Knowing when to fertilize Encore Azaleas is crucial to getting the most out of your money, efforts, and plants. There are some gardeners that don’t want to fertilize their plants ever and there are some gardeners that fertilize their plants too much. Best practices lie somewhere in between, so we’re going to go over some tips on how to make sure you’re fertilizing your plants the right way.
The ideal time for fertilizing your Encore Azaleas is immediately after their spring blooms fade away. If you apply fertilizer before this bloom cycle (in late winter or early spring), most of the fertilizer will not be absorbed. This is because Azalea roots take in less water and nutrients when the soil is cold. Additionally, applying a balanced fertilizer in early spring may encourage your plant to flush out with new growth rather than focusing on bloom production, which isn’t ideal.
They have a natural foliage flush cycle that follows the spring bloom, so applying fertilizer at this point will bolster and improve this natural growth. It’ll grow more quickly and it will produce more foliage than it would without it. This is a great way to make sure that your plant starts the growing season off on the right foot and that it has the nutrients it needs to perform throughout the year.
One yearly fertilizer application in spring is enough to keep your plants thriving. But, say you just got your plants and it’s late summer or fall and you want to get your plants going in your landscape.
If there are two or more months between you and the first expected freeze of the year, you can feel free to go ahead and apply a slow-release balanced fertilizer to your new Encore Azalea planting. This way it will be able to produce new growth that has time to harden off before experiencing a hard freeze. If the new growth hasn’t hardened off by the time the first freeze hits, the new foliage will die.
If there is less than two months between you and the first expected freeze of the year, use a rooting stimulant fertilizer. This will encourage your plant to produce new roots instead of new foliage. The ground stays warm longer than the air, so roots are able to expand safely in late fall and even sometimes into winter. When spring hits, your plant will be primed to succeed in your landscape thanks to its expanded root system.
We also recommend that you avoid using liquid plant fertilizers with new plantings. When you remove a plant from a pot, root edges are lightly damaged by the side of the pot. If you use a liquid fertilizer, it’ll be absorbed almost immediately by these damaged ends. This will cause further damage to the roots which may set your plant back when it comes to getting situated in your yard.
There are pluses and minuses to using either of these types of fertilizers.
Inorganic (synthetic) fertilizers are the traditional, often pelletized, types of concentrated fertilizers with a reliable chemical makeup, such as 10-10-10 or 18-18-18. These fertilizers usually work very well. They provide a predictable amount of nutrients to your plants efficiently and they’re great for getting newer plantings going in your landscape over their first few growing seasons.
Organic fertilizers have grown in popularity in recent years. They’re sometimes sold as soil “supplements” because of the fact that their chemical makeup is often inconsistent. They may be made from fishmeal, compost, or other more “natural” sources.
Use whichever type appeals to you the most, or use both for different applications. We often recommend using the Inorganic fertilizer with new plantings for the first couple of growing seasons to ensure that they have quick access to the nutrients they need to get established in your landscape. After those first two or three growing seasons, switch to an Organic fertilizer to provide gradual nutrients and improve the quality of your soil.
So we discussed briefly that you shouldn’t use liquid fertilizer on new plantings. However, you can certainly use it once your plants are well-established. Just be aware that it will wash out of the soil relatively quickly, especially if you’re located in a rainy area.
Some gardeners like to use liquid fertilizers for foliar feedings. Foliar feeding is simply when you apply fertilizer to the leaves of a plant. The fertilizer is absorbed through microscopic openings on the leaves that you may remember from grade school, called Stomata. This is a good way to provide nutrients to your plant rapidly. This type of fertilizing should be treated the same as a traditional method and works best when done after the spring bloom or in late summer/early fall. We recommend this method for younger plants that may not have a considerable root system. For example, if you planted an Encore last fall and it’s the plant’s first spring in your yard. It’ll give them a kickstart for the new growing season.
The Encore Azalea Buyer’s Guide
I mistakenly used a high nitrogen fertilizer and the blooms stopped. What can I do to restart them?
We suggest holding off on applying more fertilizer for the rest of the year. Next spring, resume a regular fertilizer program as mentioned in the article. Unfortunately, you’ll have to allow the nitrogen-rich fertilizer to cycle out until then.
My plants were planted in late summer 2019. They have yet to bloom 3 times in one year.
They did bloom in spring of 2021 but not summer and I see no buds to make me think they are going to bloom this fall.
Hi Jo Ann,
The summer bloom is the least likely of the 3 blooms to happen. Even in ideal climates and conditions, we’ve noticed that the summer bloom is the least spectacular of the 3 seasonal blooms. Some varieties put on bigger shows in the spring and others in the fall. You can see which Encore’s bloom best in each season here: https://encoreazalea.com/design-projects/get-your-garden-started-encore-azalea-bloom-charts/
Your USDA Zone/climate is going to be the biggest contributing factor to whether or not you get 3 blooms cycles. In Zones 6 and 7, you’re more likely to see only 1 bloom cycle. And, in zones 8 and higher, you’re more likely to see 2 to 3 bloom cycles.
As far as helping your Encores get another bloom season, we suggest following the foliage feeding ideas in the article concerning liquid fertilizer. That little nudge can sometimes coax an additional bloom cycle out of your Encores.
What kind of liquid fertilizer do you recommend for Encore Azalea?Thanks
Most liquid fertilizers will work fine for the foliage application, including common ones like Miracle Grow.
But, you need to water down the formula suggested on the label so the foliage can uptake the nutrients, otherwise, you risk burning the foliage.