Encore azalea Autumn Belle
Virtues: Encore azaleas bloom in spring, summer and fall, rather than only in spring. They also tolerate sun much better than most azaleas, taking up to six hours of direct sun in most areas. The series offers a wide variety of colors and shrub sizes (31 cultivars in all); this diversity helps Encore azaleas fit into a wide range of garden schemes.
Common name: Encore azalea. For all varietal names and descriptions, see here.
Exposure: Part sun or filtered shade. Four to six hours of direct sun will promote the best growth and bloom. Hot afternoon sun should be avoided, however.
Season: Spring, summer and into fall, for flowers.
Flowers: Colors range from white through pinks and reds into purple, depending on variety. Some varieties show two-tone flowers. All Encore azalea varieties bloom in spring, then begin to grow, then form new flower buds that will open in midsummer and typically continue to open and last into fall.
Origins: Plant breeder Robert “Buddy” Lee began developing Encore azaleas in the 1980s, crossing traditional azaleas with summer-blooming Rhododendron oldhamii.
How to grow Encore azaleas: Site in an area that receives 4 to 6 hours of sun or consistent filtered shade. Plant in well-drained soil rich in organic matter. When planting, loosen the rootball and plant the azalea so that the top of the rootball sits even with the ground or even a little above it. Avoid afternoon sun, especially in hot regions. Water regularly the first year; azaleas and rhododendrons require consistent moisture while getting established. After the first year, provide supplemental water only in times of drought. Fertilize with azalea/camellia feed just after the spring bloom. If you wish to prune an Encore azalea, do so right after its spring bloom, to avoid removing the flower buds of its next bloom cycle. USDA Zones 6–9.
Images courtesy of Encore Azalea