Encore azaleas not thriving--suggestions?

KMc_in_Atlanta(7 Georgia)September 26, 2004

With visions of graceful Southern mansions dancing in my head, I planted a dozen azaleas under the huge Water Oak on the northeast corner of the house. They get maybe 3 - 4 hours of morning sun, then are in shade.

Half of the azaleas are the evergreen gumpo type and are doing great; the other half are the new Encore azaleas and are not so great. Of course I MEANT to buy 6 of the same type--Autumn Amethyst, but I ended up with 5 Amethyst, and 1 Autumn Empress (I didn't discover my mistake until I had planted all of them and by that time was too exhausted to dig up the interloper and take it back). Naturally, the Autumn Empress has done the best of the Encores, although all have bloomed spring and fall as advertised.

Trouble is that the Autumn Amethyst looks terrible as a shrub--straggly, leaves thin and small. It's not really growing either. I fertilize and water religiously, so I don't think it's that. Could they be in too much shade? I see from the tags that Encores should be located in "light shade to full sun." Should I move 'em out from under the tree?

Has anyone else had this problem?

Thanks for your help! KMc

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Sophie Wheeler

How did you plant it? Azalias are terribly sensitive to wet feet, and in the clay soil of the South, it actually works best to almost plant them on top of the grade in a very shallow hole and backfill with a bit of better draining top soil and mulch.

Alternative to that, plants that in nature that aren't normally remontant usually make awkward looking and unhealthy plants until the remontancy sport has been stabilized through several generations of breeding because the initial breeding is focused on stabilizing the reblooming characteristic rather than the overall health and beauty of the plant as a shrub.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2004 at 3:47PM
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Hi KMc,

My 'Royalty' and 'Rouge' azaleas look pretty much as you described. Given what HollySprings said, I guess we're pretty much stuck with the half-dead looking things! LOL! At least the 'Royalty' makes up for it's appearance by blooming for sometimes 5-6 months out of the year; the 'Rouge' has yet to impress me even a little bit in the two years I've grown it.

Remembering back to other posts re: the Encores, I think most people share our sentiments ;-)


    Bookmark   September 26, 2004 at 4:19PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I have six rouge in full sun. They have been heavily blooming for the past month at least. Just like spring azaleas- that many flowers. They are under Sweet Gums and Oaks but the trees are tall and skinny and the plants are on the areas that sun shines most of the day.

No supplemental water. It took two years for them to really take off.
I have several other varieties of encores and they are some of my favorite plants.

I feel I need to be the defender of the encores everytime I see a thread like this!
I think the key is full sun. A few of mine get a little filtered shade, but not much.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2004 at 8:57AM
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Dieter2NC(z7b NC)

I have lots of them and the ones in more sun do better than those with less sun.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2004 at 11:18AM
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LoraxDave(z7B Alabama)

I have one of the earlier introductions with purple flowers -- maybe it's Amethyst. It also looks kind of scraggly. But it's full of blooms right now - very heavy, just like a Spring bloom. So I am forgiving its scraggly nature!

I just purchased a bunch of additional Encore azaleas with a Lowe's gift certificate. Some of the newer releases are really cool - at least in the pots. Autumn Sangria is definitely my favorite release so far, with huge hot pinkish-purple flowers. Looks like an Indica azalea! I also bought Autumn Sweetheart and Autumn Debutante. These are both pinks. I usually don't care that much for pink, but these are both a very pale pink, which I thought looked very good.

Hopefully as more of these are introduced, the quality will continue to improve.

As far as origin -- the Encore azaleas are not sports of existing azaleas. They are hybrids of a Fall-blooming Asian azalea, Rhododendron oldhamii.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2004 at 5:46PM
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I have 6 Encore azaleas. I planted them about 5 years ago. They usually only bloom once for me, in early spring. I have them planted in a spot where they only get morning sun. This past summer has been different though. They've bloomed several times and the only difference in the care they've received is the fact we've gotten much more rain the past 4 months than usual. Of the 6 azaleas, the largest is quite big and it's located in a spot where it gets the most water from my sprinkler system. So, in my situation, I'd say the difference in size and performance is a direct result of the water my Encore azaleas have received in the 5 years I've had them in the ground.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2004 at 12:05AM
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KMc_in_Atlanta(7 Georgia)

Dear Advisors--

Many thanks for your responses and suggestions! Although it could be clay soil/wet feet, I practically killed my poor husband and myself digging up the construction debris left behind by the contractor and amending the soil.

