Virtues: Autumn Majesty and Autumn Starburst are two new-in-2021 cultivars that bring all the advantages one expects from Encore azaleas: bright, colorful, profuse flowers; extended winter hardiness; and repeat flushes of bloom through spring, summer and fall. These two cultivars also extend the placement possibilities because they top out at just three feet, making them great for small gardens, mass planting or large containers.
Common name: Autumn Majesty azalea and Autumn Starburst azalea
Botanical name: Rhododendron ‘Roblezd’ or Autumn Majesty; and Rhododendron ‘Robleze’ or Autumn Starburst
Exposure: Part sun or bright filtered shade
Flowers: Autumn Majesty has ruffly semi-double flowers in purple with some hot-pink speckling. Autumn Starburst offers bicolor flowers with a star-shaped coral-pink center within pure white margins. Like all Encore azaleas, these shrubs bloom repeatedly from spring into fall.
Foliage: Both cultivars have small, neat green leaves that are evergreen.
Habit: These are rounded shrubs that reach three feet tall and wide.
How to grow it: When planting an azalea, be sure to position the plant so that the top of the root ball is level with or slightly above the soil line. These shallow-rooted shrubs need about three inches of mulch. Just be sure the mulch doesn’t touch or cover the stems. Site them where they’ll receive four to six hours of direct sun each day, or in a position of bright dappled shade. Provide ample water in the first growing season, and supplemental water during dry spells in subsequent years. Because these shrubs are naturally small, they are unlikely to need pruning; however, if you wish to trim them do so just after their first flush of bloom in spring. Be sure not to prune them in fall or winter, because they’ll have already set buds for the following spring. Top up mulch if necessary in the fall; shredded leaves make an excellent winter mulch for azaleas. Feed with an azalea/camellia fertilizer just after spring bloom. Autumn Majesty and Autumn Starburst are both rated to USDA Zones 6–10.
MEGHAN SHINN www.hortmag.com