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Japanese Satsuki Azaleas (Rhododendron indicum): Bonsai care instructions
Satsuki Azalea Bonsai in our shop
Satsuki Azalea bonsai care: General information
The Satsuki azaleas (Rhododendron indicum) belong to the group of outdoor bonsai and should therefore be kept outdoors. Satsuki azaleas are mainly cultivated as bonsai because of the immense abundance of flowers.
The Japanese term Satsuki is derived from the 5th month in the Asian lunar calendar and refers to the main flowering time. It starts at the end of April and lasts until June. During this time a Satsuki Azalea Bonsai is covered over and over with flowers, so that no leaves or branches are to be seen any more. The flowering period is usually 6 weeks if the flowers are protected from wetness from above (rain, watering can).
There are hundreds of breeding forms (e. g. Eikan, Nikko, Chinzan, Kaho, Osakasuki, Hakurei, Kinsai) that would make an exquisite bonsai collection on their own.
Leaves and flowers of the Satsuki Azalea:
The leaves are about 2.5 to 3cm long, oval with a tip and bristly on both sides. Satsuki azaleas are semi evergreen, an acid soil loving shrubs. Depending on the hibernation temperature, the leaves remain on the tree.
The broad funnel-shaped flowers stand alone or together in pairs. Their colour spectrum ranges from pure white to pink, orange to red. There are even two-coloured flowers or trees with different colours on a tree.
Satsuki-Azaleas (Rhododendron indicum) bonsai - Bicoloured flower
Satsuki azaleas (Rhododendron indicum) - 2 flower colours on a bonsai
Despite the shrub-like structure, a very good tree structure can be achieved by cutting and wiring. In Japanese Bonsai nurseries, Azalea bonsai with enormous trunks are to be admired.
Satsuki-Azaleas (Rhododendron indicum) - Bonsai with strong trunk. Recording end of April and beginning of June
In summer full sun to half shade. It is best to have full sun if you have time to water several times a day, especially during the flowering period.
During the flowering period, depending on the location, water several times a day, preferably dive until no more air bubbles rise. Use lime-free water if possible. If the water is too hard, damage to the tree may occur in the long term (atrophy of the leaves, yellowing). Rainwater as irrigation water is ideally suited.
In Japan, Yamagoki moss is often found on the soil surface. It will be put on to keep the floor a little more humid. This has a positive effect on the many fine surface roots.
Fertilise of Satsuki azalea bonsai:
Plant substrate or bonsai soil for azaleas:
Here is a lime-free soil mixture to use. The Japanese Kanuma bonsai soil is well suited for azalea bonsai. Peat-containing earth mixtures from the garden market should be avoided, despite their low pH values. Once slightly dried, these substrates are difficult to wet again.
Every three to four years after flowering with root cut, or when the roots fill the pot. Since the end of the flowering season can fall in July and it is already very hot and dry in our region, you can also repot in spring, but you must ensure a frost-free location afterwards. To hide the ugly yellow color of Kanuma soil you should simply apply a layer of Akadama bonsai soil mixed with humus 1:1 as a top layer.
Shape / styling of Satsuki azalea bonsai:
In principle, all shaping measures should only be started after flowering. After flowering, the remains of the flowers are plucked with the fingers. Than you should start with the contour cut.
The Satsuki azaleas tolerated cutting very well and after being cut back into the old wood they sprout again at all possible and impossible places. Here, shoots that grow steeply upwards or downwards should be removed immediately with a sharp bonsai scissors. When applying bonsai wire, care must be taken as the wood of the Satsuki azaleas is relatively brittle and breaks quickly when bent excessively. Thus one should distribute necessary strong bends over several years.
The Satsuki azaleas look good in all styles except the broom shape.
The Satsuki azaleas tolerate temperatures down to -15°C in unheated foil tents according to our own experience. Wintered in bark mulch up to the first branch they survive such temperatures without complaint. A leaf loss of up to 50% can be considered normal here.