New to Bonsai, New Satsuki Azalea

Kubruceiii

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I received a Satsuki Azalea as a gift from a friend a few days ago. I've been interested in bonsai for many years but have never made the plunge - until now.

The potting job seems pretty poor and the pot not ideal, so I bought what I need to repot it from Bonsai Outlet. See picture below.Screenshot_20210404-183136_Yahoo Mail.jpg

I do not intend to trim anything, roots or branches (and I know not to do both at the same time), as I don't want to stress it at this point, I just want to get it I to a good pot and good soil.

As for the growth habit that I'll go with, I haven't decided yet, but I may be limited based on how the plant has been pruned at this point, as I don't have a single, main stem to work with.

Anyway, any big tips to a beginner to help me avoid disaster? Thanks.
 

Shibui

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Very typical of many cheap and cheerful 'mallsia' produced en masse and sold to unsuspecting beginners but there is nor real problem with survival. It is the care given by the subsequent beginner owner that will decide if it survives for long.

Azalea are not really one of the best species to start out with as they can be a bit choosy about conditions. If they don't like something they just die so it may not actually be anything you do that causes eventual demise.
Azalea can cope quite well with trimming both top and roots at the same time so feel free to remove a few branches while you repot if so inclined. Azalea have no problem with root reduction so you can cut off quite a lot of root if necessary.
Azalea must have acidic soil so choose a bonsai potting soil that is suited to azalea if you need to add any more when repotting. The soil it is planted in looks like a good, modern bonsai soil so at least the seller has some idea of what's good.
Azalea can be repotted almost all year round though I prefer spring and summer for mine here.
I note the tree appears to be outdoors which is great. Azalea may survive indoors if everything is perfect but, sadly, very few houses have what they want and the end comes pretty quick for indoor azaleas. Much better in a sheltered spot outside where it can get some wind, sun and rain. Azalea do not like strong afternoon sun but will need some sun each day. How much sun depends on how well you can supply water. Thankfully they can cope with a fair range of most elements including sun.
The part of the pot that holds soil is pretty small for that tree. I usually encourage beginners to use slightly oversize pots until they get used to bonsai care as the extra space will offer some buffering of inadequate watering, etc. Large trees in small pots offer very little water reserve and trees can die of dehydration in just a few hours on a hot, sunny day. A larger pot will extend the time between needing water.

BTW. You have given no indication of where you are. Bonsai care is very seasonal so location is even more important to bonsai than to real estate. Best to add a location to your personal profile so it appears each time you post and everyone can see without having to remember to type each time. That way people should not offer advice suited to tropics if you are in alpine or colder north or northern hemisphere advice if you happen to be one of us Down under.
 

Kubruceiii

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Excellent, and thanks for the last bit there, I will add my location.

The soil I bought seems to be the right kind for the species and and the pot I bought is bigger than the one it is currently in, so that should help. As for the bit about pruning roots and branches at the same time - I had watched a video that said not to, but since posting I found another that said it would be fine, so I'll go with the latter; however, I don't think I need to or am ready to yet at this point in my bonsai education.

Thanks again, and I'll share an update once I get it repotted.
 

Shibui

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There are some species that do resent too much happening at one time so we tend to do one or another. Azalea is not one of those but some people tend to overgeneralize and don't bother to distinguish between different trees. others Others have had little actual experience and are just regurgitating something they have heard to sound as if they know more.
You will almost certainly find plenty of that while you try to sift wheat from chaff and misinformation but try to enjoy the journey.
 

Kubruceiii

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There are some species that do resent too much happening at one time so we tend to do one or another. Azalea is not one of those but some people tend to overgeneralize and don't bother to distinguish between different trees. others Others have had little actual experience and are just regurgitating something they have heard to sound as if they know more.
You will almost certainly find plenty of that while you try to sift wheat from chaff and misinformation but try to enjoy the journey.
Enjoy the journey, I hope I do. And yes, it seems in any field there are many who are simply parroting what they have heard elsewhere as commonly known fact despite having only asked for and acquired the information themselves in the very recent past...
 

sorce

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2 kids...4 wheels! Somebody is having fun!

Welcome to Crazy!

Sorce
 
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Welcome aboard!

