Bonsai azalea

Azalea

Azalea Bonsai Care guidelines

Placement

Azaleas thrive at a sunny spot, but during the hottest time of the day in summer it is better to provide some shade. When flowering, azaleas should be protected from rain and hot sun to make the flowers last longer. Healthy, mature azaleas can endure some frost but should be protected from colder temperatures than 40° F (-5° C).

Watering

Azalea Bonsai trees must not dry out but they also don't like permanent wetness. Because of this it is necessary to check the moisture of the soil very carefully. A root ball that has gotten too dry temporarily should be dunked in a bowl of water to get thoroughly moistened again. Azaleas need a slightly acid soil and hard tap water is not appropriate for them. You can use rainwater, mix rainwater with tap water or filter your tap water for the azalea Bonsai. Continue reading about watering Bonsai trees.

Fertilizing

During the growing season azalea Bonsai should be fed with a special azalea or rhododendron fertilizer. There are liquid azalea fertilizers which are used weekly and organic products to strew on the soil surface in longer intervals. While the trees flower quit feeding or use only half the normal dosage.

Pruning and wiring

The azalea is one of the very few tree-species that are basally-dominant. This means that the lower branches grow stronger than the weaker top, which leads to the shape of a shrub in nature. Therefore prune the branches at the base harder than the top. The Azalea withstands strong pruning very well and even produces new shoots from branches on which no leaves are left. Immediately after flowering the wilted flowers and ovaries are cut off or pinched by hand. This point of time is also favorable for all other pruning and trimming works because in summer the new flower buds for the next year will develop. If you prune your tree too late there will be no or nearly no flowers in the following year. Unwanted shoots from the trunk or the base of the branches can be removed at any time of the year. Extensive styling works on raw material are often done in spring and in that case flowering is omitted consciously. The wood of the azalea is brittle so that wiring and bending should be done with great care. Continue reading about pruning Bonsai trees.

Repotting

Every two years, either in spring or after flowering, the azalea should be repotted. Prune the roots with great care because they are very thin and matted and can easily be torn when you try to disentangle them. It is important to use a special soil for azaleas which is lime-free. Pure Kanuma for example is a good azalea soil. Continue reading about repotting Bonsai trees.

Propagation

Azaleas are propagated from cuttings in spring and summer. Depending on the cultivar the success rate can differ, but many customary cultivars produce roots easily and quickly. In the hot time of the year transparent sheets can be useful to protect the young cuttings from excessive evaporation.

Pests and diseases

Azaleas are not often infested by pests. But low humidity can support spider mites which should be treated with a suitable pesticide and improved humidity. Vine weevil can eat the leaves and their grubs cause great damage on the roots. With special pesticides or nematodes the beetles and their grubs can be eliminated. Root rot, caused by a fungus, can occur when the soil of the azalea is too wet and compacted. There are appropriate fungicides to pour into the soil that are effective against root rot. Another fungal disease causes leaf galls. In spring and summer leaves and possibly stems become thickened, curled, fleshy and turn pale green. In the later stages of the disease, the galls become covered with a white powdery substance and finally they turn brown and hard. Leaf galls are also stimulated by wetness and they appear most often on cultivars with plain-colored red and purple flowers. The best way to handle this disease is to remove the galls as soon as they are discovered and protect the azalea from too much rain. For more detailed information on these techniques, check out our Bonsai tree care section.

Azalea Bonsai tree

Azalea Bonsai tree

Leaves of the Azalea

Leaves of the Azalea

Rhododendron bonsai

Rhododendron bonsai

Azalea with exposed roots

Azalea with exposed roots

Azalea bonsai with flowers

Azalea bonsai with flowers

General information about the Azalea Bonsai tree

The azalea is popular for its spectacular flowers, which open in May - June and come in many different colors, shapes, sizes and patterns. The leaves are dark green and differ in size and shape, depending on the cultivar. Satsuki and Kurume azaleas are evergreen, small shrubs which are very suitable for Bonsai purposes. If you need help identifying your tree, take a look at our Bonsai tree identification guide.

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Care Instructions Azalea Bonsai Plant

Insect Control:

Azalea bonsai are susceptible to aphid and spider mites. Check often for them on the new growth and on the undersides of the leaves. If insects are present, spray with a household plant insecticide/miticide or Insecticidal soap following label instructions.

Fertilizing:

The plant should be fertilized every six weeks between spring and mid-summer, using houseplant food for flowering plants at half strength. If the leaves become chlorotic (yellow with green veins) use an acid type fertilizer, which contains micronutrients, especially iron (e.g. Peter's brand or Miracle-Gro for house plants).

Pruning:

A fundamental principle in developing dwarf trees is that the tree branches should be pruned to conform to the limited space available for root growth. To prune, pinch out ends of new growth that occurs after the blooming season. Don't prune after July or you'll pinch off the new buds that would develop into blossoms. If heavier pruning is required, do it after your azalea finishes blooming.

