Satsuki azalea in bad shape

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Hi everyone, I have had this satsuki azalea for just under a year and when I got it the plant was heavily rootbound but I decided to wait till after this spring bloom to repot . However the plant never formed flower buds .
So on 28th of march I repotted it in a mixture of pumice , pine bark and ericaceous compost .
Alot of the roots got damaged because of how badly root bound it was and I tried to get as much of the old soil mix away . So it's sat In a shady part of the greenhouse since then and it has gradually shedded its leaves and looks like it could be slowing down the shedding now .

As a note the weather has been terrible in the northeast for spring time so I don't think it's been too hot for it .
The greenhouse is south facing but only gets sun from sunrise till about 2pm

So my questions are.

Will a feed help it or do more damage ?

Should I put it in a north facing area till it stops shedding?

Will all the areas where its shedded leaves become deadwood ?

It didn't get any flower buds to form is that because it was in terrible soil and heavily root bound ?

Thanks guys for any help saving this plant as I really would like to get it back to its former glory
 

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Shibui

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There are a number of reasons for azalea not flowering
Pruning at the wrong time of year - flower buds are forming at the tips of growing shoots in late summer/ early fall. Pruning after that will remove potential spring flowers.
Poor nutrition - if the plant is starving it won't have enough energy to make flowers
Ill health - conditions need to be right for any plant to produce flowers.

Poor soil and root bound could be the cause of lack of flowers but so could a number of other factors.

If starvation could be the cause of decline I would feed but for all other causes it is best not to apply fert to sick plants.
Branches without leaves are likely to be dead. Azaleas are good at budding from bare wood so occasionally they will grow back but mostly after decline like this the branches have lost leaves because they are dying. Best you should hope for is that the live parts will grow.

Root pruning is rarely the cause for azalea decline. In my experience they can tolerate huge root reduction.
They do require very specific conditions though and if all needs are not met they go backwards like this. Have you checked soil and water pH? Alkaline soil conditions can slowly kill azalea. This can be from the soil or more slowly from the water changing the soil pH. At my last home the water (well water) was strongly acid. Most other species grew OK but azaleas slowly died. Change of location by just a few miles around 10 years ago and azaleas now thrive (still using well water)

Shady part of the green house should be OK for sun and heat but may not have enough air movement.
Have you checked for pests and fungal diseases on the leaves? Azalea lace bug can cause real damage to plants when number are high but I can't see any sign in the pictures.
Could the roots be too wet in the new potting mix? Sometimes it looks like the surface is dry while underneath the soil is still really wet.

Can't think of anything else to try.
Azaleas are known to be temperamental. Sometimes they just go into decline for no real reason. Hope this one comes good soon.
 

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..."This can be from the soil or more slowly from the water changing the soil pH. At my last home the water (well water) was strongly acid. Most other species grew OK but azaleas slowly died."

Did you miss-speak? Wasn't the old well water too alkaline?
 

Forsoothe!

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The manner in which the roots were reduced matters. They should have been sawed off by some amount and only lightly ratted out at the edges of the sides to redirect the tips outward that were trapped by other circling roots. A lot of combing out is usually counter-productive.
 
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Gosh, that looks like the damage landscape azaleas get in the PacNW when we get an ice storm or a light cold snow followed freezing, windy conditions. But it’s been in the greenhouse or is that an unheated area all winter?

Concur with @Shibui about lace bugs, no sign at all... and the damage doesn’t look like that at all.

So back to basics, two other things are possible and likely both - over fertilization esp granular ferts can also cause a similar die back and no bud set.

Also as most potted azaleas are root bound after a couple years, that wouldn’t necessarily cause root rot, but too much water would certainly cause roots to rot and a branch dieback fairly quickly. If it’s an unheated greenhouse your tree will need less frequent watering when temperatures get cooler.

