I was going to start an encore azalea thread before I read this one.I have several encore plants and lots more regular azaleas.The encores are blooming now and while they don't bloom year round for me they do bloom at least twice a year.Although the blooms aren't as full as the regular azaleas it's nice to have the color now when there isn't that much in bloom here in August.
The encores are still blooming and this year they are pretty spectacular.I guess it is just a matter of time as with most things.I will buy some more that's for sure.
Here is Coastal South Carolina Azaleas all bloom at the same time in the spring.You think to yourself that it is the most spectacular show that you have ever seen and you want more and more.The show is over pretty quickly and the bush is pretty plain after that.I have seen alot of gardens here that are mostly all Azaleas.People here drive around to see the Azaleas bloom just like people go to see the leaves turn in the fall.
With the Encores there is interest almost all year round.
The size of the leaves is a genetic trait so leaf size should not "change". Problems with "the look" could be due to lack of moisture (you can check the soil with a finger... insert it to a depth of 3-4"), weather (this time of the year, there is an uptick in fungal infections that cause leaf spots), lack of sun. Make sure they are getting adequate moisture, water early in the morning and -if you can- do not water the leaves but rather water the soil.
I've found that adding iron and sulfur about three times a year helps to keep the leaves green and healthy looking. (We have alkaline clay soil here) The azaleas also love coffee grounds, compost/alfalfa tea, and epsom salts.
Be careful with the amount of fertilizer on azaleas and rhodies guys! Here are some fertilizing suggestions specifically for azaleas and rhodies. By the way, my favorite Encores are two purple ones, Autumn Amethyst and Royalty.
* Rhododendrons and azaleas grow well at relatively low nutrient levels by establishing a symbiotic relationship between the roots and a type of fungus called myco; the plants basically feed off the decomposing mulch with help from the fungus. Mycorrhizae are fungi that live in symbiosis with plant roots to the mutual benefit of both. Once the plants are established, fertilizing should be minimized. Mycorrhizae fungi can be purchased at some organic minded stores as well as some local nurseries.
* To prevent tender fall growth, the Azalea Society of America recommends that there be no fertilizing after July 1.
* Newly planted azaleas and rhododendrons should not be fertilized at the time of planting if they have little BB-like balls in its container; the little balls are fertilizer. Just plant them as soon as possible and water them deeply. Plants that have been given a soil mixture rich in organic matter probably will not need feeding for several years.
* Do not stimulate fast growth with fertilizers because it produces long weak stems and few flowers. The National Arboretum also warns that: "Excess nutrients may promote larger than normal populations of azalea pests like lace bugs and azalea whiteflies." Of the chemical fertilizers available around here, I would recommend Fetilome's Azalea Evergreen Food because it is a systemic insect control for white flies and lacebugs. Lacebugs usually show up in May-June so apply some about a month before they show up or earlier.
* A fertilizer with a NPK Ratio similar to 6-10-4 (like Holly-tone or Cottonseed Meal) applied at 2 pounds per 100 square feet to the soil surface (about 1/4 cup of cottonseed meal for new small shrubs) is enough when fertilizers are actually needed. Apply a dusting on the top soil and then water deeply. Keep the plants well mulched at all times (3-4" of acidic mulch). The tiny fibrous roots of the plants are in the top 4" inches of the soil so not disturb the soil there or try to mix the fertilizer with the soil.
* If the soil pH is too high, the leaves will develop iron chlorosis, a condition in which the leaves turn light green or light yellow while the veins remain dark green. To address it, you can apply Espoma's Garden Sulphur, Soil Sulphur, Green Light Iron & Soil Acidifier or any other liquid acidifier product with chelated compounds. Encore Azaleas can be evergreen here in Texas most winters so choose a product that has little or no nitrogen in case you have to apply it during winter; I keep some of Green Light's product because it has a NPK Ratio of 0-0-0 and have had to use it during some winters on my acid-loving plants.
* Phosphorus and potassium may be applied any time. However, be aware that phosphorus takes a while to reach the roots and is best applied about six months before the plant develops flower buds. Magnesium enhances nitrogen uptake so some dusting with Epsom Salts is fine. After applying, water deeply. However, none of these is required if your soil is already has enough of these naturally occuring minerals. A soil test should be done every 3-5 years to see how the levels are.