Hello everyone! New member, question about satsuki azalea health

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Hi everyone! I'm new here and received a satsuki bonsai as a gift in February of this year. Keeping in mind this is my first plant. However, the tips of the leaves are browning a little bit and I'm worried I'm doing something wrong. I haven't changed the soil from the one it came with or done anything besides placing filtered water at the base of the bonsai where the bed of rocks are (not placing water directly in the soil). I have also been misting my bonsai 2-3 times a day. I keep the bonsai inside, on the kitchen table near a western facing window. I would say my little bonsai gets approximately 3-4 hours of filtered sunlight a day, and the temperature inside the house averages 75 degrees F. I also live in Arizona, so it gets pretty toasty outside and our water is hard water out here, not the best. I have attached some pictures and would appreciate any help!. I am afraid to touch the bonsai for fear of accidentally killing it. I'm also not sure what type of fertilizer to use, if any.

Thank you everyone!
 

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Shibui

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Azalea can be picky about where they live. If the tree does not like the climate, soil or water it just won't survive. There are many way more tolerant specie to grow.
I'm afraid azalea don't usually live long indoors. Even in Arizona a sheltered spot outside would probably be better than indoors.
Watering from the base may not be the best. Watering from the top helps to flush toxins out of the soil and also helps draw fresh air into the soil as it drains out the bottom. Working out when to water can be difficult to judge. The soil (underneath the surface) should be just getting dry before adding more water. Constantly wet in the bottom of the pot can cause problems.
Hard water can be deadly to acid loving azaleas. Not sure if your filter alters the hardness or pH. I see many posts here about acidifying fertilizer to counteract the effects of hard water - Miracid? or you may be able to adjust your current water with a weak acid like vinegar?
Normally any fertilizer is Ok for azalea bonsai. I also use any commercial fertilizer for azalea, roses or even just 'flowers and fruit' but be a little wary of fertilizing weak or sick plants. The extra nutrients can sometimes cause more harm than good.

Sorry to be the bearer of so much bad news.
 

Deep Sea Diver

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Welcome aboard!

I echo @Shibui about keeping azaleas inside. Growing azaleas in Arizona outside is possible, but you’ll likely need to add amendments and adjust your soil pH. Here’s a link to an article that may get you started in the right direction.

One of the hard things to diagnose on azaleas is brown leaf tips. It can be caused by overwatering, overfertilization and under watering along with root rot. My thoughts are running in the overwatering root rot direction, as azaleas get either of these issues when placed in standing water. So first I’d get it out of the water ASAP and let it dry out a bit, then, as advised before, water from the surface and let the excess drain out. Misting is ok as long as the leaves dry off in between.

As far as water itself goes, use non alkaline spring water if at all possible) would be best. You can get a cheap pH test kit out of a pet store that sells tropical fish.

Here’s also a link to the Arizona Bonsai Clubs. If you are aiming to develop your azalea into a bonsai, I would call the nearest chapter up. They would also know the special techniques on how to handle the care of a potted azalea in their area better than other folks from different areas.

cheers
DSD sends
PS: Please go into your profile settings and add your approximate location. That way other ‘Nuts in the area will pick up on your threads faster.
 

Harunobu

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It ought to be outside. But in Arizona, that may be impossible. Therefore, it is hard to tell why the plant is stressed.

Azaleas like things temperate. Not to cool, not to dry, medium to high humidity and rain. Absolute best would be either a greenhouse with shade cloth outside, to maintain humidity. Or a grow tent inside. Not many people can give advice on how to make an azalea thrive inside. Is it the lack of light? The low humidity? Inside humidity would be even lower than your outside (desert ?) humidity? I know there are people with a dehumidifies in some areas in the world, to make it more comfortable inside. But that there are also people that do use a humidifier. Then there is ventilation and lower winter temperatures that play a role.

I have seen some evidence that azaleas could potentially adapt to having no winter/seasons. They go dormant, and usually plants that go dormant need such a perior, or else they cannot manage their cycles at all. But with azaleas there is some evidence that they can skip dormancy for years and be fine.
 
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Leo in N E Illinois

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First, @NewBonsaiParent - congratulations on keeping your azalea alive as long as you have. For a first time houseplant owner you have done well.

