Help with Suzuki Azalea Bonsai

Jordanh1

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Hello! I’m completely new to bonsai but I’ve done a lot of reading on Suzuki bonsai. I’ve had it for about 3-4 weeks now. I live in Chicago so that’s zone 6.

I’ve been having issues with leaves falling off, originally my plant was in pretty harsh morning-early afternoon sunshine so I got a some burn on the leaves turning yellow and brown. I moved it out of direct sunlight into indirect sunlight for the remainder of summer. But now I’m getting brown and black leaves that fall off. It looks like most the time the origin of the black/brown is by the stem but sometimes it’s in the middle/ends.

I’ve tried watering it less/more and not much of a difference. I do use azalea specific feed every 2 weeks as well.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
 

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Paradox

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Here is a good way to learn about watering and when your trees need water.

Get a wooden chopstick and stick it into the soil and leave it there. Pull it out once a day and look at/feel it. When it is almost dry, water the tree. This is how you learn to water when the tree needs it. Never water on a schedule until you understand how/when your trees use and need water.

Also don't water the foliage. Azalea don't like thier leaves to get wet alot. The occasional rain shower is fine.
 

Jordanh1

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Here is a good way to learn about watering and when your trees need water.

Get a wooden chopstick and stick it into the soil and leave it there. Pull it out once a day and look at/feel it. When it is almost dry, water the tree. This is how you learn to water when the tree needs it. Never water on a schedule until you understand how/when your trees use and need water.

Also don't water the foliage. Azalea don't like thier leaves to get wet alot. The occasional rain shower is fine.
So you think it’s a watering issue and not a disease or root rot?
 

Carol 83

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Did it come from Brussel's? I have purchased a few trees from them. They arrive very healthy but the soil usually turns hard as a rock and you can't water properly. Take a chopstick and poke a bunch of holes in the soil to allow water in until a better time for a repot.
 

Jordanh1

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Did it come from Brussel's? I have purchased a few trees from them. They arrive very healthy but the soil usually turns hard as a rock and you can't water properly. Take a chopstick and poke a bunch of holes in the soil to allow water in until a better time for a repot.
I got it from 1-800 Flowers
 

Glaucus

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Satsuki please.

It seems it is indoors. Azaleas like being outdoors. Indoors will be a challenge. I use a tent, artificial lights, and a humidifier to grow seedlings and cuttings indoors, but temporarily only.
right now, it will prefer being outside in a shaded area.

You are zone 6. The plant is likely zone 7. Because it is potted it will be zone 8. So it needs some protection during winter frost. But right now, it is summer.
I would say that all outdoor plants like their leaves wetted during summer weather. Especially azaleas.
Indoors, ventilation is low and fungus can be a problem.

Leaves that drop should be yellow for white azaleas, red for coloured azaleas. If they drop while green, something is wrong. The leaf has dropped because it's time was up.
It seems that in your case, only the old leaves drop. Not the light green ones at the tips of the branches. As long as the new shoots are undamaged, the plant is doing at least ok-ish. for now.
Also not sure if this is actually a satsuki azalea, but that's a different and maybe not very important debate.
 
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Carol 83

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I got it from 1-800 Flowers
I think they get them from Brussel's, the pot looks familiar. And I'm not trying to say anything derogatory about them, they are hugely successful. Just saying that here, the soil turns really hard and difficult to water properly.
 

Paradox

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So you think it’s a watering issue and not a disease or root rot?

It's hard to say to be honest.
Being too wet can promote a fungal issue.
You can start by getting watering under control. As Carol stated, now is not a good time to repot so unless it's an emergency situation, we want to try and avoid that
 

Deep Sea Diver

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Greetings and Welcome Aboard BonsaiNut!

It looks like you are having some first times experiences with your azalea that are troubling.

First off azaleas are evergreen only in that they have two sets of leaves each year and these usually, but not always, overlap in time. Most of what your are seeing is spring azalea leaves normally shedding as @Glaucus mentioned. Some may be due to the excess sun you mention.

Overall your azalea appears to be producing new leaves as expected this time of the year. These are the lighter green colored leaves at the ends of the branches. The older leaves will likely continue to drop over the next months. Doesn’t look like root fungus at this time.j

The concerns @Carol 83 mentions about porosity of the rootball iare valid. We’ve had a number of folks with azaleas sourced from mass producers that have had percolation issues.

The chopstick method @Paradox mentioned is a good way to check the moisture levels of the rootball. For an azalea barely wet is perhaps a bit dry, but it will keep your azalea safe.

If your azalea is inside it needs to be outside in the morning sun and in shade or screened at about 11:30 in the morning. The azalea should absolutely not be on a moisture tray. If you were to keep an azalea inside it would slowly die off.

If the azalea is inside now, ease it outside a couple hours at first and add to this until it’s fully acclimated over 7-10 days. End with a weekend so you can check on the azalea on and off over the full sun period. The leaves should be firm and green.