Root Pruning:

Every other spring (March-May) your bonsai will need its roots pruned. Gently remove the plant from the pot and carefully remove some of the soil around the sides and bottom of the root ball.

Cut off one-third of the roots all the way around and up from the bottom. Place fresh, porous soil in the pot (a houseplant soil mix is suitable) and replant the bonsai. After potting, mist the plant with water and soak it in a solution of water and Superthrive or other Vitamin B-1 transplant shock treatment.

Toxicity:

Plant material, such as this product, should not be eaten. While most plants are harmless, some contain toxins.

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Azalea bonsai care

CareStylingPicturesSatsuki azalea varietiesSatsuki azalea repotting

Japanese azalea bonsai care

The bonsai care of azalea bonsai is easy. Important is: Keep evenly moist, use azalea bonsai fertilizer and use an acidic bonsai soil like Kanuma when repotting a bonsai. If you pay attention to this, azaleas can be called as bonsai for beginners.

Satsuki azaleas bonsai (Rhododendron indicum) belong to the group of hardy outdoor bonsai trees and should therefore be kept outdoors. Satsuki azalea are mainly cultivated as bonsai because of the immense abundance of flowers.

Japanese Satsuki azalea bonsai care in a nutshell:


Fertilize | Watering | Location | Overwintering | Repot | Diseases, Pests | Propagation


Fertilize

We only fertilize azalea bonsai in our bonsai nursery with or after flowering (around mid-May) until September nitrogen-rich with mineral fertilizer. It is important when fertilizing azaleas that the bonsai fertilizer is adjusted to the very acidic pH value of the azaleas bonsai soil.

It is best to use a bonsai fertilizer for azaleas and rhododendrons. Organic bonsai fertilizers such as Biogold or Hanagokoro are also well suited to azaleas. These fertilizers can be given before flowering because it takes a couple of weeks to really take effect.

The common bonsai liquid fertilizers are also suitable. Before flowering, it is best to give the amount indicated on the bottle. After flowering (where more leaf growth is desired) you can also give double.

Watering

During the flowering period, depending on the location, water the bonsai several times a day, preferably dive until no more air bubbles rise. Use lime-free water if possible. If the water is too hard, damage to the bonsai tree may occur in the long term (atrophy of the leaves, yellowing). Rainwater as irrigation water is ideally suited.

In Japan, Yamagoki moss is often found on the soil surface. It will be put on to keep the surface a little bit more humid. This has a positive effect on the many fine surface roots.

Location

In summer full sun to half shade. It is best to have full sun if you have time to water several times a day, especially during the flowering period.

Overwintering

The Satsuki azaleas tolerate temperatures down to -15°C in unheated foil tents according to our own experience. Wintered in bark mulch up to the first branch Satsuki azaleas survive such temperatures without complaint. A leaf loss of up to 50% can be considered normal here.

Repot

Every three to four years (or when the roots fill the bonsai pot) after flowering repot the azalea bonsai with root cut. Since the end of the flowering season can fall in July and it is already very hot and dry in our region, you can also repot in spring, but you must ensure a frost-free location afterwards. To hide the ugly yellow color of Kanuma soil you should simply apply a layer of Akadama bonsai soil mixed with humus 1:1 as a top layer.

For Azalea bonsai you should use a lime-free soil mixture. The Japanese Kanuma bonsai soil is well suited for azalea bonsai. Peat-containing earth mixtures from the garden market should be avoided, despite their low pH values. Once slightly dried, these substrates are difficult to wet again.

Diseases, Pests

Pests are not common on azalea bonsai. After an import, spider mites and other sucking insects are occasionally found. However, these can be combated well with the commercial agents against spider mites.

Propagation

Azaleas can easily be propagated through cuttings.

Japanese Satsuki azalea (Rhododendron indicum) - Bonsai with strong trunk. Recording end of april and beginning of june
⧉ Azalea bonsai with strong trunk

Japanese Satsuki azalea bonsai styling

Despite the shrub-like structure, a very good tree structure can be achieved by cutting and wiring. In japanese bonsai nurseries, azalea bonsai with enormous trunks are to be admired.

Japanese Satsuki azalea bonsai styling in a nutshell:

  • Wiring: The branches of azalea bonsai are very brittle and break easily. Therefore be careful when applying bonsai wire and especially when bending and shaping
  • Pruning: Azaleas tolerates cutting very well. Even after extreme pruning, they sprout in all sites. If you want a lot of azalea flowers next spring then you shouldn't prune too late in the previous year


Wiring | Pruning | Styles | Bonsai pots | Flowers, Fruits | Bark, Roots | Varieties | General


Wiring

When applying bonsai wire, care must be taken as the wood of the Satsuki azaleas is relatively brittle and breaks quickly when bent excessively. Thus one should distribute necessary strong bends over several years.

