Encore Azaleas are some of the most popular landscape plants on the market today! However, with so many varieties, where do you begin?
We've attempted to create the most comprehensive guidebook to Encore Azaleas on the web! A bold task, I know, but as they say, "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you might land on a cloud, and that wouldn't be so bad." Or something like that.
A Brief Encore Azalea History
Horticulturist and plant breeder, Robert "Buddy" Lee, developed the first Encore Azalea in the early 1980's. The story goes that one day he came across a liner tray of azalea cuttings that were blooming in the summer sun at his azalea nursery in Independence, LA. It occurred to him that he could potentially cross-breed classic spring-blooming azaleas with summer-blooming azaleas from Taiwan and create a line of azaleas that would rebloom. His idea worked, and he ended up creating a multi-season blooming azalea, the first Encore Azalea variety.
Fast forward to today, and the collection has 30+ varieties in a wide array of colors, sizes, and shapes. More selections are still added regularly, all bred by the man, the myth, the legend, Buddy Lee.
For decades now, Encore Azaleas have been putting on a flashy show of brilliantly colored blooms from Spring to Fall, and they're not slowing down anytime soon.
Red Blooming Azaleas
Red is always one of the most popular choices for gardeners. And why wouldn't it be? Red blooms really stand out, and they always have a way of attracting attention. Whether that's from people, hummingbirds, butterflies, or other pollinators.
If you're thinking red, you're going to be looking at one of these varieties.
Autumn Fire has a semi-double, velvety true red bloom with dark red freckles in the throat. A very stunning blossom that tends to be quite ruffled and softly petaled.
Its dark glossy leaves are mostly rounded with a slight point on the end. They have a lightly glossy sheen and very little hair. Additionally, this variety also features a purplish dark-green foliage hue during the winter months.
The Encore Fire has a mound-like growth habit that consists of multitudes of branches that grow upward and outwards from the center. Blooms tend to appear in groups on the branch ends.
It's ideal in a setting where its natural growth habit can shine through, such as a foundation planting, mixed garden bed, or even a container. Try it in a mass planting, if you like a lot of blooms at least. Due to its dwarf stature, it works well planted in front of larger Encore Azaleas or other shrubs.
Autumn Bonfire is more of a bright, clear red than the Autumn Fire. Its blooms range from single to semi-double, but tends to have less crinkled petals than the Fire.
Its leaves are convex on the top, rounded at the end, hairless, and very slightly glossy, with rich veining. In addition, the foliage remains consistently green all year long.
The Encore Bonfire is a taller variety than the Fire, but is still considered a dwarf. It has a somewhat upright, robust growth that features rigid, thick branches. It's more responsive to hard trimming than many varieties. Therefore, if you're looking to create a more defined short hedge, it's going to be more your speed. It also does quite well in container plantings and mixed garden beds.
Autumn Bravo is the only one in this color group considered to be an 'intermediate' sized reblooming azalea. For this reason, it's more suited for those of you looking for a taller reblooming hedge azalea. Its blooms are a fiery orange-red hue with a geometric sort of star shape to the flower. In the throat of the bloom, you'll find a splash of true red freckles.
Its medium-sized leaves are a rich green hue with petite reddish hairs, light veins, and a nice gloss.
The Encore Bravo is a robust grower with sweeping upright branches. Therefore, it's a safe bet for anyone looking for a reblooming azalea hedge. It also functions well as a specimen, or as a taller element in a mixed garden bed.
Autumn Embers was the go-to red reblooming azalea for years. Compared to the newer Bonfire and Fire, it's not nearly as bold of a red. However, the Encore Embers is still one of my personal favorites. It's an extremely prolific bloomer that features some fantastic semi-double blooms. They're a smooth orange-red hue and tend to have ruffled inner petals with a couple light splashes of red-orange flecks. Mass plantings are a great way to show off the huge blooming potential on this dwarf variety.
