azalea timing

fh05

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Hi
After trying unsuccesfully on a couple of plants last year, I was too scared to try azalea again but I am developing interest in azalea again. I have read the various techniques on how to grow cuttings, styling techniques on this forum.. no talk about nursery stock?
I found a couple of decent azaleas from a local nursery in 3-5 gallon pots. when (or is there? I am sure there is, only the experts know) is a good time to perform heavy root pruning/chop to put it in training pots? Is there a specific method? any help is highly appriciated.
 

pjkatich

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fh05,

What type of azaleas are you working with?

In general, early spring (before they flower) would be the best time to do the type of work you described. Once the plants begin to show new growth, do whatever cutting and trimming are necessary on the branches and trunks. I would recommend that you do not cut large branches flush to the trunk. This could lead to severe die back of the trunk and roots directly below the branch that was removed. Instead, leave a small stub which will die back slowly on its own if you keep the new shoots rubbed off. Normally, after a season or two you can remove the stub flush to the branch with no problem. In general, do not make concave cuts on an azalea, they will not heal over very well. Instead, make a flat cut and trim up the edges with a sharp knife.

Next, remove any flower buds that remain on the plant. Continue to remove any flower buds that develop during the following growing season. This is important - Do not let the plant bloom at all during the next growing season.

Next, remove the plant from the nursery container and wash all the nursery soil from the root ball. Make sure you get all the nursery soil removed from directly under the trunk. Take care with the roots, they can be brittle. Once you have removed the nursery soil, you should be able to trim up to 50% of the root ball away (depending on how much of the top growth you removed) without putting the plant in danger.

Now pot up your azalea in a growing container using a good organic bonsai soil mix. I use a mixer of 75% organic and 25% inorganic for mine. Water the plant well and place in a shaded area until new growth starts to show. Most types of azalea will bud back fairly well on old wood. Once the new growth starts, rub off the buds you don't want and move the tree to an area that gets morning sun. They can remain in that location for the remainder of the growing season. At that point, you can begin to fertilize your trees.

I hope this helps.

Good Luck,
Paul
 

Bonsai Nut

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Hiya fh05;

It would help to know where you are located. Just to reinforce what Paul said, most American azaleas bloom in the spring, but some azaleas (most satsukis, for example) will bloom later in the year - as late as June in some areas. It will effect the timing of some of your caretaking - especially as the tree matures and you want to ensure full blooms.

Also, azaleas (like camelias) need acid soil. Make sure to fertilize with miracid or a similar acidic soil supplement. Consider peat moist as a soil component. I know of some people who water their azaleas with water that has been filtered through peat moss so it is like tea and is acidic.
 

fh05

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Thanks Paul and Nut

Got a little busy with hollidays and some family business. I live in New Orleans. I have 2 Glenndale hybrids, one satsuki, and one i believe is a formosa. just got back after a week visiting family up northeast, one of them has a couple of blooms on it, I guess they are still growing?

I read in a book to keep some leaves at the tips of the branches. Paul, is it very important to leave some growth (leaves) at the tips of branches after the trimming or does it bud back after a chop? Thanks again
 

pjkatich

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I read in a book to keep some leaves at the tips of the branches. Paul, is it very important to leave some growth (leaves) at the tips of branches after the trimming or does it bud back after a chop? Thanks again
fh05,

I am only familiar with growing Satsuki and they can be a bit troublesome in this regard.

Yes, retaining some growth at the branch tips will help with maintaining the sap pathways along these branches. However, the size of the branch and the location of the branch on the plant can play a factor. In general, Satsuki are basal dominant and removing all the growth in the apex of the plant can cause a great deal of die back. The age and vigor of the plant can also play a factor. Plants which are young or have been allowed to grow vigorously can be pruned more severely.

I hope this helps.

Regards,
Paul
 
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