Be sure to “gently” wash out all the previous media before you pot in Kanuma... chopsticks help...also tie down gently. I use aluminum wire as it has a little ‘give to it.

Your tree looks like it might already be in an open soil media, so cleaning it all out won’t be as hard as right from the nursery azalea. this is what a wash job looks like.... nursery media on this lil guy.

Spanking fresh young satsuki right out of the cold frame. First chop sticking done. Out comes the watering wand...
78B2FFF6-06E6-42FB-82F1-EEFDC0EF41CA.jpeg

A number of chopsticking and gentle root washings later. We are just about done getting all the peat, perlite and bark out of the roots.
E6386043-5F56-413E-94D2-731EB3F1E1A7.jpeg

Pot made up, ready to get on with potting.
8B437706-FF54-4E49-914D-26D518AB805B.jpeg

Good luck!
DSD sends
 

Kubruceiii

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Thanks. My new pot is 5", so should be good there. Also, your pictures are pretty much what I planned to do myself, use water to loosen and remove everything from the roots. My bonsai outlet order now shows as being shipped as of yesterday, but the USPS tracking # just shows up as having a label created but that it hasn't been shipped. I'll keep being patient, it will get here eventually!
 
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Thanks. My new pot is 5", so should be good there. I'll keep being patient, it will get here eventually!


Maybe so. There is no scale on your photo. 5” is the pot size I use for my smallest satsuki cultivars like Chinzan when they are first out the nursery mix. So younger. Yours seems bigger than that to me.

There’s another thread going on you might find helpful to read. It was started by really from another new to Bonsai member. It’s at:

Good luck!
Cheers
DSD sends
 

Kubruceiii

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Well, I received my order from Bonsai Outlet and, lo and behold, this pot it likely too small. I'm ordering a bigger one now, so my Azalea will have to continue chilling in its current pot. I'm also going to order some wire snips as well. To be continued...
 

Kubruceiii

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Our new pot came in today so the wife and I repotted the Azalea. It's hard to believe that the roots will stay moist in this potting medium, even with daily watering. Maybe we'll have to water twice a day? Anyway, I'll go ahead and feed tomorrow with my 3-3-3 mix and get on an every two week feeding schedule for starters and adjust that as needed.
 
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Great! It will take a bit of time for you to figure out how much to water your Satsuki in kanuma.

I’m using a 90/10 kanuma/pumice mix and I normally water once a day in my Puget Sound location until it hits the 80’s. Then I may up ithe water to twice a day.

The good news is some masters say it is very hard to overwater a 100% kanuma media! Whatever, I prefer my media to get a bit dry on top - whitish- you will see -before watering. I also lift some pots to see if they feel light. Some files look on the bottom to see if it’s dry... that doesn’t compute for me though.

So it will take time to figure that out for your tree in your pot in your area!

Good luck and let’s hear more from you as you grow.

Cheers
DSD sends

PS: I’d hold off on the fertilizer for 10-14 days
 

b3bowen

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Our new pot came in today so the wife and I repotted the Azalea. It's hard to believe that the roots will stay moist in this potting medium, even with daily watering. Maybe we'll have to water twice a day? Anyway, I'll go ahead and feed tomorrow with my 3-3-3 mix and get on an every two week feeding schedule for starters and adjust that as needed.
I find that it helps me to put a layer of long fiber sphagnum moss (orchid moss at lowes home improvement) on top. It retains moisture and when it starts to dry it is easy to tell and I water.
 
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Good idea!
Not rocket science with kanuma.
Remember this handy little jingle when wondering if one should water

“If it’s yellow, let it mellow!
If it’s turning white. flush it down!”

Visual aids with the jingle:

All at once now Satsuki lovers...!

If it’s yellow, let it mellow!
76589B7F-CBC3-4BBC-B19B-413E798B9158.jpeg

If it’s turning white, flush it down!
4AF33826-AD2E-4E01-8BE1-0B02A53B8C2A.jpeg

This little jingle sponsored by:
Deep Sea Diver
 
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Uh Oh my better half says I fought to rhyme... so if offere this altermpnate version for the jingle purists:

if it’s yellow, let it mellow,
If it’s white, watering time is right!

