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Encore Azaleas For The Midwest (Review and Comparison)

Posted by Keith Dintelmann

Encore Azaleas For The Midwest (Review and Comparison)

When it comes to Azaleas, Midwesterners have always had the challenge of finding varieties that exhibit all the traditional attributes that make azaleas so popular in the south, and also have a reasonable level of hardiness.  Southerners have always Azalea Encore Amethysthad a wide variety of plants of different shapes, sizes, and flower color variations to choose from in order to satisfy their azalea sweet tooth.  But we in the Midwest have been limited and as re-blooming azaleas have come into existence that limitation has become more pronounced.  Any azalea that blooms more than once a season is going to be more desirable than one that doesn’t, simply due to the increased number of days in bloom.  The fact is that the vast majority of azaleas are hardy to the southern zones; 8, and 7 but not zones 6, 5, or 4, which represents most of theMidwest.  As a result, the breeding programs that have been searching for that re-blooming characteristic are yielding plants that are not mid-west hardy because the gene pool for hardiness is just so limited.

Encore Azaleas-Hardy and Unique

Stepping into the picture is the Encore Azalea brand.  Encore Azaleas have been bred and tested for about 15 years.  When the brand was first introduced, there were several colors of different sizes and habits, but at best the plants could survive only as far north as zone 6b. One Variety, Autumn Amethyst, did show some signs of better hardiness and through a program of growing and evaluating in different regions further north, it has been determinedazalea encore carnation that Autumn Amethyst is hardy to zone 6a. 

Since the original introduction, the breeding has continued and more varieties are being introduced that show 6a hardiness. Couple this with the release last year of the new hardiness zone map by the USDA which shows all hardiness zones moving further north, and it is now possible to grow 6a Encores throughout central Illinois, most of Indiana, Missouri and Ohio, and even into Michigan.

What really makes Encores unique is the multiple blooming periods.  Azaleas typically only bloom once a year which is in the spring and only for a 2-3 of weeks.  Encores bloom in the spring, summer and fall.  The cumulative effect is blooms that are showing for 2-3 months.  The summer and fall blooming cycles seem to last longer than the spring cycle.  A dilema this does present is when to trim?  Encores are compact growers and don't require much pruning but when they do it is best to prune once a year immediately following the spring bloom cycle.  This will allow for maximum bud set for summer/fall.

Encore Varieties and Major Differences

Encore now has 13 varieties that are hardy to zone 6a.  The following chart shows the major differences between the plants.

VARIETY

BLOOM COLOR

BLOOM SIZE

BLOOM FORM

PLANT HEIGHT x WIDTH

Autumn Amethyst

purple/Lavender

2"

single

4' x 4'

Autumn Carnation

Pink

2.5"

semi-double

4.5' x 4'

Autumn Cheer

Pink

1.25"

single

3.5' x 3'

Autumn Lilac

Purple

2"

single

3' x 3.5'

Autumn Royalty

Purple/Rose

3.5"

single

4.5' x 4'

Autumn Ruby

Red

1.25"

single

2.5 x 3'

Autumn Sangria

Pink/Lavender

3.5"

single

4.5' x 4'

Autumn Sundance

Pink

3"

single

3.5 x 4'

Autumn Sunset

Red

2.5"

semi-double

3' x 3.5'

Autumn Twist

Bicolor

3"

single

4.5' x 4'

Autumn Jewel

Pink

2"

single

4' x 4'

Autumn Lily

White

3"

single

4.5' x 4'

Autumn Sunburst

Bicolor

2.5"

single

3' x 3.5'

Which Encore Azalea Is Right For Me?

Choose the Encore that’s right for you based on location in which it will be planted.  Make sure the plant wont out grow its location so choose for size first and then consider the rest of its attributes. The most important thing to remember about Encore Azaleas is they need sun.  This is different than almost all other evergreen azaleas which prefer shade to sun.  But the Encore needs sun, at least 6 hours.  This is unique and allows us, the midwestern azalea lover, to now plant azaleas in locations and in composition with other plants that until now simply was not possible.  This is a new and exciting possibility and promises to keep azaleas as a mainstay in the home landscape and more importantly, in the midwestern landscape, for years to come.


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