Its leaves are elongated and spear shaped, with a slight fuzz to them. They have more of a matte sheen that has very little gloss. Furthermore, these leaves are an attractive dark green that really allows the brilliant blooms to pop.
The Encore Embers features bountiful foliage that rests on semi-rigid branches. It tends to have a naturally rounded growth habit that works best as an informal hedge or border, although they respond well to light trimming. Alternatively, try it out as a foundation planting, in a mixed garden bed, or in a container planting.
Autumn Sunset is an impressively consistent, plentiful blooming variety. It has orange-red single blooms with a splash of dark red freckles, and they tend to have sort of a tropical vibe to them.
Its leaves are rounded, glossy, and bright green, with very little hair on them. The foliage is remarkably consistent and tends to be nearly seamless.
The Encore Sunset has a naturally rounded habit, sort of like a muffin-top. And that's really the way that they shine in a landscape. This isn't a variety that you're going to want to trim regularly. Rather, let its natural form shine through, whether in a mixed garden bed, container, mass planting, or informal hedge.
Autumn Ruby is one of the most popular varieties with pollinators, due to its small, tubular blooms. These blossoms are more of a grapefruit red, and they are quite plentiful, generally appearing in clusters.
Its leaves are petite, pointed, and glossy. Furthermore, they feature an attractive bronzing effect in the winter.
The Encore Ruby is noted for its compact growth, and it rarely requires trimming. For this reason, it's best used in mixed garden beds, low borders, mass plantings, and in front of larger shrubs.
Pink Blooming Azaleas
The most plentiful and most diverse color group for Encore Azaleas is, without a doubt, pink. They come in every shape and size, and we're going to go through every single one!
The Autumn Carnation is one of the larger varieties, at 4.5 feet high and 4 feet wide. Its blooms are medium sized, with a semi-double form. The petals themselves are small to medium sized, but quite plentiful. They feature a brilliant, soft pink hue with a few splashes of hot pink flecks in the throat. Furthermore, this variety is one of the most fertile bloomers around. Season after season produces impressive bloom displays when planted in favorable conditions.
The leaves are glossy, elliptical, and true green with a point on the end. During winter, its foliage tends to take on a purple hue. Meanwhile, new stems emerge with an attractive red hue before maturing to a soft brown over time. The foliage grows upright in a sweeping fashion, and it can be trimmed relatively easily if so desired.
The Encore Carnation is perfect for maintenance-free informal hedge as it remains evergreen and dense with foliage all year long. Try it out along a pathway or next to a fence to soften transitions in your landscape. Otherwise, it's a unique specimen, container, or foundation planting.
The Autumn Princess could almost fall in the red category, but at the end of the day it has more of a salmon-pink hue. These blooms are semi-double with consistent, medium-sized petals and tend to have a semi-ruffled look to them.
The leaves are semi-glossy and tend to be dark all year long. However, in the winter they take on a shade of dark purple. They have a soft elliptical shape and light veining, with light colored, medium length hairs.
The Encore Princess is a dwarf variety, but it's at the larger end of the dwarf spectrum. It's perfect for a foundation planting at the front of your house, as you won't have to worry about it overgrowing. Otherwise, it's great around mailboxes or in mixed garden beds. Try pairing it with brightly colored plants such as Sunshine Ligustrum or Lemon Lime Nandina for a bold contrast.
Autumn Monarch is one of the taller Encores, with a maximum height of 5 feet tall. It features semi-double blooms that are an orange-pink hue. These blooms are quite bright and have a knack for catching attention. Inside the throat of the bloom, you’ll find red-orange freckles that add a layer of dimension to the bloom.
The leaves on this variety are lighter, and more luminous than many varieties. They are highly glossy, which catches sunlight beautifully and adds to their shining complexion.
The Encore Monarch grows in an upright manner, which traditionally features upward sweeping branches. If you have a desired height, the Monarch will respond to trimming, and it will hold a shape fairly well. Use it as a low-maintenance hedge, as a specimen, or as a taller element in a mixed garden bed.
