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Fall Blooming Azaleas Gaining in Popularity
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
The fall blooming azaleas have not only been showy but are really starting to gain some fans. Encore azaleas have been out for a couple of years, and everyone that I have talked to has been impressed with them. This year there are two new Encore azaleas.
You cannot put a calendar on the fall bloom like you can the spring bloom. After the spring bloom, which is very long, they will grow and produce a few blooms throughout the summer. In August they put on many more blooms and look great if the moisture is right. If they are on the dry side, August blooms wilt really fast.
There are even more blooms in late September and October that hold up better with the cooler weather. They are not as showy as the spring blossoms, but they definitely bloom enough to make a landscape impact.
The Encore group made its debut with six varieties that varied from dwarf compact forms to large background plants in shades of pink, orange and lavender.
Autumn Rouge reaches a height of 5 feet and a width of 4 feet and produces 2 1/4-inch blossoms that are pink to red.
Autumn Royalty is my favorite, also reaching 5 feet in height and width but has larger 3 1/2 inch flowers that are purple and look similar to the Southern Indica azalea variety, Formosa. Autumn Coral reaches 3 feet in height and 4 feet in width producing 3-inch coral blossoms.
Lovers of deep red will find Autumn Embers the perfect choice. The semi-double, deep orange-red blooms are produced on plants 3 feet in height and 4 feet wide.
Autumn Amethyst produces flowers that are 2 inches wide in a really showy purple color. The plant reaches 4 feet in height and width. Autumn Cheer is the smallest of the Encore azaleas reaching only 2 feet in height and 3 feet in width. It produces 1 1/2- inch rose-pink blossoms.
The two new Encore azaleas that have been introduced are Autumn Bravo and Autumn Monarch. Autumn Bravo is 4 feet in height and width and produces 2-inch semi-double flowers that are bright red.
Autumn Monarch reaches 5 feet in height and width and produces 3-inch, semi-double coral blossoms that have reddish flecks and ruffled edges.
The Encore azaleas are hardy in Mississippi, perhaps being marginal in the counties that border Tennessee.
Many garden centers have these azaleas for sale now. Whether planting now or in the spring bed, preparation is the main ingredient to your success.
Plant them in an area receiving morning sun and afternoon shade or high filtered light. Prepare the soil by adding three to four inches of organic matter and till to a depth of 10 inches. The beds need to be raised for good drainage. Plant the azaleas at slightly above the depth they are growing in the container. Wet feet will kill an azalea.
Add mulch after planting and again each year. The azalea keeps the roots near the soil surface and this annual decomposition of mulch and organic matter will maintain a good environment for new roots and help in moisture retention.
If you plant this fall, don't be misled into thinking water is not needed. Pay attention to what Mother Nature provides and supplement as needed to prevent the roots from drying out.
If record cold is expected, an old blanket or canvass may be needed. Azaleas get more hardy with age.