The Autumn Sweetheart™ Encore® Azalea is a unique member of the Encore Azalea series, and if you love pink, this is the plant for you. Each large bloom is blush pink, shading out from a deeper center into a near-white margin, and creating a rich visual texture that solid colors can never achieve. Not only that, this delicious plant is fast-growing, sun-tolerant and blooms for months and months, not just for a week or two, as those old-fashioned evergreen azaleas do. Everyone loves azaleas, and we can’t get enough of those blooms, so let’s fill our gardens with Encore Azaleas, so that we are never without them, from spring to fall.
Growing Autumn Sweetheart™ Encore® Azaleas
The Autumn Sweetheart™ Encore® Azalea grows quickly into a bush 4 feet tall and wide, or a little more. Unlike older slow-growing azaleas, that add just a couple of inches a year, this one adds 8 to 10 inches a year, so it soon reaches its mature height of 4 to 5 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide. Its upright habit is perfect for smaller spaces, or for an informal hedge in a narrow space, which will give height without taking up precious width. We often have awkward narrow spaces between a wall or fence and a pathway or driveway.
Now, if you have just 3 feet available, you can plant that difficult spot with a beautiful informal 5-foot hedge of evergreen foliage that will be smothered in pink blooms for months. The leaves are almost 2 inches long and about ¾ of an inch wide, covered with soft hairs when young, and semi-matte dark-green when mature. The hairs remain on the lower surface of the leaf.
But it is the flowers we all want to see, and in the Autumn Sweetheart™ Encore® Azalea they are certainly worth seeing. Each bloom is a full 2 ½ inches across, and it is mainly pale pink with a slight purple tone. The color is deepest in the heart of the open flower funnel, and then fades gently until at the margins of the petals it is near-white. This graduated color gives great depth to each bloom, creating a richness on the whole bush that is far greater than we might see with a monochrome coloring. The beauty of the flowers is enhanced by fine deeper pink-purple steaks and spots, especially at the base of the upper petals, which radiate out like fine brush strokes.
Uses in Your Garden
Most evergreen azaleas need to be cosseted in shade, but the Autumn Sweetheart™ Encore® Azalea thrives in full sun, especially in cooler regions. In the hottest areas it benefits from a little afternoon shade. It also grows well in light shade, such as against a north-facing wall, or in the dappled shade beneath deciduous trees. It looks right at home in a woodland setting, and just as good in the foundation planting around your home. Make it into an informal fence or low divide or blend it into a bed of mixed shrubs – everywhere it wins hearts.
The Autumn Sweetheart™ Encore® Azalea grows best in moist, well-drained, rich soil that is acidic. It prefers a pH value between 5.0 and 6.5, and if your neighbors have azaleas, you don’t even need to carry out a test, just get planting. If your soil is not suitable, then use this beautiful plant in pots or planter boxes. The fibrous root system makes azaleas perfect for pots, where they thrive for years, especially in wide, fairly shallow pots that must have a drainage hole. Use a potting soil designed for acid-loving plants, and remember to fertilize regularly with azalea food. These plants are easy to grow, and not like the fussy azaleas you may have struggled with in the past.
History and Origins of the Autumn Sweetheart™ Encore® Azalea
The Autumn Sweetheart™ Encore® Azalea began with a unique variety of a rare Taiwan azalea, Rhododendron oldhamii, called ‘Fourth of July’. This plant flowers all summer long, unlike all other azaleas, and it was discovered by Dr. John T. Thornton of C&T Nursery, Franklinton, Louisiana. He gave one of these plants to Robert (“Buddy”) E. Lee, a local azalea enthusiast and breeder. Excited by the prospect of creating a whole new group of re-blooming azaleas, Buddy set to work. He took pollen from the ‘Fourth of July’ plant, and pollinated an older, pink azalea called ‘Watchet’. He then used one of his seedlings to again pollinate ‘Watchet’, and from the resulting seedling plants he picked the best, a beautiful bi-color pink flower. He patented this plant in 2006 under the name ‘Robleja’ and added it to the Encore Azalea series as Autumn Sweetheart™.
We are so pleased to have been allocated plants of this beauty by the licensed growers, who produce top-quality plants 100% true to the carefully developed original. Pink is the most popular flower color, so any pink Encore Azaleas we receive are almost immediately gone again. So if you want this gorgeous flower for your garden, order now or be very, very disappointed.