Lovers of azaleas just can’t get enough of these gorgeous plants, smothered in blooms all spring, but then sadly plain green for a whole year, until spring rolls around again. Now you don’t have to wait, because the Autumn Encore® Azaleas are here, and these beautiful evergreen plants bloom not just in spring, but again in summer, and again in fall, with hardly a break between, so that you can enjoy flowers for months and months, instead of just weeks. The only problem left is deciding how to find room for them all in your garden. . .
If you want something a little different, and very special, consider growing the Autumn Amethyst™ Encore® Azalea, because its unique purple coloring makes a stunning contrast with all the pinks and reds of most other varieties. This beautiful display is carried on a plant of perfect size – 4 feet tall and 4 feet across – big enough to really stand out, but small enough to fit into a smaller space, a smaller garden, or into a pot or planter. Plant a group of just this beautiful color, perhaps near some golden yellow flowers, or with burgundy or lavender, or add it to a collection of all the other Encore Azaleas – a ‘straight flush’ of spring color.
Growing Autumn Amethyst™ Encore® Azaleas
The Autumn Amethyst Encore Azalea is an evergreen shrub that is hardy from zone 6 in a sheltered spot, all the way into the warmest zones of the south. Further north you can grow it as a porch plant, or over-winter it in a cool, bright room. Unlike many older azaleas, which grow just an inch or two a year, this vigorous plant adds 10 or 12 inches a year, soon reaching mature size. Plant growing in good conditions outdoors will continue to grow, although more slowly, and can in time reach 5 or 6 feet tall and across, making spectacular specimens you can be proud of.
It has soft, evergreen foliage, with small leaves about 2 inches long and ½ to ¾ of an inch wide. These are covered in fine, soft hairs in spring, which gradually disappear over summer, leaving a softly satin surface to the leaf. Almost all azaleas remain green all winter, but this one is different – in fall the leaves turn deep purple, and stay that way all winter, so that this plant is colorful and interesting even when not flowering.
The first flowers of the Autumn Amethyst Encore Azalea appear in early April, and they last all month. These flowers are a full 2 inches across, and a delicious rich shade of bright purple, with darker red-purple spots and streaks in the throat. As the flowers fade new shoots appear, and these mature more flower buds, which begin to open in July. Flowering is then more or less continuous right up until the first frost. As colder weather comes, more and more buds develop but then become dormant, resting on the bush all winter, ready to begin blooming again the following spring. The exact timing of blooms will depend on exactly where you are growing your plants, but you will always have lots and lots of blooms to admire, and not just a single show in spring.
The Autumn Amethyst Encore Azalea is more sun-loving than older types of azaleas, and it can be grown in full sun in zones 6 and 7, and in sun with some afternoon shade in warmer zones. It will also grow in light all-day shade, but deeper shade may reduce flowering. Encore Azaleas look wonderful as drifts of color in woodland gardens, and along the edges of wooded areas. Plant in moist but well-drained soil. Like all azaleas, this plant grows best in acidic soil, with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5, for optimal growth. You can easily test your soil with an inexpensive kit from a garden center. Alternatively, check around your neighborhood. If other people are growing azaleas, camellias or blue hydrangeas, then you almost certainly have similar soil and you can grow these plants too.
Growing in Pots and Planters
If you have alkaline soil, don’t worry, because you can easily grow the Autumn Amethyst Encore Azalea in any pot with a drainage hole. Wide, shallow pots are better than narrow, deep ones, and use potting soil designed for acid-loving plants for the best results. These plants are generally free of pests or diseases and are much more vigorous and healthier than most other azaleas.
History and Origins of the Autumn Amethyst™ Encore® Azalea
Robert (“Buddy”) E. Lee began working in the 1980s to develop ever-blooming azaleas. He was inspired by a rhododendron called Rhodendron oldhamii, collected in Taiwan in 1968 by Dr. Hsu of Taiwan University. He gave some seedlings of this plant to John Patrick of Oakland, California, who in 1972 gave one to Dr. John T. Thornton of C&T Nursery in Franklinton, Louisiana. He noticed that this particular plant kept re-blooming from late June until frost, on new growth, while most plants of this species only produced a few stray flowers in the summer. He named it `Fourth of July` and Buddy Lee obtained a plant of it for his breeding work. Buddy took pollen from flowers of this plant, and used it to pollinate an older, purple-flowering azalea called ‘Karens’. In 1986 he selected a particularly beautiful and repeat-flowering seedling, with purple flowers and purple winter leaves, and called it ‘Conlee’. He was granted a patent in 1998 (PP # 10,567), which has now expired. This remarkable plant is sold as part of the Encore Azalea series, under the name Autumn Amethyst™.
Our plants are produced by the original nursery, so you know they are perfect quality, correctly named, and a direct descendant of that original selection. Encore Azaleas have taken the gardening world by storm, and everyone is growing them. Our stocks are constantly being depleted, and we cannot say when we will have this fabulous variety available again, so order now, or risk disappointment.