If I get the energy, I think I will move a couple of the shrubs to a sunnier location just to see if things improve. However, I was very encouraged to see that at least a couple of other gardeners have had some success with Encores!

Cheers - KMc

    Bookmark   October 6, 2004 at 12:30PM
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Keep in mind that they will not look all that great for at least one growing season as they settle in, get established, and grow roots. If they are not wayyy shaded or way sunny, or wet feet then just be patient. And watch the fly sucking watcha-ma-callums that make spotty yellow leaves.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2004 at 3:15PM
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my encore azaleas were hit by 19 degree weather some of them turned brown will they come back in the spring?

    Bookmark   January 15, 2008 at 6:07PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

I have had Autumn Rouge (about 2 dozen of them) for five years now. They get afternoon shade, but full, hot sun until about 1 or 1:30 p.m. during the summer. Their spring bloom is nice, but not as showy as the old fashioned azaleas. I was so disappointed in them in the spring that I planted Coral Bells along my driveway just because I wanted that southern spring look. However, the Encores more than pay their space rent from August through October. They bloom their heads off then at a time when little else is blooming. My only complaint is they hold onto those dead, brown bloom remains FOREVER. With two bloom times a year, they never seem to look clean.
I planted them high in the hole with well amended soil and keep them heavily mulched with pine straw. They are very easy, very low maintenance, and I am not sorry I have them.

With regard to the hard freezes we've had, lestucker, they are supposed to be hardy to between five and ten degrees, so, hopefully, they will be alright. If they don't survive a zone 9 cold snap, we're all in trouble! :)

    Bookmark   January 16, 2008 at 10:44PM
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I was so happy to see this thread! At the arboretum where I work there's a large planting under a tree that gets a tiny big of morning sun & full shade thereafter. These Encores are not blooming well in either season. With 3 acres of grounds we can easily move them to full sun. I also like Autumn Sangria the best. Our plants were all labelled last year but some helpful soul removed all the labels-- awk! Labelling is the biggest challenge in tending a public garden; things just don't STAY labelled!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 9:42AM
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I was so happy to see this thread! At the arboretum where I work there's a large planting under a tree that gets a tiny bit of morning sun & full shade thereafter. These Encores are not blooming well in either season. With 3 acres of grounds we can easily move them to full sun. I also like Autumn Sangria the best. Our plants were all labelled last year but some helpful soul removed all the labels-- awk! Labelling is the biggest challenge in tending a public garden; things just don't STAY labelled!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 9:44AM
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This is probably a stupid question, but do you prune/deadhead Encore Azaleas? This is my first time to grow them (Autumn Carnation) and I'm assuming since they bloom several times during the year, I shouldn't prune or deadhead, and risk damaging future blooms. But what do I know??

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 9:15AM
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Most of the forum answers from successful "planted in the sun" growers are from the south. Anyone out there from Oklahoma or Texas who has success with those pesky encores.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 3:42PM
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Once Azaleas have been planted and if they're looking spindly and sad can they be dug up and replanted? They get plenty of sun but I think the soil is bad. I'd like to know also if they should be deadheaded and pruned and if so, when?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2008 at 11:56PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

gardenwoes, the answer is probably. Depending on how bad their condition is, they may or may not tolerate being lifted. On the other hand, if they look that bad, you'll probably lose them anyway, and I say better sooner than later. Watching a plant look worse and worse, year after year is awful.

That being said, I have lifted and replanted some pretty sad looking shrubs in my time with success (not 100% though).

YOu want to do the entire operation at once so the plant isn't out of the ground any longer than necessary. Plunge your shovel straight down at the edge of the branch tips all the way around the plant before you start levering it out of the ground. Take you time and don't rush. The more roots you get, the better the chances of survival. Take your pruners and cut out any dead wood too.

