Article by Al Hight from the Brunswick County Extension.
One of the great plant success stories of recent years has to be the Encore azaleas. Developed by azalea breeder Buddy Lee of Independence, La., this group of evergreen plants provides decent spring color and an even better flower show in the fall. Twenty-four selections of Encore azaleas are currently available. Visit www.encoreazalea.com to see the different forms and flower colors.
Rather than list a lot of information you can find elsewhere, included are some personal observations about this great group of plants:
Encores definitely have the same growing requirements as other evergreen azaleas. Success depends on high organic matter soil and good drainage. A soil pH between 5.5 and 6.0 works best. Higher pH’s result in typical iron chlorosis. The plant tag offers that these azaleas handle full sun better than other azaleas. That may be true, but the ones I’ve grown in my own garden perform best with a bit of protection from the hottest summer sun.
Four years ago, I planted several of the Autumn Empress azaleas, a medium height, hose-in-hose pink with excellent foliage in a site that wasn’t ideal. They didn’t die but certainly didn’t thrive. I rescued three of them and re-planted in a more typical “azalea” growing area. They have done well since the move becoming one of my favorite Encores.
Another favorite is Autumn Twist. This vigorous grower has a bit of an identity crisis sporting out blooms that range from dominantly lavender to almost completely white and lots with variegated white and lavender in between. Twist isn’t the choice for large beds of a single variety when you’re going to for mass effect, but it’s great as a single specimen or small grouping.
Some varieties are already putting on a show early this year. Autumn Chiffon, a nice pale pink, is covered in blooms. Autumn Sangria, a larger darker pink, is also beginning to show color.
Last year, I added two white selections to the garden—Autumn Moonlight and Autumn Starlight. Moonlight has clear, vibrant white blooms that are great next to a walkway picking up that last bit of daylight and playing off your landscape lighting. Starlight has variegated blooms that are mostly white with streaks of light purple.
Of the 13 that I have added to my own garden and all of the others I’ve had the opportunity to see growing locally, I don’t think you’ll go wrong with any of the Encore azaleas. While the flower show doesn’t quite have the “knock your socks off” effect of the regular spring bloomers at any one time, it’s great to have color three to four months of the year.
Come and check out all of the Encore azaleas at the Brunswick Botanical Garden in Bolivia. You can stop by any day during daylight hours. If you want information or questions answered, our regular office hours are 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.