Bay Area Satsuki Aikokai

Satsuki Azalea Bonsai Club

Author: basabonsai

Our September meeting provided a great “welcome back from Summer” program on pest and disease control for our satsuki azaleas, and suggestions for timely and appropriate feeding. Bob Gould, who so humbly insists he is not an expert, led our discussion and imparted tons of expert information. He brought several products to illustrate his preferred products and there was a lively back and forth with questions and suggestions from members. Darren Wong, who studies with Mr. Suisho Nakayama in Japan and imports trees as well offered his experience in repotting and treating trees that have been brought to this country bare-rooted. His methods were similar to Bob’s and we all learned from the exchange of information between our two club experts (yes, you are Bob!)

Bob Gould led the pest and disease control discussion

Darren Wong discussed pest and disease control

BASA members received specific pest and disease control assistance

The meeting was so chock full of tidbits and tricks for keeping our trees healthy that it was difficult to keep up with the rapid-fire comments. To the best of our knowledge the following accurately represents what was said. Where specific advice was given I have attributed it to either Bob Gould-BG or Darren Wong-DW.

Bugs – Fungus – Disease

Merit 0.5 is a good systemic insecticide. Bob alternates Merit, which is in powder form, with a spray during the year. He treats about 3 times a year and DW twice a year in the Spring and Fall. Because Merit is dry it can be mixed in tea bags along with fertilizer and placed on the soil to be watered in for a slow release.

Cleary 3336 is the fungicide Bob uses, usually after the Spring bloom in June.

There are also some mystery pellets that were mentioned with a Japanese name and source. If you can locate it with these clues, use 1 teaspoon for a 12-inch pot?

Thrips can be a very big problem for azaleas and quickly kill them. They need to be controlled with a systemic treatment like Merit 0.5 or Bayer Advanced Rose and Flower 2 in 1 Systemic. The Bayer product contains the Merit chemical and also has some fertilizer in it.

Root rot is a huge killer for azaleas since it is so easy to overwater them. Watch your watering very carefully and wait to water until the soil is a bit dry, not just the moss on top. Subdue is the treatment for root rot. It is difficult to locate, but takes only a very small amount to be effective, used every two weeks until improvement is evident. Members may want to share the cost of this, as well as bags of Merit to reduce the cost and waste.

Fertilizing is much more of a “touchy feely” thing, as literally, Bob decides when to fertilize by the feel of his trees. If the leaves are not firm and cool to his touch he gets busy with the fertilizer. There are many good products on the market, but Bob and Darren agree that keeping the numbers low, 5-5-5, is best for our purposes of creating bonsai. This proportion provides beneficial minerals, but doesn’t encourage crazy growth. Whitney Farms and Dr. Earth were mentioned as good organic products. Chris Ross suggested Dr. Earth’s Rhododendron mix which contains good micro minerals for azaleas. Don Meeker mentioned that in colder climates a 0-5-5 might be preferred to keep new growth down during the coldest months, but in our climate, we are fine with the higher nitrogen content.

One of Darren’s favorite fertilizers is Greenall FST which has iron, magnesium, sulfur. He uses it once a year since most fertilizers to not provide the micro-minerals and nutrients that this product does.

If you have young azaleas and just want faster growth to build a big trunk and branches a chemical fertilizer will get you there faster – as Darren suggests.

The most important part of fertilizing is to JUST DO IT! Being consistent with whichever product you choose will be the most effective way to insure strong growth and flowering for your trees. October is the most important time to fertilize since food for the trees now will provide strength for the Spring push of growth.

Lastly Darren provided his favorite method of wintering over his trees:

  • Remove weeds and seeds.
  • Add a fresh top layer to the soil.
  • Fill tea bags with two or three tablespoons of your favorite fertilizer and place here and there on the soil.
  • Cover with Yamagoki moss (Japanese mountain moss) – putting the moss over the fertilizer keeps it moist and allows it to release the nutrients more fully, leave this on through the Fall and Winter.

Thank you Bob and Darren for a fine presentation. We greatly appreciate you sharing your wealth of knowledge and experience.   — Candace Key

A good online source for these and other products is Do My Own Pest Control at


What variety!

Here’s a link from Auburn University’s website featuring photos of more than 125 varieties of Satsuki Azaleas.

