It happens to everyone! Failure to rotate your bonsai brings about troublesome results. You may be positioning your bonsai, in this case Satsuki Azalea “Kaho”, next to the backyard fence with shade trees. The location gets inadequate sun light. The morning sun is blocked by the neighbor’s shade trees and the six foot high fence. The only sun light on that location comes in the mid to late afternoon. By not rotating the Satsuki Azalea bonsai often enough, the back side of the tree fails to get sufficient sun light. The leaves shrivel and die off on the side without the adequate sun light. By rotating the bonsai frequently, at least once per week, sun light is present and leaves receive a good balance of sun light for healthy growth. This will elevate parts of the tree getting weak.
The Golden State Bonsai Federation (GSBF) Golden Statements Magazine is free and online live.
Here is a direct link to the Golden Statements Magazine for your reading enjoyment.
The following instructions have been provided by Darren Wong to insure our satsuki azaleas are repotted properly for health and vigor throughout the year:
• Start in February. Begin with the “narrow leaf” varieties ﬁrst. In March continue with all other varieties.
• Kanuma size is important; use 100% small size for shohin, for larger trees use a 50/50 mix of medium and small. The larger the azalea, the less small size you use.
• In general remove approximately 50% of root ball and 1″ from sides. Typically work down 3/4 to 1 inch on the surface. Sides should be ﬂat with slightly brushed edges so that a very, very small root end is exposed.
• Be extremely careful in combing out surface roots. If you use a rake turn it so the tines are parallel to the roots to prevent tearing. A better solution is a ﬁne root hook or chopstick.
• Use large drainage mesh on bottom of pot for everything except shohin. This helps water drain better in the pot.
• Use a layer of larger kanuma on bottom of pot for trees larger than shohin.
• Create a cone of soil in the center of the pot so that the tree can be ‘screwed’ into the soil to reduce air pockets under the tree.
• If repotting a bare-rooted tree, or one with open space on the bottom of the tree, be sure to all all holes with kanuma. Leave no air pockets which will result in dead roots = dead branches = dead trees.
Editor’s note: Jonas Dupuich just posted an excellent article on repotting satsuki where he recommends turning the tree upside down, ﬁlling all holes between roots with kanuma and working it in gently with a chopstick, then moistening the soil to keep it in place when the tree is turned upside down to go into the pot.
• After tying tree into the pot add kanuma slowly and work into the roots as you go, leaving no voids around the roots, but do not over work the chopping-in process which will crush the kanuma and impede proper drainage.
• Fill pot with kanuma once soil has been properly worked into the roots, and top off with a layer of mountain moss – yamagoke.
• After repotting products like Hormex® can be added to provide health to the trees and resupply beneﬁcial bacteria which may have been killed with a prior year treatment of Subdue®.
• Be mindful of watering after repotting and don’t overdo it.
• Keep trees protected from excess wind, cold and ‘Atmospheric Rivers’.
• Wait for at least 30 days to begin fertilization.
Second Editors Note: In a discussion with Peter Tea about the problem many have with root rot he suggested adding some pumice to the kanuma soil mix to create a drier mix which could reduce or eliminate the problem. Darren has not tried this and his take was to add about 20% yamagoke to the kanuma which might accomplish the same goal.
At our February meeting Bob Gould suggest that if the above method is tried with pumice that the drier mix should only be used on the bottom 1/4 or 1/3 of the pot.
• Reduction of foliage so sun can get to the interior of branches to encourage growth
• At this point at the end of growing season the trees will be bushy, so to make sure the interior of the branches do not get shaded out and the growth stunted. You do mesuki!!!!
• You must keep enough foliage on the branches though to ensure the nutrient/water flow, and the tree is still getting energy through photosynthesis.
• Take off downward pointing branches, but not upward pointing ones – they will be wired, now or in the winter. Always have some extra branches in case some are broken during wiring.
Preparing for winter –
• Trees should be fertilized now using 5-5-5.
• Darren’s method – take off 1/4 soil from the top, add fresh soil, add 5/5/5/fertilizer in tea bags and cover with yamagoki. This keeps the fertilizer moist and the nutrients more available to the roots. Leave on until February.
• Fish emulsion is also a good fertilizer, but if given during April or May, flowers will fade more quickly when it blooms
Start thinking about show trees:
• Trees you are planning to show can be wired now
• Put more work into the trees you are planning to show
• If trees are slow to bloom stress them a little to encourage the buds to open. Withholding water – to some extent – stresses trees and is a useful technique as well
Struggling and sick trees:
• Repotting now was discouraged except in the most extreme cases
• Emergency repotting – Remove just one inch of roots from the bottom and almost nothing from the sides. Disturb roots as little as possible and do a proper repot of the tree in March.
• Several trees seemed to be suffering from root problems, likely caused by too much water, possibly combined with too much heat (Trees stop taking up water when pot temperature reaches +/- 85º)
• Subdue and Banrot were recommended as treatment – regular strength, 2 applications 2 weeks apart.
• If root issues persist alternate Subdue with Banrot for best results, but do not use continuously because they will kill beneficial bacteria (see below)
• Root treatments can kill all bacteria and beneficial mycorrhizae. Hydroguard Bacillus Root Inoculant and Great White Shark Mycorrhizae are good brands for repopulation of beneficial organisms – available on line or local stores selling to the cannabis cultivators
• Hormex is recommended for root growth and trees in distress. Darren uses it after repotting a tree for about one month after. 10 drops per gallon
A few other pointers for repotting satsuki azaleas:
• Darren now uses a mix of medium and small size Kanuma in repotting small to medium sized trees. He finds that water flows through the soil better when the sizes are combined rather than separated in layers.
• Before repotting, thoroughly clean the inside of the pot with disinfectant, such as Physan 20. Rinse well and then let dry in the sun for several days.
• You can also use a 50 % solution of hydrogen peroxide and water to disinfect your pots.
• Always rinse the pot out well and let dry for a day or two. This is especially important if the pot had a sick tree in it prior.