Azalea bonsai care

Care Styling Pictures   Satsuki azalea varieties Satsuki azalea repotting

Japanese azalea bonsai care

The bonsai care of azalea bonsai is easy. Important is: Keep evenly moist, use azalea bonsai fertilizer and use an acidic bonsai soil like Kanuma when repotting a bonsai. If you pay attention to this, azaleas can be called as bonsai for beginners.

Satsuki azaleas bonsai (Rhododendron indicum) belong to the group of hardy outdoor bonsai trees and should therefore be kept outdoors. Satsuki azalea are mainly cultivated as bonsai because of the immense abundance of flowers.

Japanese Satsuki azalea bonsai care in a nutshell:

Fertilize | Watering | Location | Overwintering | Repot | Diseases, Pests | Propagation


We only fertilize azalea bonsai in our bonsai nursery with or after flowering (around mid-May) until September nitrogen-rich with mineral fertilizer. It is important when fertilizing azaleas that the bonsai fertilizer is adjusted to the very acidic pH value of the azaleas bonsai soil.

It is best to use a bonsai fertilizer for azaleas and rhododendrons. Organic bonsai fertilizers such as Biogold or Hanagokoro are also well suited to azaleas. These fertilizers can be given before flowering because it takes a couple of weeks to really take effect.

The common bonsai liquid fertilizers are also suitable. Before flowering, it is best to give the amount indicated on the bottle. After flowering (where more leaf growth is desired) you can also give double.


During the flowering period, depending on the location, water the bonsai 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 bonsai 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 surface a little bit more humid. This has a positive effect on the many fine surface roots.


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.


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 Satsuki azaleas survive such temperatures without complaint. A leaf loss of up to 50% can be considered normal here.


Every three to four years (or when the roots fill the bonsai pot) after flowering repot the azalea bonsai with root cut. 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.

For Azalea bonsai you should use a lime-free soil mixture. 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.

Diseases, Pests

Pests are not common on azalea bonsai. After an import, spider mites and other sucking insects are occasionally found. However, these can be combated well with the commercial agents against spider mites.


Azaleas can easily be propagated through cuttings.

Japanese Satsuki azalea (Rhododendron indicum) - Bonsai with strong trunk. Recording end of april and beginning of june
⧉ Azalea bonsai with strong trunk

Japanese Satsuki azalea bonsai styling

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.

Japanese Satsuki azalea bonsai styling in a nutshell:

  • Wiring: The branches of azalea bonsai are very brittle and break easily. Therefore be careful when applying bonsai wire and especially when bending and shaping
  • Pruning: Azaleas tolerates cutting very well. Even after extreme pruning, they sprout in all sites. If you want a lot of azalea flowers next spring then you shouldn't prune too late in the previous year

Wiring | Pruning | Styles | Bonsai pots | Flowers, Fruits | Bark, Roots | Varieties | General


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.

During azalea bonsai wiring you have to work very carefully. Azaleas have a very thin bark that can be easily injured. It is recommended to use the softer aluminum wire for azaleas.


In principle, all styling techniques (pruning, wiring) should only be started after flowering. After flowering, the remains of the flowers are plucked with the fingers. Than you should start with pruning.

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.


The Satsuki azaleas look good in nearly all bonsai styles. Azalea bonsai are usually designed informal upright or slightly inclined. Also you can often see semi-cascades. Only a broom shape looks not fine.

Matching bonsai pots

Japanese Satsuki azalea (Rhododendron indicum) - Bicoloured flower
⧉ Azalea bonsai - Bicoloured flower

Glazed bonsai pots are well suited for Satsuki azalea bonsai with its splendour of blossoms. Since they belong to the winter-hardy outdoor bonsai, a frost-proof, handmade bonsai pot should be selected if possible. In our experience, the inexpensive bonsai pots (made for indoor bonsai) are also almost 100% frost-resistant. However, we do not guarantee frost resistance for these pots.

Unglazed bonsai pots are also suitable for older azalea bonsai with thick trunk. Dark brown or grey unglazed pots would fit quite well. For larger japanese bonsai you can find suitable pots under large bonsai pots.

Azalea bonsai with its roundish crown fit quite well into an oval bonsai pot but also rectangular bonsai pots are suitable. For rectangular pots, we would choose a pot that has slightly rounded corners. Higher, round bonsai pots are particularly suitable for azalea bonsai in semi-cascade style. Bonsai pot drip trays are not needed because azalea bonsai should not be placed in the apartment.

Japanese Satsuki azalea (Rhododendron indicum) - 2 flower colours on a bonsai
⧉ 2 flower colours on a bonsai

Flowers, Fruits

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.

Bark, Roots

The bark of azalea bonsai is extremely thin. During wiring your Azalea bonsai you should work carefully so that it does not come to damage.


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.


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 of this bonsai species is usually 6 weeks if the flowers are protected from wetness from above (rain, watering can).

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.

Azalea bonsai - Pictures from our stock