Welcoming Encore® Azaleas into my West Coast Garden

By Mary-Kate Mackey

Looking back, it was a hot summer in the Pacific Northwest. I live outside of Eugene, Ore., and we broke the record for the number of days without measurable rainfall – 83, to be exact. So, how did my Encore®Azaleas fare?

I planted them late last fall, and I’m happy to say all but one made it. That one died because it was apparently in a micro-desert, between watering sprinkler patterns – by the time I discovered the wilted leaves, it was too late. More proof that Encores do need regular and consistent watering until established. 

The others are not only living, but thriving. I have some in full sun, some in part sun, and two – Autumn Bonfire™– in containers with afternoon sun. The ground is mostly heavy clay amended with sharp quarter-10 gravel and mint straw, a by-product of mint production here in Oregon. The mint is cut in the fields, cooked on site to 160 degrees, and the mint oil is distilled. The plants left behind are blackened and partially broken down, with available nitrogen measuring around 3 or 4. It’s my favorite local product. 

All the Encores, both dwarf and intermediate, have put on good inches of growth, with little need for me to prune them. I did cut back an errant long branch on my Autumn Sunset™, but other than that, their shapes are compact and well formed. As of September, none have re-bloomed yet, but I’m not worried. When plants are producing healthy leaves of a good size, I figure that’s their job right now. Next year, or even later this fall, I’ll see repeat bloom.

In the heat of summer, I had to dig up and move Autumn Sunburst™. On an overcast morning, I shoveled out a wide circle around it and noticed the roots were just venturing into the surrounding soil. I quickly replaced it in a correspondingly shaped hole, filled everything back in, and mulched again. I hand watered it for about a week, and then left it to be watered with the others on a 3-day rotation of automatic sprinklers. Now, you cannot tell it from the ones that were never moved. It was a trouper. I’m not recommending shifting plants in midsummer, but I think its viability is a testament to how tough these Encores are. 

I have had no notable pests. Now, I grant you, this is the first year. Maybe the bad bugs haven’t found them yet. Or perhaps, good care and meeting their requirements will be proof against pests and diseases. Usually, in my garden, if plants make it through the first growing year, they’ll keep on going.

And I’m expecting a good long life from my Encore®Azaleas, with many blooms on bigger plants. The intermediates will hit that 4-foot tall and wide mark. The smaller ones will fill in to touch each other. They’ll partner well with the various groundcovers underneath and the taller shrubs and trees. 

Encores have found a home in my garden.