on June 4, 2017, Brent Wilson posted a message in the container gardening forum
It’s hard to find a better variety of reblooming azalea than Encore Azaleas, which bloom in the spring and continue to bloom into the fall. It’s simple to grow them in the ground or in pots if they’re planted correctly. I’m a huge fan of all thirty of them and plant them all in my gardens.
In order to plant Encore Azaleas, you’ll need to know the following:
As long as the soil is well-drained, acidic, and at least moderately rich in organic matter, Encore Azaleas will thrive. Root rot and other plant diseases can be caused by wet or soggy soils, as they are for many other attractive plants. Adding soil amendments to promote drainage and loosen clay is an excellent option when planting in clay soil. In the Planting Instructions at the bottom of this page, you’ll find more details.
How To Test Soil Drainage
Consider testing the drainage in the place you wish to put your Encore Azaleas before you plant if you’re unsure about it. Dig a 12-inch-wide by 12-inch-deep hole in the planting area to assess soil drainage. Drain the water out of the hole. After the water has drained, refill it and time how long it takes to drain this time. The rate of water evaporation in well-drained soil is around one inch per hour. A higher rate, such as in a loose, sandy soil, may indicate that the land is drying out and that organic matter should be added to assist keep moisture in the soil. It’s a good idea to enhance drainage, plant in a raised mound or bed, or look for plants that are more tolerant of damp or swampy conditions if your soil isn’t draining quickly.
Encore azaleas, like all other azaleas, thrive on soils that are acidic to mildly acidic, with a pH of 5.0 to 6.5. The pH of most garden soils is between 6.0 and 7.0.
Testing Soil pH
On a scale of 1-14, with 7 indicating neutrality, soil pH measures the alkalinity or acidity of soil. If the value is less than 7, then the soil is acidic, and if it is greater than 7, then the soil is alkaline. Performing a soil pH test in the planting location might help you determine whether or not your soil is suited for growing Encore Azaleas. An cheap soil pH tester probe can be used to quickly determine the pH of the soil. Pelletized limestone can be added to the soil to raise its pH (alkalinity). Soil sulfur, aluminum sulfate, or chelated iron can all be used to reduce the pH. Soil acidity can be increased and maintained by putting in organic compost or mulching with compost.
Encore Azaleas can thrive in full sunlight or partial shade. Spring, summer, and fall flowering require at least 4-5 hours of daily direct sun or all-day, gently filtered sun. Encore Azaleas would enjoy a respite from direct sunlight during the warmest portion of summer afternoons in the Deep South and other locations of the United States that suffer very hot summers with intense sunshine.
Depending on how you plan to use your Encore Azaleas, the distance between them should be adjusted accordingly.
We recommend planting Encore Azales 6 to 1 foot closer to the mature width if you plan on building a robust hedge. Planting a 4-foot-wide Encore Azaleo in a row 3 to 3.5 feet apart “on center,” which is from the center of one plant to the center of another plant, is a good rule of thumb for spacing. The roots of your azaleas may begin to compete for soil space if you plant them too close together.
If you plan on planting Encore Azaleas in a cluster and want at least one foot of space between each plant, you should plant them at least one foot apart. A good rule of thumb is to put Encore Azales 3 feet apart “on center,” which is from one plant’s center to the next plant’s center, if you plan to plant a 3 foot wide azalea.
If your soil drains adequately, dig a hole at least twice as wide and no deeper than the root ball of the plant. Better yet, make the opening as large as possible. A wheel barrow or tarp can be used to transport native dirt scraped from the planting hole around the circumference.
You may need to adjust the native soil depending on the kind, fertility, and porosity of the soil in the planting region. Organic matter, such as composted cow manure or mushroom compost, sand, and/or a suitable planting mix should be properly mixed into dense clay or poor soil at a 50/50 ratio. Adding some topsoil, peat moss and/or compost may be necessary when planting in sandy, quick-draining soil. When planting on rich, loamy, well-drained soil that is still damp, no soil amendments are necessary.