It's always a good idea to work several good shovel fulls of peat moss into the hole for azaleas. I usually add a half bag of composted manure too. Compost would be just as good if you have it. Do NOT fertilize a shrub that's in bad shape. The manure will not burn, and will give a very mild boost of nutrition to it. Dig a really wide hole (2 to 3 feet in diameter), but only about a foot deep (a spade's depth) is deep enough. Mix and mix and mix until the ground is nice and crumbly. Dig out a hole in the middle of the big hole, make a mound of good soil in the middle of it and set the plant on the mound so that the place where the top of the plant meets the ground is an inch or two ABOVE the surface of the surrounding soil. Mound the worked soil back into the hole and up to the crown of the plant. I have found that in the heavy clay soil of the south, just setting the plant high in the hole can often make a big difference in vigor. The peat moss acidifies the soil, which is what azaleas need. Then add several inches of mulch: chopped leaves, pine straw, or the purchased kind. Don't push the mulch right up to the crown, leave a couple inches or so clear so the plant can breathe. Keep the plant well watered for the first year or two until it is established.

If it is still alive after a couple of weeks, your chances are good. Once you see new growth starting to push out, you can be confident you've succeeded. If it dies, well, you have a great hole ready for a new shrub. :)

As far as deadheading and pruning, I haven't been able to find much information about this either. My Autumn Rouge azaleas cling to those dead blooms forever, and if I had known that, I wouldn't have bought that variety. Sometimes I take a shrub rake to them and try to knock the old blooms off, but honestly the most effective way is to pick them off by hand. Guess how often THAT gets done! The next season of bloom always pushes them off eventually....yuck.

As far as pruning and fertilizing goes, mine looked so bad this spring with browning leaves, etc. that I jumped in and pruned early before bloom time. I gave them a good shot of Holly Tone at the same time. They didn't bloom much this spring, but the plants look a hundred percent better. Since their best bloom season is always in the fall, I don't regret that I did it then, although I'd be interested to know if anyone has had better luck doing this at a different time of year.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 4:22PM
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Encore Azaleas, through further testing, are quite tolerant of direct sunlight. In fact, it's being tossed around that these shrubs are sun loving, as opposed to traditional azaleas that tend to do better in the shade.

Another great option with this plant that somebody just introduced me to, is container planting. Some people are using these to do a sort of banzai tree.

You can get 1 gallon varieties at plantsbymail.com, and find a pot at your local garden center.

After the fall bloom you just uproot the tree and trim the the roots, not too much though. Prune the shrub to your liking, you can give it that classic banzai look. By doing it in fall, you give it enough time to recover so that your bloom cycle isn't interrupted.

Leave it in full sun as much as you can!

Here is a link that might be useful: Care Tips from Encore Azalea

    Bookmark   September 26, 2008 at 9:50AM
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catbird(z7 AL)

I see now that I need to move my Encores. Guess they're not thriving because they're in too much shade. I've had three for several years and two are doing OK, but not great. The third one, I fear, is dying. Thanks for this thread and all the info.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2008 at 10:28PM
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Do some encore's leaves turn color in the fall. i have an
autumn royalty, some of the leaves are turning yellow and rust color.I planted it at the end of sept. also it is in full sun.It bloomed great.I have an autumn ember that i planted early oct. it is still all green and it bloomed great.i have an any cotta rhododendrom. its leaves turn a dark red.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2008 at 12:00PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

Marge, the answer to your question is a resounding yes. Even traditional azaleas sometimes have nice fall color.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2008 at 7:04PM
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My two year old encores look like they have mildew white powder on their leaves in the 30 degree weather. It this normal or should they be treated now for mildew?

    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 1:55PM
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I haven't seen an Encore yet which I would plant, although my wife planted a few. My suggestion is to pull them out, trash them and replace with dependable azalea indicas, such as Formosa, Pride of Mobile, George Taber, Judge Solomon, Gerbing, etc.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2009 at 9:48PM
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We've got a bunch of Encore azaleas, the latest being Autumn Sunset. Ours are in full sun. They are doing great. They are huge and bloom twice, absolutely full of blooms. They had the first year where they looked absolutely awful and we thought they were dead, but the next year they just filled in remarkably. Our soil isn't the greatest. It's the red dirt that housing contractors dump in your yard. We've added good dirt to it, but nothing fancy at all. We're not the greatest on feeding them and truthfully we're not sure when to feed them! But they live on faithfully anyway! My dad liked them so much that he pulled out some of his older regular azealas and replaced them w/ the Encores so he could get two bloomings out of it. They've been great for us!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 4:06PM
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I bought an encore on sale at lowes about two years ago, in their not-so-good bin for like $2. Despite it being one of the best looking ones in the sale bin, they only put plants there that aren't thriving. I took a gamble on it because it was cheap, and the top completely died on it. It's been a little tiny stub in the ground for over a year, but when I doa scratch test, it still has green in it. So, I'm wondering if it will eventually push out some new shoots.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2009 at 4:51PM
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I'm worried!

