This page will
feature a growing collection of bonsai plant material description and
infomation on care and culture.
While originally written for the North Alabama micro-climate in the
Tennessee Valley region
of the southeastern United States,
these articles should apply for other medium - high humidity areas in USDA
agricultural zones seven and eight.
azalea is a cultivar group of azaleas that are native to
the mountains of Japan, and are extensively
cultivated by the Japanese, being
hybridized there for at least 500 years.
Satsuki azaleas have a diverse range
of flower forms and color patterns
with multiple patterns often appearing on a single plant.
bloom from May to June; the name “Satsuki” in Japanese is
reference to their blooming period, the fifth
month of the Asian lunar
calendar. They generally have 1 to 5 inch single flowers, although some
semi-double and fully double flowers. Satsuki
flower shapes range from rounded
overlapping lobes to narrow
wide-spaced lobes, with lobe edges ranging from
flat to frilled. Flower
colors vary from
white to pink, yellowish pink,
red, reddish orange and purple. Color patterns include
solids, and stripes, flakes, lines, sectors and margins of color
on a lighter
background. The complete range of color patterns can appear on the same
differently each year.
Azaleas are very popular as bonsai, and many bonsai
enthusiasts, and some shows, are dedicated
solely to them. Satsuki
Azaleas can take a hard pruning when
needed, the flowers are amazing, and with proper
care they can grow quite fast.
developing Satsuki azalea bonsai,
follow a three year cycle:
to flower one year
the year after flowering
a few flowers; or, perform
allowing Satsuki azaleas to
flower only once every 3 years, leave new flower buds on
every year. Each
flower bud sends a
signal to the plant to keep feeding that branch and keep it alive.
Removing flower buds prematurely stops that
signal. Without the
bud, the plant may
well give up on that
branch and let it die, so any available energy can be
redirected to branches with flower buds.
buds in the spring as soon as they start to show color.
Leave little or no red or dark pink at the
top of an azalea
at or near the top if the flowers bloom red or dark pink.
the year for flowering, remove
all of the blooms which open first.
first blooms usually are different from
the blooms which follow later, and
usually are not true to the variety of azalea.
For flowering, remove most of the
buds, and select the blooms to be
kept. Leave some
blooms. Water the
soil heavily during
blooming, but try not to get water on the blooms.
Remove blooms as soon as they start to wilt -
for the flowers to drop.
Satsukis prefer partial to almost full shade. They are understory
bushes or shrubs.
A Satsuki is an outdoor tree. If left
outside over winter, cover with fine pine bark mulch
one inch above the pot. During late winter or very
early spring, many of the
older leaves will yellow and
fall. Azaleas are evergreen, but no leaf lasts
Water daily throughout the growing season. Satsukis can tolerate some
not for an extended period. Water sparingly during winter months
Feed once a month from March through June with a slow-acting organic
then once or twice with a low Nitrogen fertilizer in October
or early November.
Feed more often if the soil is inorganic. Hold off
on feeding until one month after repotting.
Satsukis, like most plants, love foliar feeding. They will
love a rotating regimen of diluted beer
(1 Tbs / 40 or 50 oz spray bottle) one week, HB-101 or super
thrive the next week, an application
of Miracid the third week and finally, a spritzing with
diluted Hydrogen peroxide ( 1 Tbs / spray bottle
of water) during the fourth week. Foliar
feeding is best in the morning when the stomata are open.
Do not foliar feed after the temperature reaches 70 degrees.
Keep styling minimal during the repotting year. Wiring may be
done at any time, with
the wire remaining on for up to a year. Because the bark on an
azalea is very thin,
for smaller branches it is advised to wrap the wire
with a heavy paper first.(paper cut from
temporary window blinds works very well) . Wire primary
branches first. Give movement that
echoes the trunk movement, i.e., curves that diminish and get tighter
toward the ends of the branches.
Secondary branches should start out
paralleling the primary branch, then move outward away from
Learn to use two pairs of pliers to bend wired branches. Use
one pair to provide an anchor, use a second
pair to bend the wire and, with it, the branch. Check for
wire bite starting at 3 months. If it is not biting,
leave it on but check often. Prune and pinch carefully at the
apex. Azaleas are not apical, that is, they are
more likely to sprout new growth from the bottom.
Do major styling immediately after
blooming has finished. A new growth spurt is about
Pruning in late summer will reduce next years’ bloom as buds are set in
late August. Removal of all
foliage on a branch will be the death of that branch, as well as a line
on the trunk down to the roots.
