There are hundreds of kinds of azaleas but the most popular for bonsai are the Satsuki. Satsuki azaleas are evergreen shrubs native to Japan where they have been hybridized for at least 500 years and are considered so special that some bonsai enthusiasts devote all their efforts on them. Their colorful flowers appear in mid-May and June and are especially noteworthy. The flower color varies from white to pink, peach, red, orange and purple with many different color patterns available. The same plant can bear flowers with many different color patterns that vary from year to year. With its small leaves, quick growth, and ability to take hard pruning and shaping these plants are very good subject for bonsai. Any style except broom is appropriate.
Position: Satsuki azaleas are outdoor bonsai and should be kept outside in a semi-shaded area during the spring, summer, and fall. Morning sun and afternoon shade is idea although full shade may be necessary in mid-summer, especially in hot climates. When temperatures are likely to dip below 45o F. bring the plant into a frost free garage or shed.
Water: Azaleas are not drought tolerant and so the soil should never be allowed to dry out. Water with lime-free water every day during the growing season; about every two weeks in winter, but check periodically to make sure the soil is not dry.
Fertilizer: Apply a fertilizer formularized for acid loving plants every two weeks from spring until flowering; use a low nitrogen fertilizer monthly after flowering until early fall.
Repotting: Repot young plants every two years, mature plants every 3-4 years, immediately after flowering.
Soil: Use a soil especially made for azaleas (ph 4.5) or a mixture of loam, peat moss, and sand in a ratio of 1:4:2.
Pruning: Remove flowers as soon as they fade and cut back new shoots immediately after flowering. Do not prune at other times or you will remove the buds for the following year’s flowers.
Wiring: Wire after flowering taking great care because branches are extremely brittle.
Propagation: Softwood cuttings or layering in early summer