I just purchased 20 of the Encores (recommended by the Nursery) to replace azaleas that have been in place for 45 years. The ones I'm replacing have mostly died out, there are only 4 survivors at this point, two are christmas cheer and very small and the others are white (something to do with snow...my mom planted them).

At any rate, the landscaper has recommended pulling EVERYTHING up and starting from scratch. I have 5 large oak trees in my front yard so it is shady most of the time in the summer, but in the spring the azaleas have always bloomed beautifully, in fact the old survivors are FULL of buds right now and they are coming tomorrow to start removing things from the front beds (Holly's and their sprouting friends, 6 small jap holly's, the azaleas and privets that have sprouted everywhere)...

What should I do??! Do I need to change my order, it doesn't sound like this is a good choice for our location.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2009 at 8:07PM
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my encores anre showing brown and orange colored leaves. Is this a normal occurance for Dec. in Dallas,Tx.?

    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 12:39PM
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topsiebeezelbub(z7 Al)

Encores need FULL SUN. Plant high (on a mound) for good drainage, acidic soil, mulch well, water and feed lots. They are quite easy to grow if you do what they like.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2010 at 5:42PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

It's interesting how often this thread re-surfaces. I think it's a good indicator that we all love the idea of Encore azaleas, but are still trying to figure out how to grow them well.

Over the years, I have done a fair amount of reading on the internet on these plants. One interesting thing to know is that each variety is its own deal. These are not like people, who have similar characteristics to their mama, daddy, grandma, etc. Each shrub variety is the product of its own individual cross, and so, each variety can be expected to behave more than somewhat differently from the others.

If I were going shopping for Encores, I would look at, first, the size plant I want, as this varies greatly, and second, at the foliage. Encore foliage ranges from pitiful looking, to ho hum, to really good looking, and this is definitely specific to the variety. Finally, I would consider color. They're all pretty, and short of putting a screaming pink in front of an orange brick house, you're likely to enjoy nearly any bloom.

Evelyn, lots of azaleas have beautifully colored leaves throughout the cold months, including a few of the encores.

I now grow two kinds, and have decided that these plants truly do need alot of sun. The ones on the north side of my house these past two years are not thriving. They get only about 2 hours of direct sun and then bright light the rest of the day. Definitely not enough. They'll be moved come spring.

As I have queried for years, I ask once more: has anyone come upon a timing schedule for fertilization that gives good spring AND fall bloom? I have never found any statement of this on the web, and would love to know.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2010 at 5:14PM
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I have 4 Encore azaleas that are about three years old. I noticed the leaves on some are turning yellow with black spots on them and would like to know what I should put on them. I put Hollytone on them in the early Spring and didn't know if I should put more or not.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 7:18PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

Did they respond to Holly Tone? If so, you're on the right track. My plants love it. Assuming your shrubs are in good soil (on the acidic Ph side, moist, well-drained, etc.), one or two applications per year ought to be enough. If they did not respond, my best advice for you would be to get a soil test. (Also, these shrubs seem to thrive best with at least a half day of sun.)

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 6:45PM
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My surprise of the Heat and Drought of 2011 is my Encore azaleas. Knowing they needed plenty of water I probably, for the first time, actually made sure I gave them sufficient water. I would often leave the water hose dripping all night and then just move it before work the next morning. We had over 60 days of 100 or more heat. I also, not knowing what was ahead, heavily fertilized and topdressed with peat moss and shredded pine bark. I have blooms today.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2011 at 1:29PM
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I need help as well. This poor little fellow is sick, especially after a rabbit almost destroyed it. It is in 6-8 hr of direct sun in soil that is questionable -- probably on the alkaline side. I use a commercial 10-5-4 mix. Another azalia near it seems to be doing well. I have pics.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2013 at 12:04PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

Well, the foliage that is still there looks pretty decent. I think if I were you (this is opinion only. I am not an expert.) I would leave it as is until early spring. If and when it starts to put out new growth, I would give it a feeding of Holly Tone. Assuming it gets sufficient water through the winter, I would do absolutely nothing else to it for now. You don't want to encourage any new growth, either from pruning or from fertilizing, now that would burn from winter cold. I think your chances are good IF the critters leave it alone.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 3:48PM
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