1. When should you plant Encore Azaleas?
Fall is the best time of year to plant your Encore Azalea. This will give the plant time to get its root system established before it begins to concentrate on blooming in the spring. You may also plant in spring, after the fear of frost has passed. (It is not uncommon for the first full bloom cycle to be more sparse and/or erratic than once your Encores get fully established in their new home.) A raised bed, which will provide adequate drainage, is ideal for Encore Azaleas.
Ground Preparation: Dig a hole 6-8 inches deep and fill it with water. If the hole drains within a few hours, you have good drainage. If the water is still standing 12 hours later, improve the drainage in your bed. You may have to take corrective action, perhaps by establishing a raised bed. A soil sample is always a good idea. Azaleas are acid-loving plants, so optimum PH levels in the soil should be between 5.5 and 6.5.
Planting: Turn the soil well and dig a hole twice as wide as it is deep. Mix some organic compost or peat moss with the soil. (This is especially important if you have sandy or heavy clay soil.) Remove your Encore Azalea from its container and loosen the root ball. Set the plant into the hole you’ve prepared, making sure the top of the root ball is above the soil level. Pull your soil around the plant, water thoroughly and cover with mulch. Encore Azalea perform best in sun to partial shade, preferably afternoon partial shade. They will tolerate full sunlight, but care must be taken to prevent them from exposure to drought or other related stress conditions. It is absolutely imperative that Encores receive adequate sunlight in order to produce their spectacular blooms — at least four to six hours per day are recommended. Encore Azaleas planted in shady areas will not perform according to expectations.
Spacing: Encore Azaleas should be planted the same width apart as the mature dimensions specify. This measurement should be taken from the center of one plant to the center of the other. For example: Autumn Angel's mature dimensions are 3 feet wide. In order to have mature Autumn Angel Encore Azaleas bunched next to each other, you should plant them 3 feet apart, starting at the center of one plant and measuring to the center of the other. If you would like space between your azaleas, you should separate them by more than the mature width dimensions.
2. How do you water Encore Azaleas?
During the hot summer months, and especially during their first year in the ground when the root system is developing, azaleas are thirsty. Make sure to thoroughly soak the entire root ball every other day, allowing the moisture to seep 8-10" deep. (After the first year when the roots are fully established, they won't need as much water.) It is important to have good drainage around your Encores so that water does not stand around the fibrous root ball; the shallow, fibrous roots like to dry out a little in between waterings. If the roots get too much water, root rot can set in, and the moisture won't be delivered to the upper plant. Because damp or dry weather will dictate how much water your Encores need, monitor your waterings carefully to find the right balance; don't depend on scheduled watering.
3. When do you prune Encore Azaleas?
Encores require very little pruning to retain good form and do not need "dead-heading." If you think your Encore Azalea needs pruning, do so immediately after the spring flowering for maximum bud set. If you wait until later in the year, it is likely that the buds for the next bloom cycle will be trimmed off and a disruption in the bloom cycle will occur. Light pruning of more established plants will stimulate growth and flowering. Use hand trimmers to selectively shape your Encore Azaleas.
4. When do you fertilize Encore Azaleas and with what?
Like all living things, Encore Azaleas must be fed. When it comes to fertilizer, there is no specific brand that we recommend. You can ask at your local garden center for a well-balanced, slow release, granular azalea/camellia fertilizer. You can tell if the mix is well-balanced if the three numbers on the packaging are the same or similar. These numbers indicate the amount of nitrogen (promotes plant growth and for foliage), phosphorus (promotes blooms), and potassium (strengthens roots and stems). Whatever brand you choose, apply according to label instructions around the base of the shrub, and water well. Fertilize once at the beginning of each spring — after the fear of frost has passed. You may find that this will be the only time you need to fertilize. However, if you feel you need to fertilize again, do so before August. Azaleas are sensitive to heavy fertilization. Fertilizing after August will encourage new, tender growth that can be damaged by early frost. For an added nutrient boost you can also apply liquid fertilizer directly to the foliage and roots. Just follow label directions and use once every two weeks or so.
5. Where can I buy Encore Azaleas?
You can find a list of retailers in your area which regularly stock Encores by visiting our website at www.encoreazalea.com, clicking on "Where to Buy" in the sidebar, and then entering your zip code. Or you may decide to buy online at www.PlantsByMail.com or www.SoonerPlantFarm.com. If your local garden center does not currently stock Encore Azaleas, ask them to!
6. How much sunlight do Encore Azaleas need?
Encores are very adaptable when it comes to sunlight. They are grown in full sun, but can do well in partial shade, so long as they get at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day (this is crucial for blooms). They perform best in sun to partial shade, preferably afternoon partial shade. They will tolerate full sunlight but care must be taken to prevent them from exposure to drought or other heat related stress conditions.
7. Are Encore Azaleas evergreen?
All Encore Azaleas are evergreens, so they'll keep their foliage year round. Some of the varieties even have foliage that deepens into contrasting colors with cooler temperatures – check out Autumn Amethyst, Autumn Princess, Autumn Sundance for a great way to provide a splash of color to your garden even during winter months.
8. Is there a natural fertilizer that I could make to ensure the soil has the proper PH?
Like all azaleas, Encore Azaleas require a slightly acidic soil. Adding humus, pine straw or pine mulch, and/or peat moss will bring the pH in your soil down some, as will an acidifying fertilizer from your local garden center. For best results, I suggest contacting a local nursery or garden center, who will be more familiar with the conditions in your area, and might assist you in taking a soil sample, and make suggestions specific to your area and according to your planting needs.
