Azaleas are among the most spectacular and vibrant flowering shrubs you can add to your garden. The most attractive feature of this favorite is its appearance. Azaleas come in a wide range of sizes, leaf shapes and blossom colors, and provide so much variety that it can be a difficult task to choose the right one – you’ll probably decide that you want them all! You can pick a few varieties of different colors, or even some remarkable ones that produce multi-colored blossoms, to create a stunning splash of color in spots around your garden that might be a little bland. The Autumn Carnival™ Conlet variety with its deep pink blossoms looks brilliant as a standalone shrub, as a mass planting or even in conjunction with other varieties. Whichever way you choose to use the Conlet in your garden, you will enjoy many seasons of extravagant color.
Horticulturists have been selectively breeding azaleas for hundreds of yearsm so by now there are more than 10,000 different cultivars. The Autumn Carnival™ was created by plant breeder Robert E. “Buddy” Lee by crossing the traditional spring-blooming azaleas with a Taiwanese plant, Rhododendron oldhamii. From his experiments there are now 29 varieties of Encore® azaleas, all of which boast long blooming seasons and the ability to come back each spring with fresh new growth, time after time. The Conlet shares a lot of great features with Lee’s other 28 cultivars, but it also has some differences. It produces a multitude of deep pink blossoms set against its rich covering of glossy, dark green foliage. This stark contrast is stunning and the colors complement each other well. Each blossom consists of five single petals surrounding a delicate cluster of stamens that match the color of the flower exactly. The first signs of spring are signaled by the Conlet beginning the first of its three distinct blossoming phases. Once new growth and buds have formed, the azalea bursts with color during mid-summer which lasts until fall, when the cold weather starts to set in. It will lose these flowers into winter and restart the process again in the spring, its Encore® appearance.
The Conlet is suitable for USDA plant hardiness zones 6 to 9. It is not fond of very cold weather during the harsh winters common in the most northern states, and it also doesn’t do very well in the Deep South where heat and humidity can take their toll on the delicate plant. However, climates like those of Pennsylvania, Missouri, Virginia and some parts of Texas are more than ideal for this variety. Azaleas are slow-growing and prefer acidic soils, so look for a spot with a minimum pH level of 4.5 and no more than 6. The planting location should be well-drained to prevent a buildup of water which can cause root rot. Conlet will do best with a lot of sunlight, preferably the cooler morning and evening sun. During the hottest hours of the day direct sunlight can be strong enough to cause damage to the flowers and foliage, therefore making it a great plant to accent taller trees or shrubs that can provide filtered shade to them.
The maintenance needed by this plant is relatively minimal. When you first plant your Conlet you will want to keep the soil moist until winter approaches. Adequate water will ensure that it will survive and establish its root system. After the first year regular watering will only be required during long periods of no rainfall, as azaleas are not very drought tolerant. While other plants benefit from fertilization early in the spring before new growth emerges, azaleas do not require it until about August, when it is nearing the end of its second blooming phase. Even though spring planting is best Conlet will usually tolerate a fall planting relatively well. If your area is expected to experience a colder winter than usual, it is best advised to cover your azaleas with an insulated covering such as burlap, to give it some additional protection from potential frost damage. Once the plant has had a year or two to settle in and mature this precautionary step will be unnecessary. Conlet does not require any pruning but, as with most plants, it is fine to remove any dead blossoms, leaves or branches.
Encore®’s Autumn Carnival™ Conlet is without a doubt one of the best plants you’ll ever find for your garden. Spring always signifies the beginning of new life, and it’s hard to think of a better way to bring in the changes of the season than with one of these stunning plants – or for that matter, many of them! Planting multiple Carnivals is going to create a stunning display that will be envied by the entire neighborhood, and will add a touch of class to your property for many years.