Plan Before Planting: How to create the best West Coast home for your Encore® Azaleas

By Mary-Kate Mackey

From Seattle down to San Diego, you can find a great growing spot for Encore® Azaleas if you live in USDA Zones 6-10. More specifically for gardeners in the West, Encores will prosper if you reside in the Sunset Western Garden Book designated Zones 4-6 or 14-24.

To score the greatest floral rewards from your Encore® Azaleas, start with a solid game plan regarding their particular needs for sunlight, soil and water. In all gardening, these are intertwined, but in this series of features, we’ll take each one separately. Here’s how to figure out the sunlight sweet spot in your garden.

First, look for places that receive approximately 6 to 8 hours of direct sun. For best repeat flower production, Encores need more light than their shade-loving cousins.

Next, decide what kind of sun you have. Not all sunlight is equal. That 6- to 8-hour recommendation depends on how hot your garden is – the more heat you get, the less direct sun they need.

For example, in parts of the West with cooler summers, especially those places ruled by ocean influences like summer fog, Encores can flourish with up to full-day sun. In the Pacific Northwest, where summer daytime temperatures average in the mid-80s, Encores can thrive with the maximum requirements of 8 hours.

If you have too much shade, look for places where sunlight reflects off nearby walls or buildings. That can boost the actual light levels the plants receive, allowing them to flower better, even if direct sun is filtered overhead.

In the hotter areas of the West Coast, where inland valleys are hammered with temperatures of 90 – or higher – Encores will do well with the lower recommendation of six hours. Here, morning sun is best.

If you have too much sun, consider creating a pergola or stretching out sail cloth to furnish some shade. Your Encores will be comfortable in the same places you are in the garden on a hot day.

And, if your place doesn’t have the ideal spot – get as close as you can. Remember, Encore® Azaleas are bred for toughness. Their shiny leaves and repeat blooms will tolerate a range of situations, making them welcome additions in your West Coast garden.

Encore® Azaleas by the Numbers

Zones: USDA 6-10, Sunset 4-6, 14-24

Light: 6-8 hours

Soil: pH 5.0-6.5

Water: 1 inch per week in dry periods

Food: 4-3-6 (or similar) acid mix

Mulch: 2-3 inches deep

These numbers are guidelines. For more detailed information, check out the West Coast growing advice for your Encore® Azaleas.