Mid-October and 44 degrees sent me out into the landscape to scout for camellia blossoms, but instead I was mesmerized by the azalea flowers. My front yard is about a half-acre, requiring an adventure with a slope, so I am often failing to do due diligence not only with maintenance but photography, too.
I don’t know what surprised me the most — was it the huge carnation-like blossoms of Bloom-A-Thon Double Pink, or the pure exquisite nature of Perfecto Mundo Double Pink and Perfecto Mundo Double Purple? Both Perfecto Mundo varieties looked as though they were made of pure porcelain.
I planted really small plants two years ago, and this year was like their coming out party. The blossoms are smaller than the Bloom-A-Thon, but azalea lovers everywhere will have to have these reblooming varieties too. They will literally offer months of bloom.
I am delighted with my combinations, though I have to confess one was sort of an accident. I planted the Perfecto Mundo Double Purple with a lime green anise shrub. The lime green foliage and purple touching in marriage is ever-so striking. My accidental combination occurred with Perfecto Mundo Double Pink and Rockin Deep Purple salvia. I just never considered the blooming sequence, especially since the azalea was small at planting. Right now I love it, but it is possible the salvia will have to be moved later.
The Perfecto Mundo series has now grown to six with the addition of Perfecto Mundo Double Dark Pink, Double White, Red and the ever-so exciting Orange. We are talking about a flaming orange, too! In addition to being a little more compact at 3-by-3 feet the Perfecto Mundo series has another trait that will put these on your must-have list, that being a resistance to lace bugs.
In the backyard it is the Bloom-a-Thon Red that has been stealing the show. It bloomed in the spring, rested and then started again in the summer. I took my first summer photo July 9 of them blooming with Autumn Frost hosta. They have been blooming every day as we now head into late October. The Bloom-A-Thon series also from Proven Winners comes in five colors, Purple, White, Red, Hot Pink and carnation-like Double Pink I mentioned earlier.
Bloom-A-Thon azaleas are recommended in zone 7a-9a, while the Perfecto Mundo series exhibits a little more cold-hardiness and is recommended for zone 6b-9. Both should be planted in fertile well-drained acid soil. The Garden Guy makes it a practice to incorporate organic matter into all azalea shrub beds. Add a layer of mulch after planting and again each year. The azalea keeps the roots near the soil surface, and this annual decomposition of mulch and organic matter will maintain a good environment for new roots and help in moisture retention.
I have mine in a part sun area that is shifting throughout the day. They do have the ability to tolerate quite a bit of sun. These azaleas really do best in a filtered light to part sun area particularly in the south. I like them planted in curvy informal sweeps or clusters with odd numbers versus the formal toy soldier look.
In the backyard in addition to variegated hostas The Garden Guy has a dream of having both Bloom-A-Thon and Perfecto Mundo partnered with hydrangeas. My goal is to one day see azaleas bloom alongside the iridescent blue mophead shaped hydrangea blooms. It could happen!
So yes, you can have a glorious spring azalea bloom and follow it up with an extra-long, late summer to fall bloom too, when you grow Bloom-A-Thon and the new expanded Perfecto Mundo series of reblooming azaleas. Fall is a great time to plant!
Norman Winter is a horticulturist, garden speaker and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.”