For best results, attempt to gently raise up and remove the root ball from your Encore Azalea’s container by securely gripping it at its base. You can either cut the container away or tap on the container’s side to free a root ball that is trapped in place. A few feeder roots might be loosened around the root ball when you remove your azalea from its container. Azaleas have a reputation for getting root-bound when grown in containers. You can use a garden hose to squirt water around the root ball to loosen it up. This will aid in loosening the roots by removing part of the soil from the root ball’s exterior.
Planting in well-drained soil is recommended. Make sure the rootball of your Encore Azalea is at or slightly above ground level (about an inch or two) in order to allow for settling. In moderately drained soils, the top of the root ball should be at least 2 to 3 inches above the surface of the soil. Fill up the hole to the required planting height if necessary with a soil mixture for backfilling.
The Encore Azalea may tolerate wet soils if you plant it in a mound of dirt that is fully above ground level, but if the soil in the planting area is poorly drained (constantly soggy or wet), you may want to use a different plant species that can handle the wet conditions.
After you’ve planted your Encore Azalea, push down the earth around the root ball with your other hand while holding the plant straight in the planting hole. Soak the soil after you’ve filled the hole half way. Once you’ve finished backfilling the root ball all the way to the top, you can stop. If you’re planting above ground level, you’ll want to progressively decrease the amount of soil mixture you use from the top of the root ball to the ground. Don’t place any dirt on top of the root ball to avoid suffocating your plant.
Step 6 (Optional)
As illustrated in the planting diagram above, if you’re putting your Encore Azaleas in a spot that won’t get much rain, you may use the leftover soil mixture to create a “catch basin” or “doughnut” to keep the planting hole moist. There will be less need for hand-watering thanks to this basin, which will collect rain and irrigation water. After a few growth seasons, the berm can be removed.
Afterwards, water the entire planting area, including the root ball, to a depth equal to its height. Root Stimulator can be added to the watering of newly planted Encore Azaleas in order to accelerate early root formation and stronger root development, which eliminates transplant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants.
Get rid of the weeds and preserve water by covering the planting area with 1 to 2 inches of shredded wood mulch or pine straw. Your plant will benefit from the mulch’s decomposition, which will enrich the soil with essential nutrients. At the very least, wait six months before using newly chipped or shredded wood as mulch, and a year is much better. Keep mulch away from your plant’s roots, as this could cause the bark to rot.
Planting Encore Azaleas In Containers
To brighten up your patio or porch, or if you live in a USDA Zone that is too far north and too cold to plant Encore Azaleas year round, container gardens are an excellent option. Containers of Encore Azaleas can be left outside year-round in areas where the plants are hardy. Containers can be brought indoors for the winter in places where they aren’t cold hardy.
Keep in mind that your Encore Azalea will need two to three years of growth before you move it to a larger container, so choose a container with drainage holes at the bottom. If this is the case, your plant’s root ball will need a container with a diameter of at least 6 inches.
The color of the container is also important. In addition to matching the Encore Azalea’s flower and foliage colors, you’ll want to choose a container that complements the design of your home or other structures, as well as the plants in the immediate vicinity.
Variety of containers is common in nursery and garden centers. You should take photos of your home and the surrounding area before you go out to acquire a container. You’ll be better able to narrow down your options for color and style this way.
How to Plant Encore Azaleas
Winter-hardy azaleas that bloom all four seasons are a dream come true for many gardeners. Encore azaleas (Rhododendron Encore series) bloom for three seasons in USDA plant hardiness zones 7 through 9, according to the USDA. There are ten Encore cultivars that can withstand USDA plant hardiness zone 6a, and they come in a variety of hues and bicolors. From 2 1/2 to 5 feet tall, mature bushes have spreads of 3 to 4 1/2 feet. Azaleas need to be planted in the fall to bloom the following spring.
Plant your Encore azaleas in a location that receives four to six hours of sunlight each day, as well as afternoon shade. Nearby pines point to an ideal location for the acid-loving plants.
Fill an 8-inch-deep hole with water and excavate a trench around the perimeter of the area. Look for a new location if water is still present after a few hours. Root rot can be brought on by poor drainage.
Work in a 4-inch layer of composted pine bark to improve drainage in the planting area. Calculate hole spacing by multiplying the plant’s mature width by the number of plants you intend to plant.
