A hybrid variety, Encore azalea features many traits not found in traditional azaleas. The evergreen plant keeps its attractive foliage year-round, produces a second "encore" of blossoms after the first blooming and requires no deadheading to continue flowering. Hardy to USDA zone 7, Encore azalea produces blossoms until nightly temperatures drop to about 22 degrees F. The plant requires regular care, especially during the first year of growth. But once established, Encore azaleas are relatively drought-tolerant and need only occasional maintenance to thrive.
Choose a planting site for Encore azaleas that receives full sunlight throughout the day and consists of well-drained, fertile soil for optimal growth. Plant during spring or fall, as long as there is no risk of frost, spacing each plant about 3 feet apart.
Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over the planting site surrounding the azaleas to improve moisture retention and prevent weeds. Do not allow the mulch to touch the plant's crown, to minimize the risk of fungal disease.
Water Encore azaleas once every other day during the summer in the first year of growth to ensure the plant receives enough moisture. Reduce watering frequency to once every four to five days thereafter. Soak the soil around the plant to a depth of 8 to 10 inches at each application.
Feed the shrubs once a year during spring, after the threat of frost has passed, with a balanced, slow-release azalea fertilizer. Apply according to the manufacturer's instructions and water lightly after application for the best results.
Prune Encore azaleas immediately after spring flowering ends. Use pruning shears to remove any dead or damaged limbs, and cut back any excessively long growth. The plant requires no deadheading to produce additional blossoms.