If you wish to encourage significant
back-budding and ramification, you can perform moto bedome.
This is done by cutting all flower buds and leaves, leaving just about
1/8” to 3/16” of green on each bud and leaf.
This can be done the year after repotting. Azaleas develop
veins or water lines wherein some roots feed
particular branches directly. When pushing back foliage, be
sure to leave some green on the branch. Thinning
is important as it lets light into the interior of the plant and
encourages back-budding. Always remove spent
flowers AND the seed pods to conserve the strength
of the tree.
Flowering is subjected to the three year schedule.
Repot every 3 years for young trees or every 3 to 5 years for trees
over 10 years old.
Repotting is typically done from mid winter through early
spring. Many artists
repot azaleas after blooming but it is ill-advised in the
Tennessee Valley due to fierce
Summers that can begin in late May. A glazed pot
that is not too shallow is preferred.
When repotting, use a sharp knife or
scissors to make clean, straight cuts across the bottom and sides.
Do not rake or hose out old bonsai soil. If the azalea is a
nursery plant, it may need a thorough root cleaning to
get rid of the old peat/pine bark soil mix, but otherwise don't disturb
the root mass of an azalea bonsai.
Exposed roots left hanging out of the root
ball will be pressed against the side of the root ball and may well die.
New roots don't like to, and often won't grow through the other roots,
even fine hair roots. For azaleas that really
need more new soil than just around the outside of the root ball (e.g.,
the old soil has very different moisture
retention), use a sharp knife or scissors to cut out wedges at
intervals around the root mass. At the
remove wedges from different sections. Scissors used for
cutting roots may be sharpened with almost a 90° angle
on the edges. They still can be made sharp, but they'll be
less prone to damage from bits of aggregate or other
hard material in the soil.
Keep the soil moist after repotting -
don't ever let it go dry. Later, after the tree has recovered
you can encourage root growth by watering less. The tree will
send out more roots seeking water. Don't put newly
repotted azaleas right back in full sun. Keep them in light
shade or at most part sun for the first month after repotting.
The most common pest for azaleas are lacebugs. These are
easily controlled with fine
horticultural oil, watering with a heavy foliage spray, systemic pest
control and thinning
foliage to maintain good airflow and maximize pest spray
contact. Spray with dormant oil in
January or early February.
Fungus presents a significant threat in the Tennessee Valley.
From March through June
or July, alternate weekly treatments with a copper fungicide and
airflow maintained by thinning foliage is critical to good
control. Spray with a mixture of 1 tablespoon of
3% Hydrogen Peroxide in a 40 to 50 oz. Spray bottle at least every
other week during the Spring.
Ming Aralia is a perennial evergreen, seen in the form of a shrub or
dwarf tree, native to India.
The genus is tropical, with some 80 species found in the Pacific
islands and Southeast Asia. The plant grows
fairly slowly but can reach up to 3-7 feet in height. The
family to which Ming Aralia belongs - Araliaceae, the aralia,
or ginseng, family - also includes a number of popular house plants
such as English Ivy, as well as the herb Ginseng.
Polyscias stalks carry compound leaves with up to seven (or more)
opposite leaflets. In several species the leaves
are deeply lobed. The leaves are also highly variable,
sometimes on the same plant, and are frequently variegated.
The Plumata variety of Ming Aralia is a feathery form with small
leaves, and is excellent for bonsai culture.
Ming Aralia will tolerate low light conditions such as a
north window with a small supplementary light
for the daylight hours; however, it will grow more compactly under
brighter light conditions. If grown outdoors,
exposure to direct sun should be done very gradually, and should be
limited to morning sun only.
Ming Aralia thrives in warmth, preferring a temperature
range between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
As described, it may be grown outdoors during the warm
Indoors, watering frequency will depend on temperature and
humidity levels and the moisture
retention rate of your growing mix. Slowly apply a fine
sprinkle to the root system until the entire root mass is
completely watered, and water freely runs out of the drainage
holes. Allow the top of the growing medium to
become dry between waterings. Do not allow the plant to
remain in standing water over a long term. Outdoors,
in warm weather, your plant will usually require daily watering.
Water-soluble balanced fertilizers provide adequate food for
your Ming Aralia. Follow the label
recommendations of dilution and frequency provided for house
plants. Unless new growth is pale, indicating a
deficiency, it is not general practice to fertilize during the coldest
and shortest days of the year.
