Azalea trees are indigenous to the hilly regions of Asia and North America and belong to the Rhododendron species. Most cultivate Azaleas as ornamentals because of their beautiful flowers.
Azalea trees are Magnoliophyta, classed as Magnoliopsida, and belong to Plantae’s Ericaceous (flowering plants) family. More precisely, Azaleas belong to the subgenera of rhododendrons. The two most popular subgenera are Pentanthera and Titsushi.
Appearance and Characteristics
Azalea is the category that many flowering shrubs of the Rhododendron genus fall into. You can tell them apart by the thin and pointed leaves, which are also swift and do not have scales on the underside.
- Azaleas generally produce one flower per stem
- Flowers have five or six stamens and with a funnel shape, two lips, and fragrant
- Azaleas are deciduous
- The Bonsai Azalea is a dense, semi-evergreen tree, between 2 and 3 feet tall
- Its flowers can reach up to seven inches in diameter.
- The Satsuki, or Rhododendron indicium, sprouts flowers with white, pink, red, and purple hues.
How to Care for an Azalea Bonsai Tree
Bonsai trees grow in small pots, and there are a few basic guidelines for planting, watering, sunlight exposure, and repotting them.
Azaleas Bonsai trees thrive in the sunlight, so you should place them in a sunny spot. However, they will need some shade during the hottest time of the day in the summer months. Also, during the blooming season, the flowers of the Azalea will last longer if properly protected from the rain and sun.
Azalea Bonsai trees need watering so as not to dry out. Yet, they do not do well with permanent wetness. Hence, regularly check the dampness of the soil and be careful with the watering. If you find that a root ball has gotten too dry, you should temporarily dunk it in a bowl of water, so it regains the necessary moistness. To water your Azalea Bonsai, you can use rainwater or mix rainwater with tap water. However, hard tap water is not good for it, so you may need to filter it before applying.
Humidity & Temperature
Azalea Bonsai trees are temperate trees that grow best in mild climates. This means they can be grown outside or inside but must be protected from extreme heat and cold. In the winter months, healthy, mature Azaleas can handle some frost but will not survive in temperatures lower than 40° F (-5° C). Also, remember they do need exposure to fresh air to thrive.
As the tree grows, it will shed leaves. So, you must remove dead leaves from the tree and clear the topsoil of any fallen leaves. Similarly, gently shower down the foliage once a week, which will carry away all the excess leaves.
Fertilizer & Soil
It is important to start fertilization when your Bonsai begins to sprout fresh, light-green growth. At this point, you must apply a mild organic fertilizer. The fertilizer can be pellets or liquid and usually consist of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK) in equal parts. In the fall, a fertilizer with less nitrogen is preferred. During the growth season, your tree will need regular fertilization, once a month for pellets and once every fortnight for liquid fertilizers. In the fall, however, you should use them less often. Lastly, during the dormant period, there is no need to fertilize the tree.
Your Azalea Bonsai needs lime-free soil, such as the Japanese Kanuma Bonsai soil. On the flip side, avoid using earth mixtures from the garden market that contain peat, as they are not good for growing Bonsai.
When it comes to repotting, certain guidelines must be followed so as not to cause any damage to your tree.
When to do it: proceed to repot your Azalea as soon as you notice new leaves showing up.
Frequency: The frequency of the repotting depends on the tree’s size, age, and the roots’ condition.
Age: younger trees may need relocating annually, while older ones can last in the same pot for two to four years.
During repotting, keep in mind that you will need to prune the roots with great care because they are very thin, and a wrong move may cause damage to the roots.
Diseases and Pest
Bonsai are vulnerable to common houseplant pests and diseases. To avoid such pitfalls, ensure that the Bonsai is clean and has enough exposure to minerals. If things take the wrong turn, you might be able to spot abnormal leaf drops, stickiness to the foliage, or insects. For example, low humidity can attract spider mites.
To nurture your tree back to health, start by spraying cold water to chase out the insects. Next, use a mild insecticidal soap. Depending on the situation, you should repeat this on the same day of the week, perhaps for the whole month.
Because indoor Bonsai are more susceptible to insects than outdoor species, keeping them outside for the summer will help strengthen them. Also, indoor trees often catch fungus and other diseases.
The list of possible issues also includes:
- Vine weevil (that eats the leaves and can harm the roots).
- Root rot.
- Leaf galls (the leaves and stems thicken, curl, become fleshy and turn pale green).
Tools Needed for Bonsai Tree Azalea Pruning
You will need shears to cut twigs, smaller branches, leaves, or roots. You can find several types and sizes online or at your local market. For instance, there are shears with a wide standard shape for thicker twigs and narrow and longer shears for smaller ones. The longer variety makes working in the middle of a dense canopy easier. Of course, there are also the smaller shears for trimming Azaleas and removing wilted flowers.
Aside from those, you will also need Concave cutters when cutting the branches from the trunk. Again, the different sizes and shapes are for different purposes. So, pick the right tool among the straight-bladed, semi-rounded, or knob cutters.
A small saw is another tool you may need for pruning or trimming branches, trunks, or thick or hard roots.
Because there are many different carving tools, it is best to opt for a set that contains everything you may need to shape, smooth, contour, narrow, or hollow out the deadwood.
How to Prune Bonsai Tree Azalea
It would be best if you regularly pruned your Azalea Bonsai tree to keep the balance between canopy and root. If you neglect to prune it, the tree will grow in all directions. So, to ensure that your Bonsai will thrive and bloom in the following season, it is vital that you do all the styling (pruning, wiring) after the buds evolve.
How to Wire Bonsai Tree Azalea
Applying wire to the trunk of Bonsai trees helps to refine its shape. It changes the tree’s angle and position so it can grow in a particular direction. Thus, Bonsai wiring is an ongoing process cultivators must do gradually over the years.
For wiring, follow the steps below:
- Attach one end of the Bonsai wire to a branch
- Move from the bottom to the top
- Wrap the wire tightly
- Wire at an angle of 45°
- Do not cross the wire
- Wrap the wire around the branch
- The wire must be on the outside of a bend
- If the wire presses in, remove and reapply it
How to Make Cuts to Bonsai Tree Azalea
When cutting a Bonsai tree, you can experiment a lot, as they quickly sprout again. However, with Bonsai scissors, you should remove all shoots that grow steeply upwards or downwards.
For the branches, use the appropriate Bonsai branch cutters. Select the crossed and broken branches and cut them off just above the point where they grow from the trunk of the tree. Cut back twigs until they have 3-4 nodes. After doing any cutting, a wound closing agent is necessary to protect the trunk from pests.
Bonsai Tree Azalea Styles
Generally, an Azalea can grow in nearly any bonsai style. However, the three most dominant forms are informal upright, multi-trunk, and cascade.
The informal or moyogi style gives your Bonsai a beautiful s-shaped trunk that tapers naturally. With this style, the branches will grow from the bends in the trunk outwards, leaving space for the foliage and beautiful flowers.
The multi-trunk style is a type of the twin trunk style. With this style, multiple trunks grow from the same root system and form a stem.
Despite this style being rare in nature, it is the best way to showcase the beautiful Azalea flowers. However, it is difficult to maintain as you force the tree to grow downwards instead of upward toward the light, which is more natural.
Azalea Bonsai trees are indoor plants that anyone can learn how to cultivate. They do, however, come with a bit of a challenge. If you follow the guidelines when taking care of your Bonsai tree Azalea, you will add an attractive ornament to your indoor or outdoor garden.