There is so much choice among the Encore Azaleas, it can be hard to settle on one to grow. Apart from the obvious solution of buying them all (which we recommend of course), a good approach is to look at the unique features of each, and then to see if those satisfy some specific need you have. Take the Autumn Sundance™ Encore® Azalea as an example. This beautiful shrub has gorgeous rich pink flowers, that will look wonderful with pale pinks, purples, and purple-reds. Are those colors you already have in other plants in your garden? If they are, then that is a positive tick for this variety.
There is also a unique feature in the foliage, because almost all the Encore Azaleas have plain green leaves. This one has reddish leaves in winter, which will add some subtle color at that quiet season, and if your garden is a bit too ‘green’ all winter, then you now have a great way to change that. Also, not all the Encore Azaleas do well in zone 6, where winter cold can brown foliage and kill buds. Autumn Sundance is perfectly hardy in a sheltered spot in zone 6, so if that is where you live it’s a big positive. If all this is beginning to sound interesting to you, then read on. . .
Growing Autumn Sundance™ Encore® Azaleas
The Autumn Sundance Encore Azalea is a fast-growing shrub, much faster growing than other evergreen azaleas you might have grown before. It will soon reach its mature height of 3½ feet and spread about 4 feet wide. With dense branching right to the ground, and small green leaves covered in tiny hairs, it looks lovely even when not in bloom. Those leaves are 2 to 3 inches long, and up to 1 inch wide, and in winter they take on a reddish tone, which is a great way of adding some richness to a planting that is green all winter. The soft hairs begin white and turn darker as the leaf matures, as on mature leaves they are mostly found along the veins and leaf-stem.
The Autumn Sundance Encore Azalea has an extremely long and continuous blooming season. The first buds open in profusion in early April and continue into May. As the new growth begins, shoots 5 to 6 inches long grow out, and they rapidly produce new flower buds, so that many more flowers are seen from mid-June to the end of July. Further shoots, 4 to 5 inches long then develop, and these too carry buds and flowers, right up until the first frost. As the weather begins to cool in early fall an increasing number of buds become dormant, so that by the end of fall there are many dormant buds, ready and waiting to blossom in the following spring. These endlessly-produced flowers are large, open trumpets, a full 3 inches across, in a rich pink-red color. There are five petals in the open flower, and the lower three are attractively steaked and spotted in darker shades of red. A bush in flower certainly has lots of visual impact.
Plant the Autumn Sundance Encore Azalea in full sun in zones 6 and 7, and in morning sun in zones 8 and 9. Some afternoon shade is beneficial in the hottest areas. In all zones this plant will grow in partial shade too, and in light full shade, such as along the foot of a north-facing wall, or in the dappled shade from open deciduous trees. It is a wonderful addition to the foundation planting around your home, among other shrubs in a partially-shade bed, bordering a wooded area, or as an informal barrier or low screen anywhere in the garden. If you want to create a continuous row, plant about 3 feet apart.
The Autumn Sundance Encore Azalea should be planted in moist but well-drained soil that is rich in organic material and humus, and is acidic. For best growth of all azaleas the soil should have a pH of 6.5 or less. If you don’t have acid soil, then the easiest way to grow this plant is in a planter box or pot, using soil for acid-loving plants. Fertilize regularly with liquid food for azaleas. Even mature plants will live well in pots for many years, as long as you feed them, and water when the top ½ inch of soil is dry. The pot must have a drainage hole. Growing them in pots means you can easily move your plants around, and even bring them into a porch during cold spells, and that way you can grow them successfully even in much colder zones.
History and Origins of the Autumn Sundance™ Encore® Azalea
The Encore Azaleas have an interesting history. They began with some seedlings of a plant, Rhododendron oldhamii, collected in Taiwan and sent to America as seed in 1968. It caught the attention of experts because it blooms continuously through summer, not just in spring. One plant with red flowers was named ‘Fourth of July’ because it had flowers in July, and this plant was used by Robert E. “Buddy” Lee, from Independence, Louisiana, in a breeding program. As part of this he took pollen from it to pollinate a plant of an evergreen hybrid azalea called ‘Karen’. Among the resulting seedlings was a plant he spotted in 1995, with beautiful flowers and compact growth, which flowered almost continuously from spring to frost. This became the Autumn Sundance Azalea, and it was patented in 2006 under the name ‘Roblef’.
Our plants are produced by the original nursery, which ensures perfect continuity from the original variety via stem cuttings, plus top-quality production by experienced growers. The Encore Azaleas are hugely popular, and with its powerful flower color and great growth, Autumn Sundance is one of the most popular of all. Our stock will not last long, so order now.