How to Grow and Care for Autumn Bonfire Encore Azalea

Bright red blooms just don't quit all spring, summer, and fall.

If we had a dime for every time a pink azalea stole the show, we'd be richer than a cowboy wearing Lucchese boots at the rodeo. But as much as we love those seasonal blooms, we're currently oohing and aahing over an azalea that blooms in spring, summer, and fall in a scarlet red shade so pretty you'll never have to give up curb appeal again.

Autumn Bonfire Encore Azalea is a low-maintenance, fast-growing dwarf shrub that holds deep green foliage all year long and vibrant true red blooms for almost that long, which means we've been eyeing the little looker at Home Depot for a hot minute. It offers all of the color and pizzazz of a flowering shrub at a manageable size and upkeep. Music to the ears of all gardeners who don't like to spend all their time in the garden and to those who do, too. This is a flowering shrub of the people.

It's low maintenance to grow, only needing about four to six hours of sunlight, and does well even when placed in fuller sun unlike other azaleas. It also has a characteristic mix of single and semi-double blooms (each about 2 ½ inches wide) for a little visual variety.

Basically, we like to classify Autumn Bonfire Encore Azalea under the "hardy and easy to grow" category, which all gardeners can appreciate. Especially considering it can keep color sweeping your lawn through the heat of a Southern summer and live to tell the tale—in its signature red, no less.

Plant Attributes

  • Common Name: Autumn Bonfire Encore Azalea
  • Botanical Name: Rhododendron 'Robleza' PPAF
  • Family: Heath
  • Plant Type: Shrub
  • Mature Size: 3 ft. tall, 3.5 ft. wide
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun
  • Soil Type: Well-drained
  • Soil pH: Acidic
  • Bloom Time: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Flower Color: Red
  • Hardiness Zones: 6a-10b (USDA)
  • Native Area: Hybrid
  • Toxicity: Toxic to people, toxic to pets

Autumn Bonfire Care

Red azalea in full bloom
Getty Images/Flavia Morlachetti

Light

Encore Azaleas grow best in areas with four to six hours of direct or filtered sunlight, with some shade during the afternoon heat. They do well under the light shade of a loblolly or tall pine, but won't bloom well in deep shade.

Soil

Encore Azaleas thrive in slightly acidic, well-drained soil, another reason to plant them under or near a pine. If you have a heavy clay soil, amend liberally with compost or soil conditioner, or mix in humus (the top layer of spongy decomposing material under your trees), peat, and decomposing pine bark or pine straw.

Water

Keep the soil moist but not soggy by watering regularly when you first plant your azalea. Depending on rainfall, your shrub could need watering twice a week the first summer. After the first year, Encore Azaleas require little watering, but could appreciate some water during very hot and dry weather.

Temperature and Humidity

Autumn Bonfire is cold-hardy down to -5 to -10 degrees F, which means it can be planted in Zone 6a and warmer. They will grow in both humid and dry climates—some gardeners have even had success growing them in the desert with regular watering.

Fertilizer

Use a slow release, granular fertilizer for azaleas, camellias, and other acid-loving plants at the beginning of spring after all danger of frost has passed. Don't fertilize after August, because new growth won't have time to harden off before the frost.

Pruning

Autumn Bonfire Encore Azalea reaches a height of about 3 feet tall and 3 ½ feet wide, making it easy to stick almost anywhere in the garden and unlikely to outgrow its space. If you do want to prune your azalea, do so right after the spring bloom to avoid trimming away the flower buds you're hoping to see open later in the year. A light pruning of established plants can be used to stimulate growth and flowering.

Propagating Autumn Bonfire Encore Azaleas

Encore Azaleas are a patented brand and cannot be propagated without the company's permission.

Potting and Repotting Autumn Bonfire Encore Azaleas

Because of its small stature, Autumn Bonfire can easily be grown in a container. Choose a pot with good drainage holes that is twice the width of the azalea's original pot. Use a light potting mix and mix in a fertilizer for acid-loving plants according to package directions. Put some potting soil in the bottom of the container so that the azalea sits about an inch below the lip of the pot. Fill in with potting soil around the plant, making certain that the azalea is planted at the same depth or slightly above the soil line, and water thoroughly. Water the pot whenever the top of the soil feels dry to the touch.

Azaleas should be repotted once the roots outgrow the pot (you may see them start to emerge from the drainage holes, a good sign that it's time to give your plant a new home). Choose a new pot that is 2 to 4 inches wider than the existing pot and transfer the plant following the same directions.

Overwintering

Avoid winter burn and damage by protecting your azalea before the arrival of severe weather. If freezing temperatures are coming and there hasn't been much rainfall, water your shrub well. Add or supplement mulch around the base of the plant until it is about 4 inches deep. Cover the plant with burlap or cloth if a heavy snowfall or ice is predicted. If the foliage is damaged by winter weather, wait until new growth emerges before pruning off unsightly leaves.

If you live in a climate that is too cold for overwintering Encore Azaleas outdoors, you can grow them in a pot and move them indoors during winter. Before you move your azalea indoors, wash it with an insecticidal soap. Then find a spot to set your pot that is in bright, indirect sunlight and away from cold drafts or hot air vents. Water regularly to keep the soil moist but not soggy.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

While Encore Azaleas aren't particularly prone to pests, they can be affected by aphids, spider mites, lace bugs, scale, and fungi.

Speckled or stippled leaves are usually an indication of leaf-piercing insects like aphids, spider mites, and lace bugs. A hard spray of water from the hose can knock off a few insects, or use insecticidal soap for a heavier infestation.

If you see sooty, moldy looking stems and white cottony insects on the limbs, you have an infestation of azalea bark scales. Remove or spray the insects and prune off any dead or dying branches.

Leaf galls, rust, petal blight (white spots on flowers), and leaf spot (brown blotches on the leaves that grow and spread) are all caused by fungi. Treat your shrub with a fungicide if you notice these problems. Azaleas can also suffer from root rot, a fungus that causes leaves to yellow and the plant to wilt, eventually leading to death. The best course of action is prevention—don't plant your shrub in an area with poor drainage. You can try removing infected roots and drenching the soil with a fungicide for root rot, but badly infected shrubs should be removed and thrown out.

How to Get Autumn Bonfire Encore Azalea to Bloom

Newly planted Encore Azaleas may need a few months to settle in before they begin to bloom. If your shrub still isn't blooming, make sure it is receiving four to six hours of sunlight a day. Sometimes pruning surrounding plants can help to increase sun exposure. Also, if you pruned your azalea in the last few months, you may have unwittingly removed flower buds. The plant will eventually produce more for the next bloom.

If you're still not seeing blooms on your azalea, you can use a fertilizer that is high in phosphorus (the middle number of the three numbers you will see on the label) to encourage blooming. Don't use a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen (the first number on the label), which encourages green growth instead. Wait until your shrub has been planted a year before trying a fertilizer.

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