During azalea bonsai wiring you have to work very carefully. Azaleas have a very thin bark that can be easily injured. It is recommended to use the softer aluminum wire for azaleas.

Pruning

In principle, all styling techniques (pruning, wiring) should only be started after flowering. After flowering, the remains of the flowers are plucked with the fingers. Than you should start with pruning.

The Satsuki azaleas tolerated cutting very well and after being cut back into the old wood they sprout again at all possible and impossible places. Here, shoots that grow steeply upwards or downwards should be removed immediately with a sharp bonsai scissors.

Styles

The Satsuki azaleas look good in nearly all bonsai styles. Azalea bonsai are usually designed informal upright or slightly inclined. Also you can often see semi-cascades. Only a broom shape looks not fine.

Matching bonsai pots

Japanese Satsuki azalea (Rhododendron indicum) - Bicoloured flower
⧉ Azalea bonsai - Bicoloured flower

Glazed bonsai pots are well suited for Satsuki azalea bonsai with its splendour of blossoms. Since they belong to the winter-hardy outdoor bonsai, a frost-proof, handmade bonsai pot should be selected if possible. In our experience, the inexpensive bonsai pots (made for indoor bonsai) are also almost 100% frost-resistant. However, we do not guarantee frost resistance for these pots.

Unglazed bonsai pots are also suitable for older azalea bonsai with thick trunk. Dark brown or grey unglazed pots would fit quite well. For larger japanese bonsai you can find suitable pots under large bonsai pots.

Azalea bonsai with its roundish crown fit quite well into an oval bonsai pot but also rectangular bonsai pots are suitable. For rectangular pots, we would choose a pot that has slightly rounded corners. Higher, round bonsai pots are particularly suitable for azalea bonsai in semi-cascade style. Bonsai pot drip trays are not needed because azalea bonsai should not be placed in the apartment.

Japanese Satsuki azalea (Rhododendron indicum) - 2 flower colours on a bonsai
⧉ 2 flower colours on a bonsai

Flowers, Fruits

The broad funnel-shaped flowers stand alone or together in pairs. Their colour spectrum ranges from pure white to pink, orange to red. There are even two-coloured flowers or trees with different colours on a tree.

Bark, Roots

The bark of azalea bonsai is extremely thin. During wiring your Azalea bonsai you should work carefully so that it does not come to damage.

Varieties

There are hundreds of breeding forms (e. g. Eikan, Nikko, Chinzan, Kaho, Osakasuki, Hakurei, Kinsai) that would make an exquisite bonsai collection on their own.

General

The Japanese term Satsuki is derived from the 5th month in the Asian lunar calendar and refers to the main flowering time. It starts at the end of April and lasts until June. During this time a Satsuki Azalea Bonsai is covered over and over with flowers, so that no leaves or branches are to be seen any more. The flowering period of this bonsai species is usually 6 weeks if the flowers are protected from wetness from above (rain, watering can).

The leaves are about 2.5 to 3cm long, oval with a tip and bristly on both sides. Satsuki azaleas are semi evergreen, an acid soil loving shrubs. Depending on the hibernation temperature, the leaves remain on the tree.

Azalea bonsai - Pictures from our stock

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Azalea Bonsai Tree Care Guide (Rhododendron indicum)

Within the realm of bonsai, the ancient art of training trees and shrubs to look like miniature mature trees, azaleas hold a prized position. Azaleas add color and bloom to the art of bonsai. When crafted with artistry and precision, an azalea bonsai flowers in clouds of pink, white and red.

While conventional azaleas and rhododendrons are typically shaped into hedges or compact shrubbery, azalea bonsai are most often shaped to resemble flowering trees. Even when not in bloom, their leaves provide visual interest.

Like all bonsai, it takes attention and care to create a realistic version of a mature tree. It’s important to attend to the trunk, branches, twigs, leaves and roots of the plant to ensure that they develop into the proper proportion and scale.

This is achieved not only by pruning the branches and roots but by improving the setting as well. The container, under plantings and soil aid in reaching the desired goal, which is the appearance of a natural tree in a natural setting, miniaturized.

