The bonsai tree is said to be a great interest to pursue, especially if you have the patience and are able to truly appreciate the majestic, living thing that is bonsai. When it comes to taking care of it however, owners can have many different preferences. Some may do it to enjoy its spring beauty, while some others do it because they like the meticulous challenge. In that regard, the Azalea bonsai is a combination of both.
Azalea bonsai comes from the Rhododendron genus that features up to 1,000 different species. Among them, the Satsuki and Kurume Azaleas are the most commonly found variants for Bonsai purposes. In spring they produce wonderful flowers that come in many different shapes, colors, patterns and sizes, which look beautiful against their ever-dark green leaves.
Azaleas appreciate direct sunlight, as it is essential for their growth, though it would need some shade on the hottest of days. Protecting the flowers from rain and hot sun can allow them to live longer. Mature and healthy Azaleas are more resistant towards frost, but should never be exposed to temperatures lower than -5 degrees C or 41 degrees F.
Both the Satsuki and Kurume are considered tricky because of their watering needs. They must never be left to dry, neither should they be in permanent wetness. The root ball is most susceptible to excessive heat, and may dry up. If you encounter this, dunk it in a bowl of water for a while to get it moist again. The key is to frequently check the moisture of the soil. Azaleas need a slightly acidic soil. Owners usually use either rainwater or a mixture of rainwater and tap water. Hard tap water alone is not suitable for the tree’s growth.
Rhododendron bonsai can survive on normal, organic fertilizers, though they would appreciate Rhododendron-specific fertilizers during their growth period. Some owners have reported earnest growth after using liquid Azalea fertilizers weekly along with other organic products in longer intervals. If you plan to do this, read the instructions carefully, as most of them aim to strew only the surface of the soil. During spring or whenever it bears flowers, reduce the dosage of fertilizers to half, or completely stop.
Rhododendron bonsai is unique in its dominant base. The lower branches tend to grow stronger and sturdier, compared to the branches near its top. Prune the base harder than you would the top, as this helps shape the tree’s shrub shape. Azaleas are known to respond very well to strong pruning, and can produce new shoots on branches without any leaves. Owners usually cut off or pinch wilted flowers and the tree’s buds after spring. This is also the ideal time to trim and prune your tree as new flower buds will be developed by summer.
Removing unwanted shoots from either the base of branches or the trunk can be done whenever you want to. This will not affect its growth. Another thing to note is its brittle bark can easily be damaged through wiring and bending, so they must be done with absolute care.
Your Satsuki or Kurume bonsai should be transferred into a new pot every two years, ideally during spring or right afterwards. Root pruning would be good for the tree, but it must be done gently. The roots are thin and matted, and easily breaks away when disentangled. People commonly change the soil to Pure Kanuma, simply because a lime-free soil is very healthy to a newly re-potted Rhododendron bonsai.