The Azalea Bonsai tree is one of the most dramatic and favored Bonsai varieties grown in Japan. Known for its richly colored blooms and it’s miniature tree-like appearance, along with the ease with which it is cared for, the Azalea Bonsai is quickly growing momentum among Bonsai cultivators around the world.
There are generally two types of Azalea species used to create Azalea Bonsais. The Satsuki in particular is the favored Azalea Bonsai of Japan, with its late blooming period of May to June. This Bonsai provides the cultivator with some of the most dramatic and rewarding blossoms in shades of white, pink, and red. The Satsuki is the smaller of the two varieties of Azalea Bonsais and tends to be the most easy to care for. The second variety of Azalea Bonsais is the Kurume Azalea, which blooms in the spring. This variety originated on the southern-most island of Japan, Kyushu, and is on average a bit harder to tend to than the Satsuki. The original plant ancestor of the Kurume Azalea Bonsai is actually known to grow as tall as 6 feet, however careful pruning allows the Kurume to remain in its dwarf state.
Azalea Bonsai Pruning
Learning the art of pruning Azalea Bonsais is the key to creating a beautiful Bonsai that you’ll be excited to care for. Azalea bonsais can be pruned in multiple styles including but not limited to: single trunk (informal upright), upright two-trunked, grouped or multiple trunked style, and the windswept. Single trunk, usually grown in the formal upright style, has as it’s title explains only one trunk, with the roots buried below the surface. In Azalea Bonsais, this style is especially interesting because the base of the trunk tends to be wider, tapering as it grows upward, mimicking the actual appearance of trees. The formal upright form indicates that the trunk grows straight up and may not have many twists or bends, appearing more like the trunk of a tree which has grown without competition for sunlight from surrounding trees. Upright two-trunk, grouped, and multiple trunk styles indicate the trunk is split into two larger branches that both form what looks like individual trees. These trees can be side by side, or clustered in small, forest-like groups, and create a sort of mystical miniature woodland scene that many find appealing. The most artistically recognized form tends to be the windswept form of Azalea Bonsai. With this style, the tree is cultivated to appear as though it is caught in a gust or stream of wind, and has the branches swept mostly to one side. This creates a unique look similar to a moment caught in a photograph.
Knowing how you want your bonsai to appear is important. You want to prune your tree in the direction you want it to grow, avoiding a pom-pom or over-pruned appearance, while maintaining support in weak areas so that the small shrub doesn’t become brittle. Always use sharp scissors, and give your tree plenty of time to recover after heavy pruning.
Things to Keep in Mind
When caring for an Azalea Bonsai, no matter which variety, there are a few simple things to keep in mind. First, you’ll want to make sure your Azalea Bonsai is replanted each year in a suitable sized container with adequate drainage provided by a small hole in the containers base. You’ll want this hold to drain well, but not well enough to allow the soil to also drain through the holes. Azalea Bonsai’s soil must remain moist for proper growth, and will need regular watering. When cultivating a Azalea Bonsai, be sure to avoid using hard water. Natural water is always preferred, in order to avoid lime deposits. If natural or rain water is not available, you can water your Azalea Bonsai with a gallon of water combined with a tablespoon of vinegar. Furthermore, you’ll want to keep your Bonsai in adequate sunlight, and away from all harsh weather conditions like heavy downpour and ice or snow.
If you are interested in growing your own Azalea Bonsai, you can begin by purchasing a kit and starting from scratch, or you can purchase an adult Bonsai and practice pruning your Azalea Bonsai as soon as the blooming has ceased. It’s best for beginners to practice pruning between September and October when plant is young. Plenty of resources for Azalea Bonsai beginners are available online, as well as at your local library. Whether you are experienced at the trade of cultivating Azalea Bonsais, or are new to the art, with a little bit of practice, you are sure to find the end product a relaxing and rewarding piece of art you’ll be happy to showcase.