Scientific/Botanical NameRhododendron indicum
DescriptionAn evergreen species, azaleas/rhododendrons are available in a wide range of cultivars. A number of forms exist, ranging from arching to upright habits. The shrubs grow best in soil that is acidic.
PositionAzaleas are grown outdoors in semi-shade. In the wild, azaleas are found in woodland areas, protected by tree canopies. Growing azaleas in a similar type of environment will promote optimal growth. The shrubs have shallow roots that can be easily damaged if grown in hot, sunny sites. In areas that experience frost, container-grown azaleas must be moved to protected locations during periods of extreme cold.
WateringAzaleas need to be watered regularly during the growing phase. Plant wilting will occur if the container or the ground is allowed to dry out. Rain water is particularly beneficial to azaleas, because it contains the proper pH balance.
FeedingAzaleas should be fed with an inorganic fertilizer every two weeks in the spring. When the shrub is in flower, it should then be fed monthly until the onset of winter.
Leaf and Branch PruningPrune the shrub at the end of the bloom cycle. Ideally, only a few of the newer shoots should be left at the site where new branches are desired. If the center of the shrub is bare, the shrub can be rejuvenated by a severe cutting-back.
Re-potting & Growing MediumYounger plants grow more rapidly, and they should be re-potted every other year. Older plants should be re-potted every four years. Spring is the best time for re-potting azaleas, and flowers should be discouraged in the first year of re-potting because they place great stress on the sensitive azalea roots. Soil that contains equal parts humus, pumice and akadama is the ideal for azaleas.
WiringTypically, wiring is unnecessary for shaping azaleas. Selective pruning is usually sufficient to achieve the desired shape. Any wiring should be done on younger, more flexible branches only.
NotesAzaleas and rhododendrons used to be classified separately, but azaleas are now classified under the rhododendron genus.

Choosing An Azalea Bonsai

While a sense of proportion, artistry and patience are required to develop azaleas into stellar bonsai specimens, the plants are a good choice for beginners in the art of bonsai.

With proper care, their leaves can be developed to an ideal proportion. Azalea flowers, however, will bloom at their conventional size, but that is part of the charm of an azalea bonsai tree.

Many experts recommend that beginners start out with an established azalea bonsai. When purchasing a bonsai, it’s vital to buy a plant from a reputable source.

Even for experts, it can be challenging to determine if a bonsai has been cultivated properly. Whether purchasing an established specimen or starting from scratch, some varieties of azaleas perform better than others.

Azalea bonsai may be referred to by either their Japanese or botanical name. Three proven varieties of azalea for bonsai are:

  • KurumeRhododendron obtusum
  • HiryuRhododendron obtusum
  • Satsuki azaleaRhododendron indicum

Satsuki azaleas are particularly popular with Japanese bonsai enthusiasts. The word “Satsuki” refers to their May to June blooming period. Satsuki is the fifth month of the Japanese lunar calendar. Other popular azaleas within the Satsuki cultivar group include chinzan, eikan, hakurei, kaho and osakasuki.

The Art Of Visualization

The key to successful bonsai art is to prune all but the branches, twigs, leaves and buds that are essential to the desired form and shape. To achieve this, it’s necessary to not only visualize the desired shape but to discern the parts of the plant that will most help the plant develop the desired design. In most cases, this takes a practiced eye. For the health of the plant, it’s important not to remove all new growth at one time.

Cultivating Azalea Bonsai

Soil Considerations

Azaleas prefer a well-drained acidic soil with a pH factor of between 4.5 and 6.0. Iron sulfate or ammonium sulfate can be added to make an alkaline soil more acidic. The soil should be rich in organic matter such as well-decayed leaf mold or compost. Azaleas thrive in soil that is kept evenly moist, neither too dry nor too wet. The roots of an azalea are very fine and will not tolerate over-wet soil, even for brief periods.

Tips To Promote Flowering

When it comes to pruning an azalea bonsai, it’s important to remember blooming periods. Azalea buds set in midsummer so any pruning that occurs after then will affect flowering the following spring. If experiencing sparse bloom, it’s sometimes advisable to sacrifice one year’s bloom to encourage a fuller bloom the following year.

Azalea bonsai will get most of the nutrients that it needs from a heavily organic soil. Too much fertilizer can limit flower formation. Azalea bonsai may be sparingly fertilized in the fall with a slow-release fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants. Organic mulch, however, may provide all the nutrients that an azalea bonsai needs.

Cultivated carefully, azalea bonsai can be grown either indoors or outside, but are more likely to bloom best out of doors. Azaleas prefer a diffused light rather than full sunlight. They do well against a wall in an east- or north-facing location. Azaleas need protection in cold weather. Flower buds will be damaged by wind as well.

Root Pruning

It’s best to prune azalea bonsai roots in the spring. The soil is shaken gently to expose the roots. Up to one third of the roots can be pruned at any one time. The heaviest roots should be selected for pruning, with the fine roots left to supply nourishment to the plant.

It’s important to clean the container before replacing the plants so that root hairs do not become attached to debris stuck to the container. The azalea bonsai is then re-potted with fresh organic soil.

With the right cultivation, an azalea bonsai will improve with age, attaining a shape that is reminiscent of a cherry tree in full bloom.

Species

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Azalea bonsai

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