New to the world of bonsai! First azalea

Lauren Shisler

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image.jpeg

I am officially new to the world of bonsai. Previously an avid ( and currently) cacti owner. I decided to go from the least attention needing plant to one of the most. :)

I just bought an azalea tree in a mall bonsai art gallery. I'm not convinced this may be the healthiest tree, but I'm going to do my darnedest to keep it alive and beautiful!

Does anyone have any bonsai books they recommend? I am unsure of many things, like training and pruning, and would love to learn. Below is a picture of my tree, I'm not the biggest fan of its shape but, I'd like to try encouraging it into a formal upright position. Though two of the branches seem very stiff and I'm not too sure what to do about it. Any tips and tricks/ recommended books would be appreciated!

( since I didn't get it at a very reputable place, I'm not sure if I believe the age:12, or quite understand why the training has a -5 next to it )
image.jpeg
 

barrosinc

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welcome to the forum!
Yeah I agree, that doesn't look like it has 12 years.

But good luck, and keep it outside
 

coppice

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Would you be so kind as to decipher the tag?
 

Lauren Shisler

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Maybe it means 12 months, not 12 years? I also got it for 25 vs the 75$ they originally wanted. ( everything as 75% off, I nearly walked out of the store with six bonsai...)

I have already pinched off the flowers that looked unhealthy, I plan on pinching off the rest of them in a week or two.

What do you guys think about the shape?
 

coppice

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My take is it is a northern hearty (my photo IDing sucks) azalea. IMO it is in a too shallow pot and is a recently rooted cutting.

Generally speaking all rhodies have fine roots. So the soil will wash out of roots slower than others. None the less use a very fine rose watering, because the way this is set up you are going to wash out soil.

In a pinch immerse pot for a few minutes and set out on the drain-board to drain.

I suppose it could have had a life of its own of twelve months. But my BS meter makes me think more like 12 hours.
 

Lauren Shisler

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My take is it is a northern hearty (my photo IDing sucks) azalea. IMO it is in a too shallow pot and is a recently rooted cutting.

Generally speaking all rhodies have fine roots. So the soil will wash out of roots slower than others. None the less use a very fine rose watering, because the way this is set up you are going to wash out soil.

In a pinch immerse pot for a few minutes and set out on the drain-board to drain.
As cute as I think this pot it, I already bought a new pot to put it in that's larger. Since I just got it earlier this week I am hesitant to repot it so soon. Would it be too stressful for it?
 

coppice

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If you like this one, do a search for rhododendron fastigiatum. It may also speak to you.
 

rockm

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The tag is useless. Typically, a bonsai has two ages--it's lifetime age and its "in training" age. The tag here would seem to say the plant is 12 years old and has been in bonsai training (pruning, wiring, root work, ect) for five years.

I have no doubt that plant is not any older biologically than five years. If you got it for $25, rest assured the grower paid $1-2 for it wholesale, possibly less. The markup on mall bonsai is incredible. The pot is worth more than the tree, adding another couple of bucks.

I would scrape that moss off the soil and see what this is planted in. The moss is there to hide the soil, it has no other purpose. The soil likely needs to be changed.

The shape is mostly untouched as far as bonsai training goes, other than having the top leader lopped off to induce those side branches.

Sorry to be so negative, but this is typical mallsai material and it is what it is. Mallsai are usually entry points to the larger world of better bonsai. They get you hooked and ready to spend more on better. Just don't go back to this seller. They seem to be looking to deceive or are unknowledgeable or just clueless.
 

coppice

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You can slip pot into a bigger-deeper pot in the spring. Um, lay off the composts heavy fertilizers, or root pruning right now.

You are years away from much more than pruning out vigorous growth in the fall, every fall. Always leave a terminal bud.
 

Lauren Shisler

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would scrape that moss off the soil and see what this is planted in. The moss is there to hide the soil, it has no other purpose. The soil likely needs to be changed.