9. Is there an Encore Azalea dwarf variety?
While there are no true “dwarf” varieties of Encore Azaleas, all 24 varieties have been bred to have a more compact growth habit than their traditional cousins. Several of the varieties, Autumn Angel, Autumn Carnival, Autumn Cheer, Autumn Chiffon, Autumn Coral, Autumn Embers, and Autumn Ruby, grow to an easily maintainable 2.5-3 feet height.
10. What is the mature Encore Azalea size?
Encore varieties can grow to between 2.5 and 5.5 feet. The brochure lists all 24 of our spectacular Encore varieties and their mature heights (or check out this info on our website: www.encoreazalea.com). Since plants don’t ever stop growing, the “mature size” listed in the Encore Azalea literature is not a maximum height, but a size that is easily maintainable through yearly pruning. We suggest cleaning out old leaves to allow new foliage to flush out and using hand trimmers to prune off any leggy branches. For overall shaping, we have found that trimming immediately after the spring bloom cycle is the best time. Pruning immediately after the spring bloom will limit disruption of future bloom cycles. Pruning later in the year will remove the buds that have set for the next bloom cycle.
11. What is the growth rate of Encore Azaleas?
How fast your Encore Azaleas will reach their mature size depends upon what size you start off with. Depending on where you purchase your Encores, they may be in a one-gallon nursery container, three-gallon, five-gallon, or seven-gallon. The one-gallons are the youngest plants and will take the longest to reach full size (five or six years). The seven-gallons are the most mature, but will still take three or four years to reach mature height.
12. When should I transplant Encore Azaleas?
Fall is the best time to transplant your Encores, but this can be done in Spring, Summer, or Fall, using the same care you did when planting (check out our website at www.encoreazalea.com for a great guide). Make sure to dig a big enough area to include the fiberous root system, which will have spread out some. A general rough guide is that the root system will be about as big under the ground as the upper plant is above ground. You may notice that the bloom cycle may be erratic in the year following a transplant; this will correct itself as your Encores get settled into their new environment. Moving is stressful for plants as well as humans! Make sure they get enough water the first few weeks after their move.
13. My Encore Azaleas are not blooming. What is wrong?
Sometimes when you plant new plants they can go through a shock period where they have to adapt to their new environment. These plants in general have two phases- growing and flowering. It sounds like your plants are in good health and growing fine. Nothing needs to be done and they should bloom again in the fall. It is not unnatural for them to skip a cycle because of being newly planted.
Since all 24 varieties of Encore Azaleas have been bred to bloom in three seasons, they need extra sun to do so. Make sure that your Encores are getting at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day (this is crucial for blooms). They perform best in sun to partial shade, preferably afternoon partial shade. They will tolerate full sunlight but care must be taken to prevent them from exposure to drought or other heat related stress conditions. Each variety of Encore has a different personality, some blooming earlier, longer, or more profusely.
If your Encore shrubs are healthy and growing, but not producing blooms, you might want to try a fertilizer to promote blooms. Encores are treated with fertilizers before they are shipped out from the nursery, so we do not recommend fertilizing within the first year. However, if they are approaching a year old you might want to fertilize with a product with a higher middle number (indicating phosphorus content) which will promote more blooms. Fertilizing with a mixture that is heavy on the nitrogen will promote growth rather than blooms.
14. Will Encore Azaleas thrive in Zones 5 and 6?
Encore Azaleas will thrive in your area, although they will need a bit more protection. Also, be sure that your Encore Azaleas receive at least 6 hours of sunlight per day.
For More Cold Protection
Mulch well (about 4 inches deep) in the fall. Reduce water for a month or so before the first frost. Then, after a couple of hard freezes, water well to provide moisture. This will help the plants to go dormant, or "harden off". As you would with any outdoor ornamental plants, Encore Azaleas may need some extra protection during sudden freezes and extremely cold weather. Sudden, drastic drops in temperature are more damaging than a gradual decline, especially to newly planted shrubs. Burlap, old blankets, or sheets (any cloth material) can be used to cover upper plants. It is recommended that you drive stakes in the ground around your Encore and drape the cloth cover over stakes. Foliage in contact with the cover can be injured, so try to minimize cover contact with plant. You can also try Encore Azaleas in containers, so that you can bring them inside in extremely cold weather. I suggest one of our hardier varities. Try Autumn Amethyst™, Autumn Cheer™, Autumn Royalty™, and Autumn Ruby™ and Autumn Twist™. You also want to plant in spring or early summer. As your Encores mature and get more established in their environment, they will be better able to withstand cold temperatures. Young plants are more susceptible to sudden, drastic drops in temperatures, and sustained cold weather (25 degrees or below).
15. What Encore Azalea varieties fair well in full sun garden?
Autumn Sundance growing 3.5' tall by 4' wide or Autumn Empress growing 4' tall by 3' wide are great options. Both of these Encores perform very well in full sun conditions. Make sure to plant a few inches above ground level. Amending the soil with Canadian Peat Moss & Pine Bark Mulch. These 2 ingredients ensure that Encores will thrive.
16. Do Encore Azaleas need irrigation?
Encore Azaleas are not drought tolerant and should receive supplemental water the first year until established.
17. At what temperature should I cover my Encore Azaleas to protect them from cold weather conditions?
Drape material to protect plants from severe weather. When the temperature suddenly drops and maintains 25 degrees or below, provide additional protection by driving stakes into the ground around the plants and draping material over the stakes. Choose burlap or any cloth material so the azalea receives air flow. Be sure the cover does not have direct contact with the plants as this can injure the foliage. Cover is especially beneficial for new azaleas or azaleas that were recently transplanted and have not had enough time to establish a strong root system.