Encore Azaleas

By Charlie Nardozzi

Azaleas are traditionally thought of as spring-blooming shrubs. Fall blooming does occur in some evergreen azaleas but is rare. Now, after 17 years of breeding and testing more than 10,000 seedlings, a new evergreen azalea series introduces plants that consistently bloom twice during the season. Encore hybrids are grown similar to all azaleas, except they bloom best in full sun. After blooming with the other azaleas in spring, they bloom again on new wood from midsummer through fall, until temperatures drop to 22? F. In some areas, this means they'll still be blooming as late as December. Fall is a good time to plant.

The Autumn series of Encore azaleas is hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 7 and warmer and have been successfully grown throughout the Southeast, California, and the Pacific Northwest. The Southern series is hardy to zone 8. Encore azalea selections include single or double flowers in orange, pink, purple, and red. The eight selections in the Autumn series feature the 3-foot-high and -wide, rose-pink 'Autumn Cheer' and 5-foot-high and -wide, purple 'Autumn Royalty'. The six selections in the Southern series include the 3-foot, orange-red 'Southern Blush' and 5-foot, deep pink 'Southern Pride'.

These varieties are available at garden centers or through PDSI-Plants by Mail, (888) 922-7374, www.plantsbymail.com. For more information check the Encore azalea Web site, www.encoreazalea.com.

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