Exceptional Summer Encore Blooms

This mass of Encore Azaleas (photographed 8-4-16) has been planted at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens outside the library for years.

This mass of Encore Azaleas (photographed 8-4-16) has been planted at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens outside the library for years.

It is also a good time to shape the plants when they are in bloom or just after the finish by removing stray shoots even if they are flowering.

It is also a good time to shape the plants when they are in bloom or just after they finish by removing stray shoots even if they are flowering.

Everybody seems to have a different experience with Encore Azaleas. Some of the selections are more profuse bloomers than others, and some only bloom twice a year. Like all azaleas once they are well established, they are almost on automatic, except that they need watering during dry periods especially like now. Don’t be fooled, plants like Encore can stress from water quickly and start loosing entire branches.
For most of us Encore Azaleas are new to our gardens, so our desire is three seasons of bloom equal to the ones shown above. I said one time that getting azaleas established is not easy, and many factors can cause them to not grow and have sparse blooms. A lady from Moblie say they are easy as sticking a root in the ground. Well, I respectfully disagree. Below are some of my thoughts on getting azaleas established.

  • Purchased plant are almost always pot bound, and if that is not corrected at planting, chances are they will not become long term plants. When you purchase them and roots are growing around the edge of the pot, cutting into these root masses or some how breaking up this circular root motion is a necessity. Many folks that see me planting pot bound azaleas say I abuse them because I really work over the root system to make sure the roots can spread into the soil in the planting hole.
  • Plants so many times are planted too low. I like to dig a big hole, add lots of organic matter, make a bowl like depression, set the ‘abused’ root ball in the depression, and pull the mixed soil up around the roots. Make sure you press the soil into place over the roots (I use my shoed foot) and then water slowly, making sure you are not washing the soil off the roots.
  • If you have planted plants that are not blooming or have poor flowering, I think it could be a number of things, but check to see if the plants are planted too deep. If so, pull as much soil away from around the stems as you can until you see some roots, then mulch. I recommend pine straw.
  • Fertilization after each bloom is so important because these plants should have 3 bloom periods. So, like annuals, they need lots of nutrients. I especially like 12-6-6, but you must water this in well when applied. I also water for the next couple of days after I fertilize this time of the year because of the heat to prevent burn.
  • If you are pruning these plant “at will,” you my be cutting off the flower buds. Prune in flower (to use in arrangements) or immediately after flower. The plants quickly set their blooms for the next flowering cycle as soon as they finish this summer’s flowering cycle.
  • Because of this setting of buds this time of the year, watering is the most important thing you can do. At this time of the year think of them like annuals. Because their roots are not especially deep, they need frequent watering.
  • And if none of this works, start over! These are not expensive plants, and when planted correctly they can be sensational.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

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