As you can see from the three responses before mine, there are no simple answers to keeping azalea healthy indoors. I'll just start with the amount of sunlight. The 3-4 hours of filtered sunlight are not enough. 8 to 12 hours of filtered sunlight would be enough. So your plant is starved for light. Adding a grow light, to supplement the amount of light might be a good idea.

Watering from the bottom, does allow minerals to build up in your soil. Best would be to take the azalea to the kitchen sink. Flood the pot with water, let drain a few minutes, flood with water a second time. Let drain, then return to the window. This flooding with water will leach out mineral build ups.

Arizona is a very tough climate for azalea. It is understandable to prefer to grow your azalea indoors. If you have a bright shade outdoor area, maybe a vacation outside that ran from autumn, until late spring, outside only during the cooler seasons. Bring back in on nights threatening frosts, but definitely bring in to avoid 100+ degree weather.

The above suggestions are simple, and might help.
 

shinmai

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Satsuki azaleas will never thrive as indoor plants; at best they will endure. They must be outside unless conditions are such that they can’t, such as freezing temps. You should also be mindful that satsuki are originally riverbank, understory trees/bushes—they thrive in bright shade with some time each day in direct sun. they do not do well in garden store soil mix, or any organic mix under most climatic conditions. Their ideal ‘soil’ is pure kanuma, a Japanese baked clay that is mildly acidic. The sooner you can get it into kanuma the better. It drains nicely so that it is virtually impossible to over water, and has the additional benefit of turning white at the surface as a clue that it’s time to water.
Forget about the rocks in the tray underneath the pot. The ‘humidity tray’ is a bunch of nonsense—the tray serves only to keep you from wrecking your wife’s sideboard by leaving water marks where your pot drains. You should water at the base of the tree, until the water drains through the pot, wait twenty minutes and then do it again. Misting is useful only to the extent that it helps cool the leaves. In temps over 80 F., fully 80% of the tree’s water uptake Is for cooling.
Azaleas need deeper pots than most other trees because their roots are sensitive to moisture balance and temperature. In your climate you might want to consider elevating the pot off of the surface upon which it sits, to provide thermal separation and air circulation. You could use a wire baker’s cooling rack, wood blocks, or whatever. For this reason avoid black or other dark pots that will draw heat from the sun.
i would suggest watering early in the morning to shield against midday heat, and then in hot weather checking again at noon. Wind can dry out your pots very quickly so pay attention to that as well.
As to the brown leaf tips, satsuki are not truly ‘evergreen’. They have a major flush of growth in spring, and a minor one about two weeks after the end of flowering. Each year they replace some of the prior year’s new growth, which begins with browning at the tips of the old leaves. Eventually those leaves fall off.
Azaleas are susceptible to fertilizer burn, so use a dilute solution of whatever you’re using, at 50% strength. Many people have great success with Miracid by Miracle Grow, administered at half strength twice a month. I prefer a fish emulsion supplemented with an iron and magnesium chelate.
if you get any kind of fungus, insect infestations or other pest be mindful that most “ides”—fungicides, insecticide, miticides, etc. become phytotoxic above 80 degrees F. In hot periods they are best applied on your way to closing the house and going to bed—even if you do them in the morning before breakfast it can still be hot enough by midday to have the same lethal effect.
 

Graft

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Their ideal ‘soil’ is pure kanuma, a Japanese baked clay that is mildly acidic. The sooner you can get it into kanuma the better. It drains nicely so that it is virtually impossible to over water, and has the additional benefit of turning white at the surface as a clue that it’s time to water.
100% what shinmai said. 👍
 

sorce

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Has this thing grown at all since February or is it just staying alive?

Welcome to Crazy!

I'm afraid you won't be able to successfully utilize any of this good advice without realizing just how lucky you are that this is even alive in the first place.

Seems the water below is doing nothing so it has been staying alive via the misting alone.

In that mud that has stayed wet somehow, you've maintained this impossible balance of health by doing everything wrong!

Changing anything without realizing this will likely result in a dead tree rather instantly.

I actually think it's impossible for you to get through another season change.

Not saying don't try, you just have to see that changing any one of these three things will kill your plant.... watering habits, soil, location.

You gotta change all three or it WILL die.

Problem is you can't really safely do this till spring.

Hopefully it flowers!

Sorce
 
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Thank you everyone for your help I appreciate it! All of your comments have been really insightful. I too am surprised I have kept it alive this long for a first plant. I will try my best to revive it, hopefully it works!
 

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