Whether they bloom in vivid, clear shades of red, orange and coral or pale pastel pink, azaleas put on a stunning spring flower show. Azaleas are actually rhododendrons, relatives of both mountain laurel and blueberries. Most azaleas are smaller shrubs than rhododendrons, with thinner, more delicate leaves. They do best in filtered shade and moist, rich, well-drained and acidic soils. No azalea blooms several times a year but Encore and Bloom ‘N Again hybrids have been bred to bloom in spring and again in fall – and in many climates that repeat-bloom cycle spans three seasons.
Azalea Bloom Times
Gardeners in Southern states can gracefully incorporate a variety of native azalea species, many of these deciduous, into their landscapes. According to University of Georgia Extension, by relying on the varied bloom times of just five native species,these gardeners can have azaleas that will bloom from early March into early October. To a more limited extent you can achieve the same effect with evergreen and hybrid azaleas by carefully selecting early, mid-season and late-blooming cultivars. But even in the South the azalea bloom season can stretch only from early March into early summer – unless you grow Rhododendron oldhamii “Fourth of July” or the many repeat-blooming hybrids it sired or inspired.
Developed by Robert Lee of Independence, Louisiana, the Encore hybrid azalea series is the first bred to bloom in bloom both spring and fall. That fall blooming trait – passed on by Rhododendron oldhamii “Fourth of July,” developed from seed collected on Mount Tai Tun in Taiwan -- is the reason all cultivar names in the Encore series start with the word “autumn.” Most Encore azaleas mature at 3 to 5 feet high and wide. Both spring and fall blooms are a good though not spectacular show, but for most azalea lovers the extended bloom season is the main point. There are more than two dozen cultivars. "Autumn Belle" stands 5 feet tall and has pale pink flowers and magenta freckles."Autumn Angel" is the first fall-blooming white-flowered azalea. Flowers of Autumn Twist are purple and white striped. "Autumn Sunset" has bright orange-red semi-double flowers.
Bloom ‘N Again Azaleas
These repeat-blooming cultivars are general hardier than Encore. All except "Snowball" are cold-hardy to Zone 6 and minus 10 to zero degrees F. Otherwise Bloom ‘N Again cultivars are similar to other repeat bloomers. The deep-red flowering "Firefly" can grow to 6 feet tall, making it an evergreen hedge candidate. The flowers of "Fascination" are salmon-red with white throats. "Purple Plum" produces vivid purple-pink blooms.
Repeat-Blooming Azalea Care
The general care of repeat-blooming azaleas is the same as that for any azalea, though many gardeners often puzzle over when to prune them. If repeat bloomers need pruning, the best time to prune them is immediately after spring bloom is over for maximum time to set new buds before fall blooming begins. But don’t prune just to prune. Remove dead or damaged vegetation and remove lanky growth or suckers as needed. Otherwise prune lightly to maintain natural form.