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Fall Colors With Azalea Blossoms

The cool evenings of fall are fast approaching. My garden handled the summer heat particularly well, but there isn’t too much color in the shrub area of my garden, but there soon will be a burst of blooms. Although spring is the season that is traditionally associated with azalea blossoms, plant breeders have been working to change that association by creating stunning new varieties that bloom in multiple seasons.

The Encore Azalea series was invented by plant breeder Robert e “Buddy” Lee of Independence, LA. Lee first envisioned Encore Azaleas in the early 1980’s when he found a tray of azalea cuttings blooming in the summer sun at his small Louisiana azalea nursery. Inspired, he began crossing tradional spring-blooming azaleas with the rare Taiwanese summer-blooming azalea, Rhododendron oldharnii. His crosses bloomed heavy in the spring, flowed by occasional surprise blooms in the summer. Fall comes with the finale, with a set of blooms just as heavy as it flowered in the Spring. A true encore in the garden.

These original crosses were well accepted down south. They became so popular, that we were constantly getting phone calls asking if we carried them. Unfortunately at the time, there wasn’t any varieties that would survive the NJ winters. The good news is that there are now almost ten varieties that will survive our winters. Encore Azaleas like more sun than some of the other azaleas. I would recommend a minimum of one half a day. Azaleas prefer their soil slightly acidic. For optimum flower bud production, feed twice yearly with my favorite evergreen food by Espoma, Holly-Tone.

The following varieties are all rated for zone six, and will survive our NJ winters.

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  • ‘Autumn Debutante ®’ has large bright pink flowers. It will grow to approximately 4’ tall x 4’ wide.

  • ‘Autumn Princess’ has unique salmon pink flowers that blend with any other flower color. It will grow approximately 3’ tall by 3’ wide.

  • ‘Autumn Rouge®’ has gorgeous red-pink flowers. It grows approximately 4’ tall and 5’ wide.

  • ‘Autumn Amethyst®’ is covered with clusters of dark lavender flowers. It grows approximately 4’ tall and 4’ wide.

  • ‘Autumn Embers®’ has orangey-red flowers. It grows approximately 3 ½’tall and 3 ½’ wide.

  • ‘Autumn Royalty®’ was voted Azalea of the year in 2004 by the American Rhododendron Society.

  • It is an extremely forgiving variety and can tolerate temperature extremes. It has purple flowers, and grows 5’ tall and 4’ wide.

  • ‘Autumn Sangria®’ has deep dark pink flowers. It grows 5’ tall and 4’ wide.

  • ‘Autumn Sundance®’ has pretty bright deep pink flowers. It’s foliage will turn reddish in the winter. It grows 4’ tall by 4’ wide.

  • ‘Autumn Twist®’ has one of the more interesting colored flowers. It’s blooms are striped in vivid red-purple and white, with some flowers solid red-purple. It grows 6’ tall and 5’ wide. It is just a tad less tolerant to cold winters, and I would recommend planting this one more sheltered location.

Bloom-a-thon ® Azalea’s were bred by Bob Head, and do best in part sun to dappled shade. They are all evergreen and are all winter hardy to zone 6b. They flower for months instead of weeks. Their first cycle of blooms is in late April, followed by continuous lighter cycles of blooms through the summer and then flower heavily again in the fall and continue blooming until a hard frost. I feel that the growth habit on these azaleas is tighter than the Encore Azaleas, but the flowers are slightly smaller. The foliage is disease resistant, and maintains excellent color year-round. The Bloom-a-thon® Azaleas like to be in part-shade, and can tolerate more shade than the encore azaleas. There are less varieties than the encores, and these are what are currently available:

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  • ‘Pink Double’ with its incredibly doubled, bright pink flowers. It grows 6’ tall and 5’ wide.

  • ‘Red ‘ has slightly doubled Bright crimson-red flowers. It grows 5’ tall and 4’ wide.

  • ‘Lavender’ has large ruffled deep lavender flowers that are sprinkled with deeper rose freckles through the throat. It grows 6’ tall and 6’ wide.