Help with my satsuki azalea!

Slmr38

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Hi everyone,

I am relatively new to the bonsai world (since Sept) and I have a satsuki azalea that was purchased in remembrance of a friends family member so it has tons of sentimental value. It had been doing really well until recently. I bought bonsai fertilizer (probably part of my mistake) and applied that a week or so ago, I don't think the plant responded well and a lot of the tiny new growth wilted and had to be removed. I also picked as many tiny beads of fertilizer out of the plant as I could.

I'm also having problems with tiny bugs in the soil (I'm thinking soil aphids?) That I can't get rid of. I've been treating them with a homemade mixture of dish soap, water, and oil but that isn't helping. I then tried store bought insecticidal soap but panicked after I read that azaleas can be sensitive to that so i rinsed it off (and am currently still panicking haha). One half of the plant looks more healthy than the other. Any feedback or recommendations for treatment options that won't hurt my plant would be greatly appreciated! I've attached pictures for reference!

- Stephanie
 

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JosephCooper

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How cold is it outside?

Bonsai is generally outdoors, and most azaleas need outdoor weather.

Could you give your climate zone and where you live?

It's hard to say...

Don't overcare trees, that can kill them easily.

Azaleas aren't as delicate as they seem, they can take tons of abuse if they're healthy. Not sure about this one though.
 

Slmr38

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I live in Houston, TX it's in hardiness zone 9a. It was only inside periodically over the winter when temps droppef below 48°, lately it has been in the 70s-80s, a nice mix of clouds, sun, and periodic rain.
 

JosephCooper

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I live in Houston, TX it's in hardiness zone 9a. It was only inside periodically over the winter when temps droppef below 48°, lately it has been in the 70s-80s, a nice mix of clouds, sun, and periodic rain.
Then take it outside, It's not too cold for satsuki.
 

Slmr38

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It's definitely living outside now, I just brought it inside to take good pictures of it for my post!
 

Adair M

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The leaves look large for a Satsuki.

But, in any case, any Satsuki can stay outside in Houston all winter. They can tolerate some freezing weather.

It’s possible the fertilizer shocked your tree vts also possible you have root aphids. The remedy for root aphids is to mix some Malathion in water, and set the tree and pot in a bucket with the malathion solution, and let it sit for an hour. Just set it in so that the pot is almost covered to the rim. The solution will enter thru the drain holes in the bottom of the pot. And saturate the rootball.

That should take care of any bugs in the soil.
 

Slmr38

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@Adair M thank you so much for your suggestion! The new growth is much larger than the original darker green leaves the azalea had in Sept, not sure if that is normal.
 

Mellow Mullet

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I'll echo most of what Adair said, he knows a little about azaleas, too. Lol, (just kidding, he is a bonsai encyclopedia).

In Houston, azaleas can stay out year round. In Mobile, mine saw 20's, ice, and snow, twice, this winter. They actually need a little dormancy.

Can't tell much about the soil from the photos, is it bonsai soil or potting soil? You have to be careful about keeping azaleas too wet, especially if it is in potting soil. Azalea roots are real fine and will root if kept too wet. They like to stay moist, never sopping wet. So watch your watering, let it dry a little in between watering.

The best way to kill insects is poison! Soap is for bathing, dishes, etc. The malathion that Adair recommend will take care of most anything. Just follow the instructions for the proper mixture.

It is a little early for fertilizer, especially if you suspect it isn't doing well. Azaleas, and most trees, really don't need as much fertilizer as we think. Wait until it has recovered and give it a dose of miracle grow every other month during the summer and maybe a teaspoon of extended release once a year in spring (I like osmocote with micro nutrients).

Depending on what cultivar it is, the leaf size could be fine for a satsuki, I have them with leaves from small to large and everything in between, even curled.

