Found Azalea


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Mooresville, NC - USA
Hello. I went by one of the jobs we are supposed to be starting next week, and they had taken out the landscaping, and there were a couple of azaleas that were to be thrown away. They look like they are only 10 years old or so, but might have some potential. The only thing is that they were dug up in november, and the plan was to use them again, but it changed. They were stacked closed together, but nothing covering the rootball. What should be done to try and save something like this? I am getting ready to look for the type. It had a tag that said azalea 'coversation piece'. Thanks for any input. Brad

I did some looking and its a rhododendron hybrid, if it helps.
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Brad, were any of the leaves still on it, if so maybe. I'd box em up with some added mulch around the roots and put them where the wouldn't freeze. Hopefully piled together the roots didn't dry out and kill them. Worth a try and see what happens in the spring. Typical winter watering.
Yes they are still on it. I was surprised when he told me when it was dug up, but there is a large rootball, and the leaves are all green, and not dried up. Thanks for the advice Bill. Its got a nice trunk, about 2". Hate to see any trees go to waste. I told the builder to let me know anytime he has to do something like that. Its how i got most of the trees i have. I have been collecting for almost two years now, so in spring some of them will get into smaller containers, and maybe start some branch growing. Thanks again.

You probably realize it, but out of the wind would be a good thing for these as well. Good Luck, show us some pix in the spring.
'Conversation Piece' is a nice azalea for bonsai. It is is satsuki under the broad definition, if you care about such a label. Parentage is ('Emile Russave' x Carol') x 'Eikan'.
It's a Robin Hill azalea.
More info:
More pictures.

There's nothing special you can do about it. You don't want to roots to dry out, of course. So plant it again where you want to plant them. PH soil should be 4.5-5.5. Azalea root shallow so the root ball is all the roots they have. You don't plant it too deep. Some people even like to plant rhododendron so the root ball is partly above the surface. This helps with drainage, which is important to all rhododendron.
Ideally Japanese azalea have morning sun and some partly shade. In the case of full sun it's an issue of providing enough water for most azalea, though some do get sunburn.
I don't know what the weather is like there currently. But maybe it's a good idea to soak the root ball in an unheated shed where it doesn't freeze. Not using rain water is ok unless tap water is really hard. This is normally always done when replanting rhododendron. Then they can drain a bit before you plant them in your garden. If you pot them then use that to put them inside your unheated shed when it gets colder than usual( maybe 15 F?)
Normally you pull a rhododendron rootball apart to spread out the roots while replanting. But not sure about that now. And you didn't buy a pot bound azalea from a nursery. So probably not needed. Especially if these plants were just ripped out, that would have had a similar effect.

The plants are in dormancy right now and that's also why they may not look as fresh and why they have yellow leaves on the lower branches that drop if you touch them. If this hybrid has that then this is normal. Both autumn colour and deciduousness depend on what traits it inherited. The upper leaves are those that matter. They should not be wrinkled. Well you know how dead foliage looks like.

'Conversation Piece' is hardy to 0 F. But lying around exposed will lower their resistance of course. So yes, winter water the plants but there shouldn't be water in the root ball that freezes into ice.
And cold dry winter wind is what causes problems for most azaleas during winter. The roots should not dry out. It is normal to mulch your rhododendron. If they are covered with snow then that also helps, which is what some wild species rely upon to survive. You can cover them with leaves to protect them further as they will be weaker this year then they ought to be.

As for late spring. You may want to remove flower buds as flowers drain the plant's energy. That way it can focus more energy on putting out new growth. This is normally done at the end of winter but can be done from November to March. For bonsai it is recommended to have only one flower bud on each branch. You can also style a bonsai by having flowers appear in certain regions and not others. Then it is also recommended to remove all flowers, including fruit, once 80% have opened. On top of that it is recommended to not have a satsuki flower at all once every 3 years, maybe at the same time of repotting and pruning.
So it's your decision on how much flower buds you want to keep on and remove. There's no reason to have them all flower. And I don't think there is a reason to remove all of them on all plants. If they survived what they did a few flowers isn't going to kill them, obviously.

But azalea are hardy plants. Some people think azalea as bonsai are not for beginners. I don't really think so. It's just that satsuki bonsai are kind of exclusive and azalea not being trees so some general principles being different.

Thank you for saving these azalea.
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Thanks alot Harunobu. That is some very good information, and something i will keep to reference in the future. Anytime i see an azalea that needs a new home, im always the first to speak up. I think they make one of the best looking trees. The nebari on them are awesome. I put them in shallow containers without disturbing the rootballs and added bonsai soil around the edges and packed in. They were going to be reused, so they were taken out with care, and then a change was made, so they were to be thrown out. Very small leaves. Ill put up some pics in a couple months when i chop them back, and clean off the crowns some. When would be the best time to clean out some of the rootball?
Of course azaleas don't need to be saved as would animals, but they are nice plants so it's a waste to throw them away, mostly.

Normally you repot before dormancy and sacrifice blooming. But since these plants were not heavy pot bound nursery stock I don't see why you need to clean the entire root ball.
When would be the best time to clean out some of the rootball?

Spring or when you pot them...always. You always need to get the field soil out of the root ball before it goes into a pot, because it packs like concrete in a container and you will lose trees. Azaleas are so tough, that when you "rescue" one, wash all the soil out of the roots before you pot them and you'll have much better luck.
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