Azaleas are known for their beautiful show of color in the spring. Twice blooming azaleas, which are Encore azaleas, are just that---they give you a repeat performance of stunning color in the fall. There are over 20 varieties of Encore azaleas and growing habits are almost as varied. When you choose an Encore azalea, consider its color as well as its growing habits in your garden plan.
The Encore azalea is a hybrid developed through the genius of Robert E. "Buddy" Lee of Independence, Louisiana. The beginning of this beauty dates back to the early 1980s, as Mr. Lee sought to create a winter-hardy evergreen. Autumn Amethyst, one of the earliest varieties, actually began with a seed collection in 1968 at Taiwan's Mount Tai Tun. When first introduced in 1998, Encore azaleas offered six varieties, ranging from dwarf compacts to large background plants.
Growing habits of Encore azaleas include upright and spreading; medium tall, dense and spreading; low, spreading and dense; upright and rounded; upright; mounding; and compact and bushy. Mature sizes range from 2.5 by 4 feet to 5 by 5 feet. When you plan where to plant an Encore, be sure to give it enough space to grow to full size.
Flowers and Foliage
There are single and semi-double blooms ranging from 2 to 3.5 inches in diameter in purple, lilac, salmon, white, orange-red, rouge red, deep pink and bright red. Variety abounds in Encore's foliage as well. Southern Blush has foliage that turns purple during winter, white Autumn Amethyst foliage turns a deeper green during the winter. The plants are evergreen in Zones 7 and above.
Select a location in your garden that gets morning sun and afternoon shade. Prepare the soil by tilling to a depth of at least 10 inches and adding plenty of organic matter. Encore azaleas thrive in well-draining organic soil with 5.0 to 5.5 pH. Keep soil moist but not wet. Since azaleas have shallow roots, apply 2 to 4 inches of mulch to retain moisture and a healthy root environment.
If pruning is required, wait until after the Encore azalea blooms in the spring. Replenish mulch as needed in the spring and fall. The mulch, as it decomposes, will supply all the nutrients your Encore azaleas need to stay healthy. Chemical fertilizers can do more harm than good with azaleas. If there is a threat of frost, cover your Encores to protect them. Azaleas become hardier with age.