John
 

Slmr38

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@Mellow Mullet thank you so much for the advice! My azalea was watched by a friend over Christmas while I was out of town and he over watered it and it's been finicky ever since. I've been pretty good about letting it dry out a little between watering. I am not sure about the soil, the bonsai came from 1-800 flowers and I haven't repotted it since I bought it. Is there a certain brand of malathion I need? My tree isn't on the brink of death is it? Haha. When it is doing well it is happy and grows extremely fast, I've been kicking myself since I fertilized it. Lesson learned!
 

Mellow Mullet

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I don't think it was the fertilizer that is causing problems, it is probably time release.

Sounds like overwatering might be it. If you are careful about the watering it should recover just fine. Malathion is malathion, you can get it at Home Depot, Lowes, and I think even Wal-Mart. It is not expensive.
 

Slmr38

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@Mellow Mullet should I wait for it to dry back out before I treat it with the malathion?
 

Adair M

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If it’s from 1-800-flowers, it’s likely from Brussel’s. It might even say Brussel’s on the bottom of the pot.

If so, it’s likely in a soil mix with a good bit of pine bark. Azaleas like an acid soil, which pine bark provides. The problem with pine bark is that if it stays too wet, it breeds root rot! Which from everything you’ve said, might be the case!

So, after we kill the critters, let’s think about changing the soil. I use straight kanuma for my azaleas. It’s a volcanic clay, comes in granules. What’s nice, is since there are no organic materials in kanuma, even if you overwater it, it won’t get root rot! Finding it may be tricky! It would only be sold at a bonsai retailer. My buddy @markyscott lives in Houston, and as he is smart enough to live higher than the flood zone, he’s probably smart enough to tell you were to get kanuma in Houston. He’s also a geologist, so he can tell you everything you never wanted to know about kanuma! The Houston bonsai club is very active, and would be a great place to learn about bonsai.
 

River's Edge

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@Mellow Mullet thank you so much for the advice! My azalea was watched by a friend over Christmas while I was out of town and he over watered it and it's been finicky ever since. I've been pretty good about letting it dry out a little between watering. I am not sure about the soil, the bonsai came from 1-800 flowers and I haven't repotted it since I bought it. Is there a certain brand of malathion I need? My tree isn't on the brink of death is it? Haha. When it is doing well it is happy and grows extremely fast, I've been kicking myself since I fertilized it. Lesson learned!
Adair has the right idea. Kanuma holds lots of water but the structure allows for highly efficient ventilation. The PH of Kanuma varies from 5.6 to 6.4 which meets the acidic soil properties ideal for satsuki azaleas.It is actually a pale yellow weathered pumice that holds 20% more water than akadama. The media of choice for Azalea. The yellow leaves are indicative of overwatering or improper soil mix not allowing enough air/moisture mix. I do not let my azaleas dry out between watering, they like to stay moist, just not waterlogged with no air.
 

Mellow Mullet

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Adair has the right idea. Kanuma holds lots of water but the structure allows for highly efficient ventilation. The PH of Kanuma varies from 5.6 to 6.4 which meets the acidic soil properties ideal for satsuki azaleas.It is actually a pale yellow weathered pumice that holds 20% more water than akadama. The media of choice for Azalea. The yellow leaves are indicative of overwatering or improper soil mix not allowing enough air/moisture mix. I do not let my azaleas dry out between watering, they like to stay moist, just not waterlogged with no air.
I think the lighter colored foliage on this one is just new growth, the older growth appears to be dark green, it would be nice to see a picture in natural light. Kanuma is not necessary to growth healthy azaleas, and it is expensive. You can get the same results with lava and pumice, mixed with a little fir bark. Adair is right, I would be a great idea to seek the club out, or @markyscott , and let someone see it in person.
 

JudyB

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I live in Houston, TX it's in hardiness zone 9a..
Please go to your profile and put this in, so it'll appear under your name, and people can help you better. You've been given great advice for your azalea, hope it rebounds fast for you. You can get kanuma from House of Bonsai on ebay if you can't find it locally.
 

Slmr38

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@Mellow Mullet here are some natural light pics!20180301_091637.jpg20180301_091650.jpg

Im not sure why the leaves are photographing a little yellow looking, in person they are a nice light green.
 
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