Cheers
DSD snds
 

Kubruceiii

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Awesome, thanks so much! It rained today, so no watering necessary! I am trying to decide if it has already bloomed or not, and can't really tell. I'm thinking no but am not sure. There are what look like buds but they might be old buds that are growing seeds. Also, my soil is mounded up to cover all the roots (whoever grew this plant kept the cutting in something too small for too long and there is a good sized ball of primary roots at the bottom of the trunk) but all the pictures I see have the soil level flat. Should I remove some soil? Finally, with the trunk suddenly splitting to 5 main branches at the same spot, what are my options for styling here? Can I cut all but one branch off and over time (years) create a single, main stem?
 

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Awesome, thanks so much! It rained today, so no watering necessary! I am trying to decide if it has already bloomed or not, and can't really tell. I'm thinking no but am not sure. There are what look like buds but they might be old buds that are growing seeds.
If the buds are brown and open, its last years. If green, it’s this years and likely not bloomed, after all it is pretty darn early for satsuki to bloom, unless this is a forced azalea and even earlier for seed pods. You can tell the buds though as they are hard nodules in the center of the rosette of new growth. Also Satsuki differ from many other types of azaleas in that they push new branches prior to flowering and many non satsuki push new branches after flowering.

Kazan, a satsuki 4/16/21 pushing new growth around bud, which is just right of center, apex pointed to left.
80372FB3-889B-4446-AED3-662098420605.jpeg
Hino Chrimson, a Kurume 4/16/21 days from full flower. Note it is not pushing new growth yet.
B703ADA1-1C21-467F-B872-D3716EB0ADEC.jpeg
Also, my soil is mounded up to cover all the roots (whoever grew this plant kept the cutting in something too small for too long and there is a good sized ball of primary roots at the bottom of the trunk) but all the pictures I see have the soil level flat. Should I remove some soil?
Hmm, not sure what you are describing. Typically young azaleas grow a ball of roots around the base of the cutting and is grown out until it fills its container, then up potted.

Unless it is raised in kanuma or Napa type clay, the root ball is difficult to flush clean and properly sort out.

The surface level looks ok at this point
Finally, with the trunk suddenly splitting to 5 main branches at the same spot, what are my options for styling here? Can I cut all but one branch off and over time (years) create a single, main stem?
That’s the dilemma that one faces when working with a older nursery azalea. Here’s a Momo no Haru from Bill Valvanis a couple months ago. Similar situation, along with many more in my back yard. The idea is to pick the best line for your primary structure and trim anything else you don’t need. Then wire to help enhance the primary structure. In this case, I’m looking on a line that goes right then left, with a couple branches that will be able to fit the design. I’ll chop, prune smooth, cutpaste and hope for back budding that will help If so, next years repot will be have the tree planted on an angle to the left.
639FF89E-5F83-4C3C-A808-9452272A4426.jpeg
Here’s a first year nursery azalea that has been pruned and wired to a basic primary structure.

A7060AE8-1488-42D3-AD53-B6451E195869.jpeg

In any event when you do prune back, be sure to take and raise a half dozen or so cuttings, This will expand your options, allowing for grafting material and allowing you to potentially grow whips. Whips are the best initial material to use to create a primary structure with ease. Here’s an example of some whips which have been over wintered and up potted. They are now growing great guns.

407E5EEA-121E-4189-A2E3-EAB71FC100B6.jpeg
cheers
DSD sends
 

Kubruceiii

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I'll plan to keep some cuttings and will use rock wool and rooting powder (I believe auxin is the hormone in it but can't quite recall that particular college lecture) until some roots develop. I've made cuttings of tomatoes and cannabis (though I don't smoke it) with great success, and I'm guessing that the same technique will work with Azalea.

I fixed the mounding in the soil a bit to expose the large roots all coiled up near the surface that I mentioned, but in this picture I have them exposed so that you can see what I meant. These basically formed about a 1" sphere around the base of the trunk. I've now got the tops of them poking up through the soil.
20210417_074451.jpg

This is one of the buds I was talking about, so that confirms that she has yet to flower, thanks for that. Unfortunately, there aren't more than maybe a dozen buds on her, so it won't give us a nice bloom this year. Oh well, I didn't even know we'd own this plant a few weeks ago, so I' can plan to take good care of it and enjoy it next spring.
20210417_073726.jpg

Thanks for all of the awesome feedback!
 

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