As for the damage control,
  • prune dead areas back, if you haven’t already, to near the living buds.
    Dead wood doesn’t last long in our climate anyways.
  • avoid over fertilizing and overwatering. The media mix chosen is essentially a high water holding nursery mix. It holds a lot of water and has a very high nutrient holding capacity. So be conservative.... That means little or no fertilizer - a couple to three times a year at most & use liquid fertilizer like Miracle-grow for azaleas. Water when near dry. Azaleas like to have moist soil, not wet.
  • Finally I’d get it out of the plastic pot, a clay pot, or ceramic with good drainage would be best. That will keep the root temperature more moderate. Azalea roots don’t like to be heated up and will die off around the edges if overheated.
cheers
DSD sends
 
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Thanks for the help .
I will get it into a ceramic pot once I can get one tomorrow.
OK so I'll give as much info as possible back after your suggestions.
I was definitely quite aggressive with the roots when I repotted I would say maybe lost 70-80%
As for PH I bought a tester set with strips and I'm not quite sure how to use it yet.

The plant only ever gets rainwater.
and the only fertiliser it's had is the miracle gro granules for azalea plants. And that was only a very light scattering once roughly last summertime so I'm sure it's not been overfertilised .
The greenhouse is never heated and we have had a lot of frosts although nothing frozen in greenhouse and I have a lot of tender annuals in there so it's surely not the cold .
I did repot another at the same time and it's done the same thing as the satsuki.
Pretty sure there's no bugs in there as I'm forever checking for pesky aphids in there!
OK so I'll prune it back although I scraped a bit of bark away on the longest shoot to the side of the plant where its lost the most foliage and it was green. so I'm not sure where I should prune it back to if I'm honest .
So would it be a good idea to move it to the northfacing side then do yous think or leave it in greenhouse for now?
Edit:eek:h I forgot to mention that I never pruned it at all last year so I definitely didn't chop the buds off 😅
 
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Great! and good information... sounds like the water pH is ok unless there is still acid rain in your area. good to check. A simple aquarium pH kit works too.

A couple comments

“The greenhouse is never heated and we have had a lot of frosts although nothing frozen in greenhouse and I have a lot of tender annuals in there so it's surely not the cold .”

’Not that cold‘ is relative. As temperatures fall, especially below 50F the tree slows down growth in response. At about 42F growth slows to a halt. The tree is still green, yet watering is preventing desiccation of the roots, not advancing growth. This is a time azaleas are easily overwatered, get root rot etc

“I did repot another at the same time and it's done the same thing as the satsuki.”

Not sure what this means, can you explain? Did anther azalea exhibit the same symptoms?

“OK so I'll prune it back although I scraped a bit of bark away on the longest shoot to the side of the plant where its lost the most foliage and it was green. so I'm not sure where I should prune it back to if I'm honest .”

So sorry, I assumed you might know this, but just in case, if you cut back to green growth, please use cut paste on the end to seal off water loss.
Try this procedure: take successively smaller cuts, checking for green interior. Once you get to an area where it’s 100% green interior stop and cutpaste. If it doesn’t back bud down the line, say mid summer, cut to the nearest living branch... and cut paste.

If it were me, I’d follow @Shibui and put out of direct sunlight, with open sky. One solution is the put screening between the azalea and the sun to cut down the insolation intensity until your trees have actively pushed new growth and hardened it off.

good luck and keep us posted.
DSD sends
 
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Great! and good information... sounds like the water pH is ok unless there is still acid rain in your area. good to check. A simple aquarium pH kit works too.

A couple comments

“The greenhouse is never heated and we have had a lot of frosts although nothing frozen in greenhouse and I have a lot of tender annuals in there so it's surely not the cold .”

’Not that cold‘ is relative. As temperatures fall, especially below 50F the tree slows down growth in response. At about 42F growth slows to a halt. The tree is still green, yet watering is preventing desiccation of the roots, not advancing growth. This is a time azaleas are easily overwatered, get root rot etc

“I did repot another at the same time and it's done the same thing as the satsuki.”

Not sure what this means, can you explain? Did anther azalea exhibit the same symptoms?

“OK so I'll prune it back although I scraped a bit of bark away on the longest shoot to the side of the plant where its lost the most foliage and it was green. so I'm not sure where I should prune it back to if I'm honest .”