To ensure that the top of each Encore root ball is slightly above the soil surface, dig holes that are double the depth and twice the width of the root ball. The root balls will not sink below the earth if the dirt is firmed up at the bottom of each.
Slide an Encore out of the container by holding it around the trunk’s base. If the plant refuses to come out of the pot, tap it on the bottom and sides. Cut any roots that surround the root ball with a sharp knife after gently untangling it with your hands. Ensure that the shrub’s roots are spread out and centered in the hole.
To prevent air pockets, backfill and compact the soil around the root ball. Make a 3-inch-high ring out of the leftover soil and place it around the hole, 2 feet from the shrub’s trunk. The roots of the plant are watered by the basin created by the rain or irrigation water.
A thorough soaking is required. Plant each azalea separately and cover the planting area with 3 inches of pine straw mulch. Mulch should not be placed near the bushes’ trunks, where it could collect moisture and serve as an entry point for fungus.
Container Planting Instructions
Line the bottom of your container with shade cloth or porous landscape fabric before filling it with the soil mix. This will prevent soil from clogging the drain openings.
Gently lift out of the container you had been nurturing your Encore Azalea plant. The container can be cut away if you are concerned about damaging the plant when you remove it. After that, release a few feeder roots from the root ball’s surface.
Place a small amount of your soil mixture in the container’s bottom. The root ball of your Encore Azalea should be 1/2 to 1 inch below the container rim when you place it in the pot. If necessary, you can add or remove dirt to achieve this.
Fill the root ball with potting soil, tamping as you go, until the soil level is level with the root ball’s edge.
Rinse thoroughly until the holes on the bottom of the container begin to drain water. When watering, add more potting mix if the soil begins to settle.
Step 6 (Optional)
The soil should be covered with a 1/2′′ layer of sphagnum moss or wood chips to keep moisture from evaporating.
Other Container Growing Tips
Before watering Encore Azaleas in containers, check the soil’s moisture level. The soil should only be watered if it is at least an inch or two dry to dry. Wilting leaves or tips of the stems that bend over are indications that your plant is in need of water.
Plant annual flowers, creeping or cascading perennials, low-growing ornamental groundcovers or grasses around the base of your Encore Azalea for instant appeal and beauty.
Use a delayed release plant food or water soluble fertilizer to feed Encore Azaleas in containers. Two months before your area’s average first-frost date, stop feeding your pet.
Watering Encore Azaleas
Keep Encore Azaleas away from over-watering or growing them in soil that is always soggy or wet, since they do not enjoy it. You must have well-drained soil!
At Planting Time
As soon as you’ve planted, thoroughly saturate your planting area with water. This includes your rootball. If you want to give your Encore Azaleas an extra push, you can also water them with a solution of Root Stimulator, which eliminates transplant shock and encourages greener, more vigorous plants. In the winter dormant season, plants will need less water because they are less active. As a result, throughout the winter months, take additional care not to overwater!
During the First Active Growth Season
Encore Azaleas do not require daily watering in normal garden soil. Root rot and other severe plant diseases can result from wet soil conditions caused by this. The rootball and surrounding soil should remain damp to moist in the absence of sufficient rainfall. Keep in mind that immersing your azaleas in a deep soak a few times a year rather than showering them with water every day is preferable. In the winter, when the plant is dormant and water is not escaping from the soil as quickly, Encore Azaleas will need significantly less water.
When Encore Azaleas are established, they are quite drought tolerant. If you notice fresh leaves drooping or stem tips bending over while the weather is dry, this could be a sign that your plants need a good bath. Before watering, always check the soil’s moisture level.
To avoid fungal and other foliar diseases, you should set your timer to water in the early morning rather than in the evening or at night. Check soil moisture frequently in the first two weeks after planting and modify irrigation duration if necessary to maintain moist soil.
Experts’ Recommendations for You
- Encore Azaleas > Pruning
- Encore Azaleas > Fertilizing and Watering
- Color, Size, and Companion Chart for Encore Azaleas >
- Encore Azaleas > The Most Cold Tolerant