I was thinking the other day, I heard some folks have a couple Azaleas in their collection so I decided to make that the Tree of The Month. Azaleas, especially Satsuki, pronounced “sats’ki” are a whole other entity in the bonsai world. There are upwards to 5000 cultivars of Satsuki and if you really wanted to get into them it will take some research and learning. A very good book to start with is, Satsuki Azaleas by Robert Z. Callahan. Azaleas require special pruning and care at specific times of the year. For those that just want a couple for their spring blooms then I hope this monthly calendar will help.
First thing you must do before you work on your Azalea is to clean the tools you will be using with Lysol or some other disinfectant. Also clean them in between going from one Azalea to another.
Repot on at least a three year cycle. Repot just before the buds begin to swell or right after blooming. Azaleas have a very fine root system so care must be taken when repotting and pruning roots. The soil used should be light, well-aerated and drain rapidly. They like moisture through the growing season but will not tolerate wet feet. Be careful with watering, the most common cause of death for an Azalea is over watering. Let soil dry down, not out, between waterings.
Full sun from January until just after bloom, then morning to mid-day sun, then afternoon shade to help with heat stress. Rotate trees twice a month to promote symmetrical growth of roots and canopy.
JANUARY: Reduced watering, means to check daily and when needed water till good and damp. No fertilizer.
FEBRUARY: Continue reduced watering. Fertilize with 1tsp Miracid per gallon of water every two weeks.
MARCH: Continue reduced watering at beginning of month, when temperature starts rising start regular watering, which means to water thoroughly to ensure all soil gets wet. Fertilize with 1tsp of fish emulsion per gallon of water every two weeks. Start watching for aphids on buds, use safer soap, or 2tbl of kitchen dish soap, non antibacterial, per gallon of water and spray every 7-10 days until aphids are gone. Aphids are asexual so you only have to leave one. Watch for thrips, use Bonide Systemic Insecticide or other systemic insecticide.
APRIL: Continue regular watering. Fertilize with 1tsp Miracid per gallon of water every two weeks. Do not over-water repotted trees, roots regenerate best in damp, not wet soil. Apply Subdue or equivalent soil drench fungicide if you have had any previous problems with soil fungus or root rot. Apply Captan on early blooming cultivars to prevent flower blight. Strip lower/inside leaves and lower secondary branches to prevent shading of tree, leave only a pompom of leaves at tip. Trim errant branches and remove extra long stems or shorten to two leaves. Prune large branches if needed and seal wounds.
MAY: Continue regular watering. Withhold fertilizer from trees to be shown, others fertilize with 1tsp of fish emulsion per gallon of water mid-month. Keep check for powdery mildew, use Clearys 3336 G or other systemic fungicide. Keep check for aphids, thrips, scale and other sucking insects. Trim shoots extending beyond flowers or flower buds, seal all wounds.
JUNE: Continue regular watering, weather is hot so assure your trees aren’t drying out. Can mist leaves to help with heat stress. Fertilize with 1tsp Miracid per gallon of water mid-month. Remove all flowers, seed pods and unopened buds when 80% of flower buds have opened. Remove vegetative growth to two shoots at each tip and two leaves at each shoot.
JULY: Continue regular watering. Can mist during hot spells. No fertilizer. Do not trim after first week of month to avoid removing next years flower buds. Move tree into more afternoon shade.
AUGUST: Continue regular watering. Watch the heat and give enough afternoon shade as needed. You want to give the tree as much sun as possible to keep branches tight, but not too much as to stress it. No fertilizer. Keep eye out for insects.
SEPTEMBER: Continue regular watering, as days shorten trees will require less. Fertilize with 1tsp Miracid per gallon of water mid-month. Can mist leaves in the afternoon to help enhance fall leaf color. Keep watch for fungal problems.
OCTOBER: Weather is starting to cool, so begin to reduce watering. Fertilize with 1tsp fish emulsion per gallon of water mid-month.
NOVEMBER: Continue reduced watering. Fertilize with 1tsp Miracid per gallon of water mid-month. Move trees back into full sun.
DECEMBER: Continue reduced watering. No fertilizer.