Evergreen azaleas have been widely grown for many decades, especially in more southern parts of the country. In gardens or in pots, they are profuse spring bloomers. For the rest of the year they are useful background plants, making an attractive green backdrop to the garden, but hardly an exciting addition. Because of their spring beauty we kept them, and loved them, but if only they would bloom for a longer time. . .
Well now they do. The arrival of the Encore Azalea range was a radical shift in how we used and saw these plants. Suddenly, evergreen azaleas not only bloomed in spring, but they also produced blooms all summer long, plus a profuse blooming in fall – the perfect ‘encore’ to their earlier display. Now these plants can be front-and-center in our gardens from the first warm days to the first frosty night. They are still excellent green backgrounds all winter long, but with this breakthrough innovation they are so much more. Repeat-flowering in the Encore Azaleas is just the beginning. They are also fast-growing, typically adding 6 to 12 inches a year, and rapidly becoming substantial additions to your shrub collection. They also grow very well in full sun, so no longer do they need to be relegated to shady corners.
Growing Autumn Sangria™ Encore® Azaleas
The Autumn Sangria™ Encore® Azalea is an outstanding variety in the ground-breaking development of evergreen azaleas. It has extremely large flowers that are 3½ to 4 inches across, like large, open trumpets, with a cluster of delicate radiating stamens in the center. The flowers are an exquisite shade of pink-purple – exactly the color of red wine and orange juice in the summer drink Sangria – and the center is peppered with darker-pink spots and streaks. The flowers cover the plant in spring, more flowers are produced all through summer, and then there is another big display in fall, with blooms continuing right up to the first frost.
All this happens on a medium-sized bush, which within a few years will be 4 feet tall and 4 feet across – a colorful dome of foliage just perfect in size to fill a corner space, be mass-planted in a bed, or make an informal hedge anywhere in your garden. Mix it with other flowers in all the shades of pink, lilac and purple, with a splash of cool yellow for contrast and silver foliage to cool things down. Make a bed of Encore Azaleas, with other pinks, purples and whites all glowing together. No matter how you use this great plant, you will love it.
The Autumn Sangria Encore Azalea is hardier than some others in the range, and it will grow well in zone 6, where you could grow it with the white Autumn Lily Encore Azalea, another cold-hardy variety. It will also grow well, of course, in zones 7, 8, and 9. Plant it in full sun (with some afternoon shade in zones 8 and 9), in partial shade, or in the broken shade beneath tall trees. These plants are ideal for drifts of color in woodland gardens, and along the edges of wooded areas.
Plant in moist but well-drained soil. It does not do well in wet soil, but steady moisture is important for establishment, rapid growth and good flowering. Your plants should be watered regularly in their early years, and during any dry periods. Like all azaleas, this plant grows best only in acidic soil, with a maximum pH value of 6.5, and preferably lower, around 5.5, for optimal growth. You can easily test your soil with an inexpensive kit from a garden center. As well, 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.
Using in Pots
If your soil is too alkaline, the easiest solution is to grow the Autumn Sangria Encore Azalea in a pot, using soil for acid-loving plants. Always use a pot with drainage holes and fertilize regularly with an azalea fertilizer for potted plants. Pot growing is also a great way to enjoy these plants in cooler zones. Simply bring the pots into a very cool and bright place when the temperature falls below freezing and keep them there until the weather warms up again. These plants grow well in pots and can be kept in them for years.
History and Origins of the Autumn Sangria™ Encore® Azalea
Evergreen azaleas are part of a very large and varied group of plants called Rhododendron, which come mostly from China, Japan and the Himalayan mountains. There are hundreds of species and thousands of varieties, but only the Encore Azaleas flower so prolifically, over such a long period of time. They were developed by Robert E. “Buddy” Lee, from Independence, Louisiana, who is a passionate azalea expert and skilled plant breeder. One summer in the 1980s he noticed that plants he had of a rare species called the Taiwan Azalea, Rhododendron oldhamii, were producing flowers all through summer and fall, and doing it in full sun. Excited at the possibilities he used this plant in a breeding program with many other evergreen azalea varieties, and he developed a range of re-blooming azaleas, which he named the Encore Azaleas.
One of his earlier varieties was called Autumn Royalty (‘Conlec’), and it had large purple flowers. One day he saw a single stem on a plant of that variety which had bright pink-purple flowers, a unique color change that made this one stem very special and valuable. He grew plants from pieces of that stem, and in 2004 he patented his discovery, calling it ‘Roblee’. He then trademarked this new plant under the name of Autumn Sangria. Today our plants are produced by the original nursery, which ensures perfect quality and direct continuity of the strain. We cannot keep our Encore Azaleas in stock, and this one is everyone’s favorite. So don’t hesitate, order now, because they will all soon be gone.