As promised, this week's email tip will be about the Encore Azaleas. You may be hearing a lot more about the Encore Azalea of late, and for very good reasons. First, if you're not familiar with the Encore Azalea, the first thing you need to know is that they bloom in the Summer and Fall, while still blooming in the early Spring, as we think of most Azaleas.
Buddy Lee, the gentleman with Encore, that we interview this past weekend on The GardenLine, noted how after years of propagation and cross-breeding research they now have a patented Azalea. And I can assure you that if taken care of properly the Encore will live up to its name, with an "encore" of blooms three to four times in one year.
However, over the past several years as the GardenLine host, I have also been hit with numerous phone calls and emails that pretty much say the same thing about some of the Encores planted in the Houston area. And the gist of the message pretty much goes like this: "Randy, I planted some Encore Azaleas, and while they have lived up to their name in the blooming action, they tend to lose more than their fair share of leaves."
So, I went to the two best sources for information on Encores, namely Buddy Lee whom I mentioned earlier and Jim Barry one of their marketing honchos. And I found out some very important care tips that I thought were important to share with you.
For starters, while there are over 20 varieties of Encore Azaleas available, Jim and Buddy both agree that because Houston is often its own special climate, half of those varieties are considered adaptable to Houston. Basically, anything with the "Autumn" moniker in its name should do well here because they were specifically designed for growing zone 10. Examples: Autumn Royalty, Autumn Twist, Autumn Bell, Autumn Carnation, Autumn Sangria; Autumn Rouge, Autumn Embers and Autumn Empress.
Then, there's the "mistakes" people make when planting Encores according to Barry. The fact is, that this planting technique is important for all Azaleas, not just the Encore. First, they must be planted in a raised bed and the roots must be delicately separated so that they will spread out laterally upon their first growth spurt. Still, too many people take Azaleas out of their container and plant said root ball directly into the ground without any help in separating the roots.
Also, when it comes to location Lee and Barry both concur that too many Encores are planted in too deep of shade. Unlike what we think for the standard Azaleas, Encores were designed to take a lot more sunlight. Too much shade, according to Barry and Lee slows down the multi-season blooming action. The ideal situation is lots of morning sun and late afternoon shade. Or they can perform well in filtered light all day. But the worst-case scenario, according to Barry, would be to put them in deep shade all day.
The last two care practices that were highlighted by Lee and Barry were about feeding and watering. When it comes to feeding them, it is important to give another feeding to Encore Azaleas around the 1st of September. With the basic "azalea feedings" of April and end-of-May, it should be enough for the summer blooms. But if you want that fall bloom, you need the September 1st feeding not just for blooming action, but to maintain the foliage. Remember what I said about the main problem people question me about? Barry said that if you don't give them that early Fall feeding that Encores get so hungry that they defoliate as a way to protect the blooms, because of a lack of energy.
Finally, when it comes to watering, if you don't have a raised bed with superior drainage, Lee noted that the Encore could get over-watered very easily. And with the heat of our summers in the Houston area, it really shows the importance of a highly raised and well-drained bed, because they can require a regular or daily watering in the heat of the summer.
If you would like to learn more about the Encore Azalea, see their website:
Here's a list of nurseries and garden centers in the Houston area that are known to be carrying this patented plant:
Cornelius Nurseries (3 Locations)
Kingwood Garden Center
Plants For All Seasons (2 Locations)
Houston Garden Center (Multiple Locations)
The Enchanted Forest
The Enchanted Garden
In case you have not ordered your copy of it yet, here's the link for ordering my new book "Gulf Coast Gardening with Randy Lemmon."
Until next issue, here's to
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