Based upon my experiences, watering or misting and foliage feeding an azaleas leaves is good practice…. I do this practically everyday….It’s ok as long as the leaves are dry an hour or two prior to sundown. Do not water/mist the leaves on high humidity days however. These practices will help prevent fungus issues.

The biggest challenge you will face is wintering over. Start thinking how to prepare for this storage period. Definately wait to repot until your azalea emerges from winter in a healthy state.

cheers
DSD sends
 

shinmai

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Regarding the question of over-wintering, where are you? Your location is an important factor for folks wanting to give you helpful guidance or advice.
 

Berra

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Here is a good way to learn about watering and when your trees need water.

Get a wooden chopstick and stick it into the soil and leave it there. Pull it out once a day and look at/feel it. When it is almost dry, water the tree. This is how you learn to water when the tree needs it. Never water on a schedule until you understand how/when your trees use and need water.

Also don't water the foliage. Azalea don't like thier leaves to get wet alot. The occasional rain shower is fine.
I'm interested in your advice to not water the leafs. I do this all the time so far. Should I stop it? Source /info to read up on it? :)
 

Deep Sea Diver

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@Jordanh1 I see you have posted your Chicago location in the thread, yet it really helps us to have you post your approximate location and USDA Zone on your icon as a ready reference to folks trying to help you. To do this, please click on your icon on top of the page, then select Account details, scroll down and enter the data. From then on this info will be placed on your icon. Thank you.

I'm interested in your advice to not water the leafs. I do this all the time so far. Should I stop it? Source /info to read up on it? :)
@Paradox has been recommending this and while I’m not exactly sure why.…. My best guess is it has to do with watering too late in the day, as the leaves can’t dry before nightfall…. or at times when the humidity stays very high and the leaves will be perpetually wet. Both are conditions that will often promote fungus on azaleas, and many other plants etc..

Otherwise our azaleas seem to enjoy having their leaves misted or even watered down. I actually wash down the leaves to knock off unwanted visitors every week or so if conditions permit. The only cultivars that one has to watch out for is those cultivars with tightly close packed leaves like Kazan/Rukizon. (Lower right azalea in image below)

9F1A492D-B8CF-4DEF-9167-AE6F10B23548.jpeg

cheers
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Glaucus

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Fungus start to grow on dead material when it is moist and their is no sunlight to kill the fungus. So that would be dark places with stale air.

I don't really get how wet leaves in a potted outdoor plant can be an issue, any plant. Some azaleas are native to placed with about 8mm daily rain on average. If rain becomes a problem, it is because of the roots. Not the leaves.
Usually in summer we water at the end of the day so the water doesn't evaporate but can enter the soil and roots have plenty of time to pull up the water.
This means the leaves are wet during dusk. I can't see how that could be a problem.

When azaleas are about to flower, then you do keep the leaves dry. Then you water on the roots only. This is to make sure the flowers last longer and avoid petal blight. But that is only once the flower buds start swelling and showing colour.

Besides that, I am sure there is some theory that plants actually require water on the leaves ie rain to wash down dust. And if they permanently only experience water in their roots, that will not be ideal long-term.
So I can't say my experiences and knowledge agree with Shibui. Maybe he can clarify what exactly his understanding is.

To the OP @Jordanh1 I don't actually believe that these leaves are old leaves dropping. Like I stated earlier, that usually happens together with the colour changing to red/yellow/orange (depending on the (flower) pigmentation. If green leaves drop, that is a sign of something not being right. Could actually be not enough light, if this plant is indeed indoors.
 
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Paradox

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Yea now that I think about it, I had a lot of trouble the last few years with flower buds turning brown from being wet and read somewhere (can't remember now) that azaleas don't like to be wet alot.

I water in the morning not evening but we can have rather high humidity here in the summer. So the foliage can stay wet for a while. The also get sun in the morning so it's not that they are in the shade.

This year I put my azaleas on a bench that is not hit by my sprinklers and I've been hand watering them. I was rewarded by an awesome display of flowers by my satsuki Azalea and all of them seem happier with less issues with their foliage staying on the drier side most of the time.
 

Glaucus

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The petal blight spores actually overwinter in the soil. So if you put them on a bench, keep it very hygienic, and don't let the flowers get wet, then that can help a lot.
No guarantee, though. The Japanese spray a ton against petal blight and apparently there is no good cheap fool-proof alternative.
 

Paradox

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The petal blight spores actually overwinter in the soil. So if you put them on a bench, keep it very hygienic, and don't let the flowers get wet, then that can help a lot.
No guarantee, though. The Japanese spray a ton against petal blight and apparently there is no good cheap fool-proof alternative.

I'll keep that in mind for the future.
They have their own bench with nothing but azaleas on it.

Didn't seem to have any issues with petal blight this year. Maybe because I cleaned off the top layer of soil last year in the late summer or fall. I know it could have been deeper in the pot too but maybe it helped. I also did give them a systematic fungicide last year so maybe that helped some as well.

My satsuki put on a real show for me this year with flowers, it was full of them. Hadn't really had any nice blooms from it for a couple of years so it was nice to see.
 
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