So sorry, I assumed you might know this, but just in case, if you cut back to green growth, please use cut paste on the end to seal off water loss.
Try this procedure: take successively smaller cuts, checking for green interior. Once you get to an area where it’s 100% green interior stop and cutpaste. If it doesn’t back bud down the line, say mid summer, cut to the nearest living branch... and cut paste.

If it were me, I’d follow @Shibui and put out of direct sunlight, with open sky. One solution is the put screening between the azalea and the sun to cut down the insolation intensity until your trees have actively pushed new growth and hardened it off.

good luck and keep us posted.
DSD sends
OK I think your answer has highlighted an issue i may of caused .
Around the start of March we had a cold snap and I was out of town on a weekly basis. While I was away I had my 10 year old son on watering duty (he's got a wise head and takes an interest in the greenhouse)
However , he went a bit wild one week on the azalea while it was still in the ceramic pot and it wasn't getting any lighter so I figured it wasn't taking any water up and that's when I thought it would be a good time to repot as I thought it was a root issue . Now because of your answer I know that it was way overwatered and wasn't taking any water because it was below 5c .

The first picture I added what shows the 2 azaleas I repotted at the same time .
And yeah the other one is showing the same symptoms.

Thanks for the tip on how I know where to prune to . Bit by bit till the green stops .

OK thanks for the help, I am quite annoyed that I kept this alive over the whole winter then killed it by over care come spring. Nevertheless a few lessons learned.
I'll prune it , move to a sheltered place from direct sun outside and get it in a ceramic pot .
🤞

at least my 2nd entry to the 5 year azalea still alive and looking very healthy by the way 🙈😆
 
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It’s not dead yet?

If not.... Since you have narrowed down the issue and the tree is in the ER, it’s time to see if you can get it to recover. Keep it on the dry side rather than wet and mist the leaves a bit during the day if you can as long as the space has some air movement and the leaves dry before night. I use cheap muffin fans. Bright area, yet not direct sun so it can still do photosynthesis... in a couple weeks you can ease it slowly into morning sun over another month.

btw: Azaleas don’t just up and die for no reason... around here they crash for two main reasons, over watering and over fertilization. The third is desiccation during the winter. In most cases the azaleas simply take as much abuse as they can, looking fine, then crash. btw, Don’t feel too bad, I’ve experienced a similar issue on one of our azaleas at the end of the thread posted here.

One good thing is now you know the basics of azalea troubleshooting by the numbers! If you read back at the early replies, you’ll see @Shibui was thinking about overwatering early on too.

good luck and please keep posting updates
Cheers
DSD sends
 

Shibui

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Did you miss-speak? Wasn't the old well water too alkaline?
I can understand the confusion and I still don't understand why azalea was one of the species that suffered as they normally like acid conditions. I can only assume they have a narrow window of tolerance.
After the copper hot water jacket and some brass taps started to dissolve I had the water tested - pH around 4! That's on the slightly acid side is it not?
 
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That’s both scary and interesting. Kind of like the pH of tomato juice! It turns out there is a lower limit of pH for healthy azaleas and rhododendrons, right around 4.5.

In fact, drilling down into a rabbit hole of data.... Galle reports that azaleas in soil with pH 3.5 - 4.5 will be healthy, yet will often grow slower. But that’s soil, but what about constantly watering the azaleas in a bath of pH of 4.0 and below? That’s where it gets tricky.

Musselmann and McCool, concerned about the affects of acid rain, studied the affects using azaleas as their study subjects. They found short exposures of pH 3.5 and below would damage the azaleas leaves even though the azaleas were able to translocate chemicals to neutralize the acidity short term.

While these scientists concluded that acid rain events of a longer durations might damage the leaves at even higher pH levels, it’s not a stretch to conclude that while watering is not a long lived event and the leaves likely dry within an hour, the continuous bathing of the azaleas roots and leaves in a 4.0 pH bath would likely damage the plants over time.

cheers
DSD sends
 

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