. Reaching just 2 to 5 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide, these azaleas are small in habit, but bold on blooms. Due to their compact size, they fit more easily into landscapes and gardens where space is a concern.
Sun and Shade Flexibility
Most azaleas prefer filtered light and will bloom best when exposed to the morning sun. However, Encore Azaleas are more stress tolerant than some other varieties. They can handle 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day. This makes them a better choice than native or other hybrid azaleas for sunny areas of the garden.
Encore Azaleas are known for their disease and pest resistance, while native azaleas can be more susceptible to disease.
A Bevy of Beautiful Blooms
With over 33 different color and size varieties, there’s an Encore Azalea to suit almost any landscape design. Native azalea colors most often come in shades of yellow, orange and pink, making them more limited.
Because of their extended blooming time, Encore Azaleas can play an important role in attracting pollinators to your garden. They also provide nectar for hummingbirds, which are drawn to red, pink, and orange blooms.
Easy to Care For
Encore Azaleas are even more low maintenance than some other azalea varieties. They rarely require pruning to maintain a suitable size and shape. Once established, they also have low supplemental irrigation needs.
Encore Azaleas in Landscape Design
Choosing Companion Plants
Choosing companion plants in landscape design can sometimes be tricky, but Encore Azaleas make it easy. While there’s really no wrong choice, you’ll have more success if you choose plants with similar soil and light requirements. Gardenias, liriope, Hosta lilies, and hydrangeas all make suitable companions.
Using as Hedges
If you’re looking for an alternative to traditional evergreen hedges, Encore Azaleas are a great choice. Not only do they stay green throughout the year, but their extensive variety of bloom colors add visual interest to your landscape.
Growing in Containers
Due to their smaller size and compact growth habit, Encore Azaleas work well in containers. Dwarf varieties are particularly suited to container life, reaching heights of just 2 to 3 feet. With proper care and feeding, they will also bloom reliably from spring through fall, helping to add color to your porch, patio, or container garden.
Caring for Encore Azaleas
Proper Planting Technique
When planting your Encore Azaleas, be sure to dig a hole twice as wide as deep. Incorporate organic mixture into the soil to boost drainage and add nutrients. After removing the azalea from its pot, loosen the root ball before placing it into the prepared hole, slightly above soil level. Fill in the hole, water thoroughly, and then cover with mulch.
It’s important to water Encore Azaleas, especially when newly planted. Keep the soil moist until winter and cover with pine straw to boost soil acidity. However, they don’t like standing water, so be sure to plant them in a well-drained area of your landscape.
Fortunately, Encore Azaleas require very little pruning to keep their size manageable. Nor do they need to be deadheaded to rebloom. However, if you do want to prune your Encore Azalea, be sure to do so in the spring, immediately after flowering. This will maximize your bud set for the next bloom cycle.
Planting Encore Azaleas in well-draining soil with plenty of air circulation between plants can help prevent most common diseases. Too much trapped moisture can facilitate the growth of fungus such as petal blight and leaf spot. If you notice brown or white spots on your azalea’s foliage, treat it with a fungicide.
Soil Requirements & Fertilization
Encore Azaleas prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5.0-6.5. Do a soil test to determine your soil’s pH before fertilization. Because they are sensitive to heavy fertilization, limit feeding to once a year in early spring. If your plants need an extra nutrient boost later in the growing season, you can apply liquid fertilizer, per label instructions, directly to the foliage.
There are five USDA growing zones in Georgia, ranging from 6b in the North Georgia Mountains, to 8b along the coast. The Atlanta area falls into zones 7a-7b. While most Encore Azaleas grow well in our southern climate, it’s important to check your specimen’s cold hardiness before planting.
Whatever variety you choose, you can protect it from harsh winter weather by following these tips:
- Water well when the forecast calls for freezing temperatures.
- Ensure your azalea is protected by a thick layer of mulch.
- Cover with burlap or another breathable freeze guard in heavy snowfall or ice.
Our Favorite Encore Azaleas
Because Encore Azaleas bloom throughout the fall, each cultivar’s name begins with ‘Autumn.’ Some of our favorite choices include:
Autumn Amethyst Cultivar
Single, vibrant pinkish-purple flowers.
Autumn Embers Cultivar
Bright red blooms with wavy edges.
Autumn Belle Cultivar
Bi-colored pink blooms with ruffled edges.
Add Encore Azaleas to Your Landscape
Overall, Encore Azaleas are a great alternative to native azaleas in Georgia, offering longer bloom periods, disease resistance, and a wider range of colors to choose from. If you’d like more information on using them in landscape design or would like to schedule installation contact Oasis!