Everyone loves the beauty of azaleas, those wonderful evergreen shrubs that bring floods of color into the spring garden. But for the rest of the year – not too exciting, unless you love plain green bushes. Thankfully the days of the ‘two weeks hit’ azaleas are over, because there is a new group of plants on the scene – the Encore Azaleas. As their name suggests, they put on a star performance in spring, but then follow it up with a continuous flow of blooms through summer and into fall. Only the first frost brings them to a halt, and there are just a few months to go by then before spring starts up all over again. The choices for color and beauty in the ever-increasing range of Encore Azaleas just keeps on growing, but for a special delicate beauty, no one would pass up a plant as gorgeous as the Autumn Belle Encore Azalea.
Growing Autumn Belle™ Encore® Azaleas
Imagine a densely-branched, rounded bush, about 5 feet tall and across, covered so densely in soft pink blooms that the leaves are hardly visible. Each bloom is 2½ inches across, with ruffled petals making a full blossom. At the heart of each petal is a spray of deep pink spots and streaks, creating a rich, vintage look. Picture that and you see the Autumn Belle Encore Azalea. This lovely evergreen shrub gets the show going in April, with a full three weeks of blooming so intense that the plant is smothered in a dense cloak of rich pink. Then more shoots quickly develop, reaching about 6 inches in length. It is important not to pull out the trimmers at this point, as in traditional with azaleas to keep them neat.
If you trim these new shoots you will remove the buds that will quickly form and open into more blooms by mid-July. From then on there is continuous new growth leading to more and yet more blooms, and that continues right into the fall. As the temperatures fall buds begin to become dormant, until by late October the plant is covered in resting buds, waiting now until next April to begin the parade all over again.
Azaleas have a reputation for slow growth, but not the Autumn Belle Encore Azalea. The main flush of growth after the first flowering is usually 6 inches long, and the later flushes add another 6 inches, so every year you can expect 10 to 12 inches of new growth. You can see that in a few short years you will have a large bush in your garden, so make sure you allow enough room for it to develop when planting.
Planting and Initial Care
This azalea enjoys more sun than most others, and it will grow best with morning sun, and afternoon sun too in colder zones. It will also grow well in the light or partial shade beneath trees, or on the north-facing side of a building. In fact, a line of Encore Azaleas is a great way to bring beauty to the base of the north-facing wall of your home. This bush will look perfect in the foundation planting around your house, in beds of shrubs, or planted near trees in a more wooded environment.
Plant the Autumn Belle Encore Azalea in moist, well-drained soil. Use plenty of lime-free organic material when preparing the planting site, and mulch you plant in spring with more of the same. The soil for growing azaleas should be acidic, with a pH value of 5.5 to 6.5. If your soil is alkaline, the best – and most successful – approach is to grow your plants in pots or planters, filling them with blended soil for acid-loving plants. Use an azalea fertilizer in spring and early summer, and you will have fantastic results, with lots of blooms, and healthy plants with rich-green leaves. You can also move the pots around to catch the correct light and bring them onto a terrace or patio to enjoy them in bloom.
History and Origins of the Autumn Belle™ Encore® Azalea
The Autumn Belle Encore Azalea is the work of Robert (“Buddy”) E. Lee, from Independence, Louisiana. He began working in the 1980s to develop ever-blooming azaleas. He started with a unique plant called Rhodendron oldhamii, originally collected in Taiwan in 1968 by Dr. Hsu of Taiwan University. Dr. John T. Thornton of C&T Nursery in Franklinton, Louisiana ended up with a seedling of this plant, but his was unusual. It 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. One of the plants Buddy created is a beautiful Encore Azalea called Autumn Monarch (‘Conleo’) which has ruffled orange-pink flowers.
One day in 2002 Buddy saw an unusual branch on a plant of that variety. It had light pink flowers, with the same ruffled look as the parent, but not orange-pink. He took that branch and made copies off it by rooting stem pieces and tested that it would not change back. He called it ‘Robleo’ and patented it in 2009. It is sold with the name Autumn Belle™, and we can see its origin because both Autumn Monarch and Autumn Belle have leaves that are lighter green than most other Encore Azaleas.
We source our plants from the original nursery, where they are grown under patent license. They are guaranteed to be true to that original discovery, and of top quality. Among our range of Encore Azaleas, this one is always a top seller, so order now, while we still have the plants available to satisfy your order.