Autumn Carnival brings the classic single-form azalea bloom look to a dwarf shrub. These blooms tend to be about 2.5″ across, with large fluorescent pink petals. You’ll find magenta pink freckles in the throat as well. These blooms remind me of that classic pink azalea bloom that you’ll find all across the south on massive azalea bushes during the spring. Except with the Carnival, you get to enjoy them several times a year and in smaller gardens!
The foliage tends to be dark green and elongated on this variety. The leaves are medium sized, shallowly veined, and don’t have a considerable gloss to them.
The Encore Carnival has a naturally rounded habit. Therefore, harsh trimming is not usually ideal. Use it in a foundation planting, mixed garden bed, container, or border. Planting them just close enough to lightly touch (about 3 feet apart) allows their natural form to shine year after year.
The Autumn Sundance is one of those varieties where you know it when you see it. Its blooms are a bright magenta pink with dark pink freckles. These flowers are easily recognizable because of their natural star-like shape with curled edges.
The leaves are noteworthy in their own right. They are elongated and intricately veined, with a semi-glossy nature to them and slight leaf hair. Additionally, they tend to have a reddish winter hue to them as well.
The Encore Sundance is at home when used as a low hedge, in mixed garden beds, or as a foundation planting. The unique blooms arguably have the most impact when this shrub is planted en masse, as this creates quite a feast for the eyes in full bloom.
Autumn Empress features a profusion of perfectly pink flowers. These blooms are traditionally about 2.25 – 2.5 inches across, with dual layers of medium pink petals with dark pink freckles in the throat. Moreover, they have a delicate elegance to them that is undeniable.
The leaves tend to be on the short side, elliptically shaped, and coming to a point on the end. While the foliage is an attractive dark green with a semi-glossy sheen. In addition, winter brings about a light bronzing effect to the foliage.
The Encore Empress is great for hedges or as a medium-sized element in mixed garden beds or foundation plantings. Additionally, this variety responds to trimming and can be kept at a desired height.
The Autumn Sweetheart is easy to fall in love with. It features two different bloom colors, a soft pink (pictured above) and a white-pink. Both colors feature purple flecks in the throat of the bloom. This beauty really doesn’t try to overstate itself. It knows what it brings to the table and it does it well. It’s ideal for adding a delicate dose of color to any landscape.
The leaves are glossy, and smooth, with a dark green hue. Meanwhile, the branches are medium-sized, rigid, and upright, with light green new growth.
The Encore Sweetheart shines as a low-maintenance hedge. A long hedge down a path or driveway creates a stunning display when this variety is in full bloom.
The Autumn Cheer is the sister of the Autumn Ruby. However, its blooms are a light pink, rather than a ruby red. It’s just as popular with pollinators and hummingbirds. The flowers are quite petite, but they appear in clusters that maximize their color impact in the garden. Each bloom is single-form, with 5 smooth petals, and magenta freckles in the throat.
The Encore Cheer has rounded dark green leaves with an attractive sheen. Additionally, winter brings about a bronzing effect to the evergreen leaves.
This selection is naturally compact and features a rounded growth habit. For this reason, it’s suited for mixed garden beds, container plantings, or low informal hedges.
The Autumn Jewel features small 2″ blooms that emerge in clusters. These blossoms are single-form with flat pink petals and magenta pink freckles. The Jewel’s tubular blooms prove to be popular with hummingbirds and butterflies as well.
The leaves are particularly intriguing on this variety. They’re long, pointed, quite glossy, and deeply veined. This produces a ‘stained-glass’ sort of texture, especially in the winter when it takes on a purple hue.
The Encore Jewel is great for anyone looking for a petite bloom on a medium-sized plant. It’s an ideal hedge variety, whether trimmed or untrimmed. Otherwise, it works really well as a larger specimen in a foundation planting, in a butterfly garden bed, or just a mixed bed in general.
