By Norman Winter
The team at Encore® Azalea has really set the bar high when it comes to cold hardiness. No other repeat-blooming azalea brand can boast as many varieties that will withstand the bone-chilling temperatures in zones 6a and 6b.
Consider USDA hardiness zone 6a has minimum temperatures of -5 to -10 degrees F. Many gardeners have never experienced such frigid conditions. But 20 years of testing by the Encore® team has proven invaluable, with 15 varieties across the complete Encore® color spectrum demonstrated as not only survivors – but performers – after such a brutal winter.
In this group, gardeners will find their favorites like the blazing red Autumn Bonfire™ and Autumn Fire™, as well as highly sought-after purple selections like Autumn Lilac™, and award-winning Autumn Royalty™. Iridescent pinks and glistening whites are there, too. You’ll even find bi-colored selections like Autumn Twist™ and Autumn Sunburst™. Not only are top color selections here, but both dwarf and intermediate habits are represented.
Nine more varieties can be recommended for zone 6b, which is slightly warmer at -5 to 0 degrees F. This group features favorites like red Autumn Bravo™ and Autumn Embers™ and incredible pink selections such as Autumn Carnival™ and Autumn Debutante™, as well as our first Encore® Azalea – Autumn Rouge™.
Gardeners will certainly delight in the versatility of Encore® Azaleas. These 24 varieties bloom in the spring, repeat in the summer and fall, thrive in the sun, and then can “take a beating” when it comes to Old Man Winter’s chill.
Don’t forget cold hardiness also comes in handy for seasonal container plantings in warmer zones. Remember to choose plants for containers that are hardy one to two zones colder than your geographic location.