For bright, colorful flowers from spring to fall, with the added twist of every single flower being a little different, you can’t beat the Autumn Twist™ Encore® Azalea. This breakthrough plant turns evergreen azaleas from green shrubs flowering briefly for a couple of weeks of the year into ever-blooming shrubs that are green in winter. That surely makes them an essential addition to every garden, and a great way to bring lots of color to the basic planting of your garden, without having to rely on annual flowers and all the work they involve. It is much better to find that color and interest on your foundation planting, and in the key elements of your garden, rather than as ‘add-ons’ that need regular renewal and replacement.
The Autumn Twist™ Azalea is an evergreen shrub that rapidly grows to a height of around 4½ feet, and spreads about 4 feet wide. Its dense structure keeps it green to the ground, and alone or in groups it makes great solid elements all around the garden. The leaves are between 2 and 3 inches long, and 1 to 1½ inches wide, smooth, rounded ovals, dark green, with a soft coating of fine hairs that is most pronounced on young leaves. With a dense, twiggy structure this plant is great for screening foundations, or blocking a view of utilities, as well as for bordering a walkway or drive, and even as a lower, informal hedge that is always neat but needs no clipping.
Growing Autumn Twist™ Encore® Azaleas
The Autumn Twist™ Encore® Azalea is much faster-growing than most other evergreen azaleas, adding 6 to 8 inches of new shoots in the first spring flush, immediately as the first flowers fade, and then adding another 5 to 6 inches in a second flush in the summer. In a single year your plant can add 12 inches of new growth, so you can see just how quickly it will become a large, mature plant. Older plants can grow taller, and 6 feet tall is easily possible, although trimming can be done to reduce the size, if you wish. Otherwise, no trimming is required for this plant to maintain its neat, compact growth.
The flowers are of course the most interesting part of the Autumn Twist™ Encore® Azalea, and they are large, between 3½ and 4 inches across, forming open trumpets in groups of 2, 3 or 4. They are a rich, bright purple color, and every flower is different from every other one. Some have white margins on parts of the petals. Most have irregular bands and spots of deep purple scattered over them, and some are almost or completely solid dark purple. This adds a vibrant, fun appeal to the plant, and really is an interesting ‘twist’ on the usual uniform coloring of flowers.
The first blooms appear in April, with a grand display, and then new clusters of buds form on the new growth, bringing blooms in summer, and also on the later new growth, bringing even more blooms right up to the first frost. As cooler weather arrives the new buds stop opening, leaving many to overwinter and become flowers in the following spring. Do not trim new growth, as the buds form on the ends of the shoots, and you will miss the summer flowering if you do this.
Plant the Autumn Twist™ Encore® Azalea in full sun in cooler zones, and in partial shade in hotter ones. Afternoon shade and morning sun is ideal. It will also grow well in light full shade, under deciduous trees or along a north-facing wall. It should be grown in moist, well-drained soil, that is not dry, and not regularly saturated with water. For good growth it must be grown in acid soil, with a pH of 6.5 or less. You can test your soil with a simple kit from a garden center, or if your neighbors are already growing azaleas or camellias, then your soil will almost certainly also be suitable.
Using in Pots and Containers
In areas with alkaline soil you can easily grow this plant in a container or planter box, using potting soil for acid-loving plants. Make sure the pot has drainage holes, and feed regularly with a liquid fertilizer for azaleas. If the new shoots of plants in the ground are yellowish, water with chelated iron, a material that corrects the effects of alkaline soils on azaleas and other acid-loving plants.
History and Origins of the Autumn Twist™ Encore® Azalea
The Autumn Twist™ Encore® Azalea was created by the azalea expert and breeder Robert E. Lee, known as ‘Buddy’. He began working in the 1980s with the rare Taiwan azalea variety, Rhododendron oldhamii ‘Fourth of July’. This unique plant flowers all summer long, unlike all other azaleas. Buddy Lee crossed that plant with other azaleas known for producing fall flowers from time to time, and his resulting plants are the fabulous Encore® Azaleas, that have taken the garden world by storm. One of his early plants is called Autumn Royalty (‘Conlec’) and it has solid, deep purple flowers. In 1997 Buddy saw a branch on a plant of Autumn Royalty which had variable flowers, in a lighter purple. He grew that branch into new plants, and these became the variety called Autumn Twist. In 2001 he patented it as ‘Conlep’, to protect his invention.
Buddy Lee’s original nursery produces our plants for us, so they are exact copies of that original discovery, and produced by expert growers to give you the very best. All our Encore® Azaleas are wildly popular, and Autumn Twist is a super-hot seller for its novel appearance. We would suggest you order right away, as we almost certainly will not have stock available when you return.