The Autumn Sangria is deeply reminiscent of southern azaleas known and loved for generations, but with 3x the blooming seasons! The blooms are single-form and brilliant neon pink with wide petals and a splash of magenta freckles in the throat.
The leaves of the Sangria are elliptical, long, and pointed, with a hairy texture. New growth emerges bright green before maturing to a rich dark green.
The Encore Sangria is perfect for anyone looking for that classic azalea appearance on a shrub that won’t outgrow your garden or landscape. Use it as a low-maintenance hedge, or feel free to trim it yearly to a uniform height. It also functions well as a specimen, foundation planting, or in a mixed garden bed.
The Autumn Rouge is the Grandpappy of all Encore Azaleas, so to speak. This was the first Encore Azalea variety bred by Buddy Lee in the early 1980’s, and it kicked off the entire collection as we know it today!
Don’t let this old timer fool you though, it’s still kicking landscapes into shape across the country with its medium-sized, semi-double, ruffled pink blooms with a clusters of magenta pink freckles.
The leaves are large, elliptical, pointed, and somewhat hairy. New growth emerges light green and matures to a dark green shade.
The Encore Rouge grows in a naturally rounded habit, and is best used somewhere that it’s allowed to grow freely. However, light trimming is tolerated. Use it as an informal hedge, specimen, container, foundation planting, or mixed garden bed.
The Autumn Debutante is similar to the Autumn Sweetheart in its growth habit, and the way that its blooms tend to range between shades. You’ll find them somewhere between an almost coral pink to a whitish pink shade, both with a splash of purple-pink freckles. These blooms are on the larger side, stretching 3 inches across traditionally, with delicate wide petals.
The leaves tend to be medium-sized, elliptical, and an attractive true green. This foliage is bright and dense, perfect for some reliable evergreen landscape coverage.
The Encore Debutante thrives as a hedge, where its range of bloom color can truly shine. Try it along a long pathway, a driveway, or as a mass planting. It also functions fantastically as foundation planting.
The Autumn Coral is the smallest of the pink varieties, but it still knows how to pack a punch. Its blooms are medium-sized, single-form, and appear in serious numbers during the summer. These flowers are bright coral pink with a healthy dose of magenta pink speckles.
The leaves are quite petite, pointed, with a light gloss and slight fuzziness. New leaves emerge bright green on red stalks before maturing to a dark green.
The Encore Coral is perfect for usage as a short element in a mixed garden bed or in front of larger plants. Left untrimmed, it will grow in a naturally rounded mound shape. However, it handles trimming nicely due to its numerous thin branches and small leaves. Therefore, it creates interesting opportunities for sharp edged trimming in planter boxes or as borders in landscapes.
Purple Blooming Azaleas
Purple: it’s rich, luxurious, and unusual, making it one of the best bloom color additions you can make to your garden!
The Autumn Lilac is one of a kind! It produces 5-petaled, brilliant lavender blooms with ruffled edges and a splash of dark purple speckles. These blooms have a true purple hue that is quite remarkable. Therefore, expect this winner to bring a unique flair to any landscape or garden.
The leaves are glossy, elliptical, and lightly dotted with tiny white hairs. Mature foliage is an attractive dark green that shows off the bright blooms beautifully.
The Encore Lilac features thick branches that tend to produce clusters of foliage. This isn’t a variety that you’ll want to trim harshly. Fortunately the Lilac grows in a natural mound shape. For this reason, it’s perfect for usage in mixed garden beds, as foundation plantings, in containers, or as a low hedge.
The Autumn Royalty was voted ‘Azalea of the Year’ by the American Rhododendron Society, and for good reason! It’s a phenomenal, reliable rebloomer. The flowers are large, single-form, and bright purple, with slightly ruffled edges and magenta freckles. These blooms appear in spades spring through fall, and really bring a landscape to life.