Ming Aralia has a vertical habit, but it can be styled into an
attractive bonsai by selecting alternate
branches, and wiring them laterally. You may be able to leave
the wire on for several months, or perhaps a year,
but check at three-month intervals to remove any wires that may be
cutting into the branches or trunk. You may
shorten the plant by removing the top growth and wiring a branch upward
for a new apex. If you are growing your
plant near a window, rotate it periodically to expose all areas to the
Ming Aralia should be repotted during the warm growing
season. Follow the procedures for potting
repotting bonsai. If you are placing your plant in bonsai
for the first time, try to remove all the fine soil from
the root system so the growing medium will be consistent for all parts
of the root system. Plants may react to repotting
or change of location by dropping numerous leaves. Remove all
yellow and wilting foliage to allow light to reach new
replacement growth, and avoid over-watering while the plant is
Check and/or treat new purchases and plants being
transferred from outdoors to indoors. The usual range
of pests; aphids, scale, and spider mites may attack Ming Aralia
plants. Use an insecticide listed for the particular
pest you are treating, and move the plant outdoors for
treatment. You will need to apply several treatments at
five- to ten-day intervals to completely eliminate the pests.
If you grow moss on the surface of your plantings, you may
see fungus gnats emerging from the area. A rechargeable hand
vacuum is excellent for keeping them under control.
Shimpaku juniper is native to
Japan. Shimpaku features a softer foliage than most
other junipers; even young plants
display the compressed-scale foliage of the mature specimen.
Adult foliage consists of diamond-shaped leaves
arranged in four ranks and overlapping flat on the twigs like fish
scales. The bark is brown and shreds off in thin strips.
Male and female cones of the Shimpaku are carried on separate plants.
The female cones are fleshy, violet brown and
berrylike, about a 0.5 in (1.3 cm) in diameter.
Shimpaku can easily be grown from cuttings and thus
available from bonsai nurseries.
prefer a range from partial shade to full
the amount of shade in
yields a darker green foliage.
Shimpaku juniper is an outdoor tree.
If left outside over winter, cover with fine
mulch to about one inch above the pot.
Over the winter foliage may get a slight purplish
daily throughout the growing season. Shimpaku can tolerate some drought,
not for an extended period. Water sparingly during winter months.
Use a heavy
spray on the foliage once per week to
dislodge spider mites.
Be careful to
point the spray away from other plants.
once a month from March through June with a slow-acting organic
then once or twice with a low Nitrogen fertilizer in October or early
November. Feed more often if the soil
is inorganic. Hold
off on feeding until one month after
most plants, love foliar feeding.
Mix one tablespoon of flat beer in a 40 to 50
oz spray bottle
and apply to the foliage every one or two weeks.
Apply in the morning when the stomata are
open. Do not foliar
temperature reaches 80 degrees.
may be done at any time, with the wire remaining on for up to a year.
starting at 3 months. Sometimes, if applying heavy twists to
branches, the wire can be left on a bit longer to
contribute to the character
of the branch.
should be carried out monthly from late
spring to early fall. Thin and pinch
new growth throughout the early growing
Heavy styling is
best done in February through
April. If major
styling is done later,
be sure to use
Wilt-Proof and mist the plant several times per day.
Keep it in a mostly shaded area for a couple
Removal of all
foliage on a branch will be the death of
that branch down to the roots.
develop veins or water lines wherein some roots feed particular
When pushing back foliage be
sure to leave some green on the branch.
Thinning lets light into
the interior of the plant and encourages
every 2 or 3 years for young trees (up to 10 years) or every 3 to 5
Repotting is typically done from mid winter through early
in April can be done
but is less desirable.
minimal during the years when repotting.
Shimpaku like a pot that is slightly deeper than
As with most conifers, an unglazed pot is usually
Pests: Spider mites
are the most common pest. These are easily controlled with
watering with a heavy foliage spray, systemic pest control and thinning
foliage to maintain good airflow
and maximize pest spray contact. Spray with dormant oil in
January or early February.
presents a significant threat in our area.
From March through June or July,
alternate weekly treatments with a
copper fungicide and daconil. Good
airflow maintained by thinning
foliage is critical to good control.
Spray with a mixture of 1 tablespoon of 3%
Hydrogen Peroxide in
to 50 oz. spray
bottle at least every other week.
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