The shape is mostly untouched as far as bonsai training goes, other than having the top leader lopped off to induce those side branches.
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No need to be sorry! But the term Mallsai is hilarious.
I figured as much, I don't have too high hopes for it surviving. Do you have any tips on soil?

I know I should prune it once flowering is over, but the idea of that is horrifying! I've never cut a bonsai before.
 

Alain

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Welcome!:)

I'm very good at killing azalea (at least last year I had a perfect 3 on 3 score) so as @sorce said: I'm your man! :D

Phew! Good news that you didn't actually pay $75 for this tree. A cutie (with way to big flowers for its size, bonsai-wise) but you could find the same size azalea for less than $8 at Home depot.
Unless you live in a Home-depot-less zone...:eek:
Specking of which it would be sweet if you could up-date the location in your profile, Nuts need that to give you better advises.

Back to your tree: unfortunately I totally agree with @rockm : mallsai will make you pay a ridiculous amount of $ for trees that they tag 'bonsai' but are everything but that.
If you are really hooked to the bonsai world (and if you are already hooked to the cactus world that means that you are an easily hook-able person, I have no doubt that bonsai will have the same effect on you) and if you like azalea my advice will be to buy some landscape azalea from nurseries (and really Home depot or even Walmart have nice and cheap ones) and start your own bonsai from this raw material. For much less $ you will have much more promising trees to work on.
 
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rockm

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"the idea of that is horrifying"

Then you have a very long road ahead...:) If this were mine, I'd plant it in the ground outside and let it grow wild for five-10 years to get a trunk that's workable for bonsai.

Good bonsai depends on the first third of a tree prospect's trunk. If it doesn't really look believable AS A TREE, then it needs work. The trunk on this isn't so much a trunk, as it is a stem. This tree was being sold only on the appeal of its flowers. Once they are gone, it's pretty homely.

If you're interested in bonsai, I'd recommend doing some background reading here and at the library. There are oceans of information we can't effectively convey here in this post.

FWIW, good bonsai "soil" isn't dirt, or potting soil. It looks more like gravel to beginners than soil, which is why it works. It's not very romantic and doesn't fit the mystical image many have of it, but "drainage is the heart of good bonsai..."
 

Alain

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Btw: if you want some really good articles on a lot of bonsai related topics (pruning, soil, some species, wintering, re-pot and so on) I recommend you to browse the 'Articles' section of Brent nursery website:
http://www.evergreengardenworks.com/

These are very simple and general articles on approx all topics. It was my bible when I started :)
 

coppice

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If that is of the family of rhody I think it is, it is going to send out some branches that grow too vigorously. In the fall (every fall) you are going to clip out the freakishly large branches. Leave a terminal bud on the branches you don't prune. 1, In order to get at least a few blooms every year. 2, in order to get it to settle into into the slower-smaller growth, you are wanting.

Its not quite like clubbing baby seal, but not that far from it. You have not listed where you are growing. So a cold house of some kind is probably worth looking forward to. Yes, northern hearty azalea can survive -10F, but they will be a lot happier stored at 32F.

Not this spring, but next spring when you repot, comb out the surface roots and thinly recover them. This will encourage their thickening.

You are building a bonsai from a cutting. Wiring will be years away. Autumnal pruning will also set aside a too early need for wire. Because wiring one a them Franken-bush branches will be work for naught.
 

rockm

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Also something you may, or may not "get" at this point--larger bonsai are NOT grown from smaller bonsai. Larger bonsai are "cut down" from larger stock trees. In other words, this tree will remain pretty small with its roots confined in small container. That also means, growth and development of branches is also slowed down with root confinement.
 

Lauren Shisler

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Also something you may, or may not "get" at this point--larger bonsai are NOT grown from smaller bonsai. Larger bonsai are "cut down" from larger stock trees. In other words, this tree will remain pretty small with its roots confined in small container. That also means, growth and development of branches is also slowed down with root confinement.
Yeah, I have seemed to get that point. I may stop at my local nursery and see what I can find. And maybe keep this one as a house plant. But I'm determined to start an azalea bonsai!
 
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