The leaves are sure to remind you of traditional azalea foliage. They’re elliptical, quite fuzzy, pointed, and very dark green.
This is one of the tallest varieties, perfect for usage as a hedge. It responds well to trimming. However, left untrimmed, it will grow in a naturally rounded shape. Alternatively, use it as a specimen or as a tall element in a mixed garden bed.
The Autumn Amethyst is the sibling of the Autumn Jewel. It features medium sized, tubular blooms that are popular with pollinators and hummingbirds. These flowers are single-form and bright magenta-purple with dark pink flecks in the throat. They traditionally appear in clusters, maximizing their effect in the landscape.
It features truly unusual, long, glossy, pointed leaves with deep veining. This foliage has fantastic winter color that morphs to a dark purple until the return of spring.
Due to its naturally dense growth habit, trimming isn’t required. However, this variety does respond well to pruning. The Encore Amethyst is perfect for a low-maintenance, medium sized hedge.Alternatively, use it as a tall specimen in a butterfly garden and surround it with shorter butterfly-friendly plants. It also shines as a foundation planting, mixed garden beds, and containers.
Bicolor Blooming Azaleas
Bicolor blooms are flashy and dynamic, a perfect way to introduce a little bit of variety and color into your landscape or garden.
The Autumn Belle is a gorgeous, fast-growing variety that’s ideal for anyone looking for a taller reblooming azalea. The blooms are medium-sized, semi-double, and whitish-pink with numerous magenta pink speckles in the throat. These blooms always appear plentifully petaled, and feature some light ruffling on the edges as well.
The leaves are elliptical, pointed, and glossy, with small white hairs. The foliage captures sunlight very nicely, and really adds to the bright and sunny appearance of the Belle.
The Encore Belle is a champ when used as a hedge. It’s heavily branched nature responds well to trimming, but it isn’t required. It also shines as a specimen plant or as a taller element in a mixed garden bed. Additionally, due to its upright nature, it looks fantastic in a large container.
To put it in Forrest Gump terms, the Autumn Twist is kind of like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get. But with the Twist, no matter what you get, you’ll be pleased!
Its large blooms are single form, widely petaled, with color patterns ranging from white with purple specks, white with purple specks and purple streaks, mostly white with purple specks and large purple sections, or even solid purple. Although the splash of magenta freckles remains consistent among all color patterns. On a mature plant, you’ll be amazed at the sort of color pattern variety that the Autumn Twist is able to bring to the table.
The leaves are long, pointed, and hairy, with a matte sheen. New growth emerges a brilliant lime green before maturing to an attractive forest green.
My favorite way to use the Encore Twist is as a long hedge, lining a path or driveway, or any other type of mass planting. This creates a breathtaking display when in full bloom. The diverse flowers appear by the hundreds and play off of each other wonderfully. Otherwise, use the Twist in a foundation planting, mixed garden bed, or container planting.
This is a fast-growing variety, and it handles trimming well, although it isn’t required.
The Autumn Sunburst is another personal favorite of mine. Single-form blooms are coral pink with white edges and a splash of magenta pink freckles. The petals are wide, and lightly ruffled on the edges, with attractive dark pink veining. They have a somewhat tropical vibe to them, and they’re one of the most unique flowers you can have in your landscape.
The leaves are rounded on the end, glossy, and smooth, with very little hair. The foliage is an attractive dark green and grows in a naturally mounded habit, with medium to slender branches.
Because of it’s low-growing, mounding nature, the Encore Sunburst isn’t ideal for harsh trimming. Rather, use its natural round shape to your advantage. Informal low-hedges, foundation plantings, mixed garden beds, and containers are all perfect uses for this selection. Try planting it in front of taller Encore Azaleas for a bloom display that will never leave your landscape lacking in blooms.
The Autumn Chiffon is a sibling of the Autumn Coral and features many of the same qualities. The blooms are large for such a small plant, at 2.75″ across. They’re single-form and white, with magenta pink speckles in the throat. It also features a heavier than average summer bloom period.
