Azaleas are wonderful garden plants, flowering in spring in gorgeous colors, so full of flowers that the foliage is almost completely hidden. But if you have grown them you will already know that for the rest of the year they are just green bushes of no particular interest – at least, they used to be, until the arrival of the Encore Azalea. Now, everyone is growing beautiful azaleas that flower not once, but twice a year, with a fall flowering as well as one in spring, plus some flowers in summer too. Plus, these new varieties are far more sun tolerant than other evergreen azaleas, especially in hotter states, which means there just became a whole lot of new places you can grow them in your garden.
One of the most beautiful of these wonderful new plants is renowned for the large, pure-red flowers it carries, and it is called Autumn Bonfire. These beautiful flowers are flaring trumpets a full 3 inches across, usually single, but many of the flowers have a second set of petals inside the first, making them semi-double. They are carried on a compact bush, which grows rapidly to become 3 feet tall and about 3.5 feet across – the perfect size for a smaller garden, for mass planting, or for growing in planters and containers. In the short times when your plant is not in flower, it is covered in small, dense leaves, of a rich green color, making an attractive evergreen bush that is a perfect background in your garden.
Growing Autumn Bonfire™ Encore® Azaleas
The Autumn Bonfire Encore Azalea is vigorous and easy to grow, just as long as you have acid soil. This means your soil should have a pH below 6.5, and preferably lower. If you don’t know already this aspect of your soil conditions, there are two easy ways to find out. Are your neighbors already growing azaleas, rhododendrons or camellias? If they are, you almost certainly can too. Alternatively, pick up a test kit from your local garden center – it is low-cost and easy to use.
The soil should also be rich in organic material – dig in plenty of peat-moss when preparing the planting bed, and you should keep your plant moist, as it can only tolerate a little dryness, especially in its early years. If you do not have acid soil, rather than trying to change it – which rarely works – grow your Encore Azalea in a container or planter. Make sure it has a drainage hole and use potting soil for acid-loving plants. Fertilize regularly with azalea fertilizer, and you will have a wonderful display, not just once but twice a year.
While most azaleas like shade, the Autumn Bonfire Encore Azaleas will grow in full sun, partial shade, or light full shade. In the hottest states some afternoon shade, with morning sun, is ideal. Now you can extend your azalea collection into sunnier parts of the garden than you used to be able to, as well as enjoying the huge benefit of that repeat blooming in fall.
Planting and Initial Care
Remember to plant in moist, well-drained soil, as your Autumn Bonfire Encore Azalea loves moist soil, but not soggy, wet soil, so drainage is important. If you are growing your plants in the garden, and you notice that the new leaves in spring are a little pale, and not a rich, deep green, then buy a product called chelated iron, from a garden center, and treat you plants in early spring, and again in fall. This will help you grow them in soil that is neutral or only just a little acidic. Mulch in spring with a 2-inch layer of peat moss, to conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and to also help acidify your soil. The most important consideration when growing azaleas is the pH of your soil.
History and Origins of the Autumn Bonfire™ Encore® Azalea
The Autumn Bonfire Encore Azalea is an evergreen azalea, and these plants are part of a very large group of plants called Rhododendron. Most of them originated in China, Japan and the Himalaya mountains, and over the years plant breeders have created thousands of varieties. They normally bloom in spring, but there is one rare species, called the Taiwan azalea, Rhododendron oldhamii, which is unique and that blooms in summer and fall.
Robert E. “Buddy” Lee lives in Independence, Louisiana, and he is an expert plant breeder and azalea specialist. In the 1980’s he noticed how the Taiwan azalea bloomed in fall, and he began to breed it with other evergreen azaleas. His breeding program was a great success, and from it came the Encore® Azaleas, with today over 30 different varieties in the range. ‘Encore’ is a perfect name, since these plants bloom fully in spring, and then after producing some flowers over summer, they come back in fall with a grand encore of blooms to brighten the garden just as summer is coming to a close. One of his favorites is the one called Autumn Bonfire, because of its large flowers in a rare shade of pure red. It glows like the flames of a fall bonfire, and it is almost always in bloom. This plant was patented in 2018 under the name ‘Robleza’.
The Autumn Bonfire Encore Azalea is produced for us by the original breeders, and this brand-new variety is already a big hit. It must be produced from stem pieces, not seed, to preserve its unique qualities. We are constantly receiving new stock so that our customers get the very best, but we know from experience how popular these plants are, so our stocks will soon be gone. Order now and enjoy the new world of the Encore Azalea.