By Southern Living Plants
Photographs courtesy of Southern Living Plants
Gardeners know fall is a great time of year to plant trees, shrubs, and flowering bulbs, but did you know fall is an ideal time for azalea planting, too?
Because Encore Azaleas bloom in spring, summer, and fall, planting them in the garden before winter’s frost gives you double benefits. First you’ll enjoy their vibrant blooms until first frost and then Encore Azaleas will enjoy a period of dormancy to become established before next spring’s arrival.
Even after the fall blooms fade away on Encore Azaleas, they retain their leaves in cold weather, with the evergreen foliage providing a beautiful backdrop for the winter garden. Some varieties of Encore Azalea even display winter foliage — azalea leaf colors of maroon, bronze, purple or copper.
During the dormant period, the branches may stop growing; but underneath the soil, the roots are developing a healthy support system — fortifying the Encore Azalea to produce beautiful new growth the following spring.
Continuing Blooms, Continuous Color
Encore Azaleas bloom in spring like traditional azaleas. Once the spring blooming concludes, new shoots begin to grow and set buds. Then blooms emerge again in mid-summer and continue in many areas until first frost. Invented by plant breeder Robert E. “Buddy” Lee, the multi-season bloomers are the product of crossing spring-blooming azaleas with a rare Taiwanese summer-blooming azalea.
Encore Azaleas are recommended for USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7 to 10 and are especially cold and heat hardy with a higher resistance to diseases and pests than traditional azaleas. University cold-hardiness trials show that 24 varieties of Encore Azalea are cold-hardy up to zone 6a.
Unlike traditional azaleas, Encore Azaleas like full sun or high, filtered shade. Choose a location that receives four to six hours of direct sunlight per day for optimal blooms; morning sunlight is preferred. Select an area with good drainage, and since azaleas are acid-loving plants, having a soil sample tested is a good idea. If you find your soil type is not ideal, here are some tips on amending your soil for azaleas.
For each azalea plant, turn the soil over well and dig a hole twice as wide as it is deep. Mix some organic compost or peat moss with the soil. Remove the Encore Azalea from its container and carefully but firmly loosen the root ball. Set the plant into the prepared hole with the top of the root ball above the soil. Pull the soil around the plant, water thoroughly, and cover with mulch. Learn more about care for and planting of Encore Azaleas.