The leaves are petite, pointed, and somewhat fuzzy. The foliage tends to be a medium green hue and the branches are plentiful and thin.
Because of the small leaves and branches of the Encore Chiffon, it responds particularly well to trimming, and can be pruned into hard shapes. However, allowed to grow freely, it has a naturally mounded shape. Use it in a border, a mixed garden bed, container planting, or mass planting; anywhere you could use a healthy dose of gorgeous blooms.
White Blooming Azaleas
White blooms go with everything, and they have a real knack for brightening up landscapes.
The Autumn Ivory is a true dwarf, perfect for small gardens. Medium-sized, single-form blooms are bright white with a slight green-white hue towards the center. These blooms appear in considerable numbers in spring, summer, and fall.
The leaves are petite, slightly fuzzy, pointed, and dark green, with very little gloss. Meanwhile, the branches are slender and compact, providing dense leaf coverage all year long.
This low-grower has a natural mounding growth habit, no pruning required. Therefore, it’s an easy choice for containers, low-borders, foundation plantings, or mixed garden beds. The Encore Ivory also lends itself to eye-catching mass plantings.
The Autumn Moonlight is another fast-growing variety with some truly luminous blooms! Its medium-sized flowers are semi-double and heavily petaled with lightly ruffled edges. Each blossom is a bright white shade, with a hint of lime-green towards the center of the bloom. Additionally, this is a particularly prolific bloomer, so buckle in for season after season of impressive flower displays.
The leaves are glossy, short, and elliptical with a point on the end. New foliage emerges a brilliant green before maturing to an attractive dark green hue. Meanwhile, its branches are robust, and grow in a sweeping upright habit.
Use the Encore Moonlight as a low-maintenance reblooming hedge for a reliably beautiful and useful landscape feature. Trim it or let it grow freely, it grows well either way. Otherwise, try it as a taller element in a mixed garden bed, as a specimen, or in a container planting.
The Autumn Lily is a white-blooming azalea with a little extra flair! Single-form blooms are semi-glossy and crisp white with occasional purple stripes. These blooms are on the larger side, and appear in scores season after season.
The leaves are large, pointed, and fuzzy, with a dark green hue. While the branches are strong and robust on this upright grower.
This is another fantastic hedge variety, whether trimmed or untrimmed. Left to grow naturally they tend to have a soft, rounded shape. If pruned, they can be shaped into somewhat uniform hedges. Alternatively, try it as a foundation planting, as a taller element in a mixed garden bed, as a specimen, or even in containers. Due to the random nature of the bloom patterns, the Encore Lily creates quite a statement in mass plantings as well.
The Autumn Angel is a stunning dwarf azalea variety unlike any other! This is one of those plant selections that really lives up to its name. Single-form blooms emerge with 5 bright, clear white petals with lightly ruffled edges. These ethereal blooms appear delicate, but they’re quite prolific and hardy.
The leaves are thin, rounded, smooth, and glossy, with an attractive true green hue and notable light green veining. The branches are petite, but rigid, and grow with a naturally dense form.
The Encore Angel is a naturally rounded dwarf variety, so it thrives in informal plantings where it can grow freely. However, it does handle trimming well. Use it as a low-border, mass planting, container plant, foundation planting, or as a short element in a mixed garden bed.
About Cold Hardy Encore Azaleas
Encore Azalea varieties marked here as “Cold Hardy” all go down to USDA Zone 6A. This means that once they are well-established in your landscape, they can potentially handle temperatures down to -10°F (-23°C). However, we recommend providing harsh winter protection for the first 2-3 winters. Namely, this includes covering them with frost blankets during hard freezes, and applying 4-6 inches of mulch around the plant for the winter (be careful not to pile mulch directly against the trunk of the plant). After spending a few fruitful seasons in your garden, they should be able to handle the extreme temperatures in your area successfully.
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