Auburn logo


The First NASBC Satsuki Workshops of 2017 Have Been Scheduled

Let the workshops begin…

Dear Bonsai Enthusiasts,

Anyone possessing satsuki bonsai in their personal collections understand they require specialized care and maintenance. However, the details of proper care are often shrouded in mystery, cloaked in confusion, or simply communicated incorrectly. Our intent is to provide an alternative to this mystery and convey a solid foundation allowing you to properly maintain your satsuki throughout the year.

Having concluded the thoroughly enjoyable fall maintenance workshops, it is now time to focus on the next sequence of training. Please join us in a series of workshops specifically designed to present basic concepts and techniques relevant to the month at hand. Each session will consist of a lecture followed by a demonstration of the topics discussed during lecture. Afterward, you will apply those concepts and techniques to your own trees during the hands-on period.

Summary of workshops:

Wiring (2 days)
— Session One 1/14-15 (5 seats open) / Session Two 1/21-22 (5 seats open)
Give life and movement to branches. Learn the fundamentals necessary to developing a proper structure and shape for your satsuki bonsai.

Repotting (2 days)
— Session One 2/11-12 (3 seats open)
Correctly repotting your satsuki is the key to ensuring its long-term health. Attend this workshop to discover the key components in the repotting process.
*** With sufficient demand, an additional workshop can be scheduled.

Pruning (2 days)
— Session One 2/25-26 (6 seats open)
Building and maintaining branches involves the thoughtful management of branchlets and shoots, stimulating new growth or eliminating unnecessary growth. We’ll show you how.
*** With sufficient demand, an additional workshop can be scheduled.

Spring Maintenance (2 days)
— Session One 3/11-12 (7 seats open) / Session Two 3/18-19 (7 seats open)
The purpose of this workshop is to bring together the concepts learned in the previous wiring, repotting, and pruning workshops. As such, completing all three prior workshops is a prerequisite to attending this one.

Please note: Each workshop will be limited to 8 participants on a first-come, first-serve basis.


We look forward to seeing you at a workshop. Please contact us with any questions at [email protected].

North American Satsuki Bonsai Center
20885 Redwood Road #229 Castro Valley, CA 94546

Meeting notes – September 2016

At our September meeting we were treated to perhaps a bonsai first, a father/daughter presentation with Briana and Darren Wong. The topic was summer care of Satsuki azalea bonsai and Darren brought two trees on which to demonstrate techniques.

Darren Wong at work

Darren Wong at work

Darren began by discussing how the foliage can become very dense with summer growth, requiring deep pruning to prevent difficulty with branch structure and avoid die back of the inner branches. He emphasized that we need to do sufficient leaf pruning to allow light to reach the inside of the branches, which will facilitate back-budding.

Briana illustrated the techniques Darren described on a small bonsai Bob Gould brought to the meeting. She started at the top of the foliage mass and worked to the bottom. She carefully removed large leaves by hand, pulling upwards, so as not to tear the thin bark. After what seemed like a few short minutes, Briana showed off the leaf pruned apex of Bob’s bonsai. We could see a significant difference in the pruned section. The leaves were no longer clumped together and light could clearly reach the inner branches. Darren suggested that two or three leaves should be left on the branch tips, and that the two leaves should be those that lie flat as opposed to one on top of the other, or vertical. He also suggested that this is the time of year to switch fertilizer to 5-5-5.

Azaleas are basally dominant. The lower branches are stronger and more vigorous than those higher up. This requires that the branches on the bottom be pruned and leaves pruned slightly more aggressively than those on the apex.

While Darren answered questions and offered further advice on Satsuki azalea bonsai, Briana worked on completing Bob’s bonsai. When she was finished, the number of leaves on the table and floor dramatically showed how much leaf pruning took place. Bob’s bonsai now showed more branch structure and light penetrating the inner spaces. Lucky Bob, he was left with the job of light wiring at this point.

– George Haas

Meeting notes – June 2016


Bob Gould working with Lucky Fung on his Satsuki azalea bonsai.
Bob is showing which leaves should be removed as flowering has ended.

At the June 2016 BASA (Bay Area Satsuki Aikokai) meeting club members were led by Bob Gould in post-flowering care of their satsuki azaleas. The following is some of the excellent advice Bob shared:

  • Remove spent flowers as soon as they wilt and any new shoots that develop after blooming ends.
  • After the tree finishes flowering, it is important to remove all the dead flowers at the flower’s base, to prevent the tree from forming seed pods. This will also encourage new leaves.
  • Feed the plant after flowering, through September.
  • Keep azalea bonsai outside in partial shade. The best site is one that receives morning sun and afternoon shade, giving it the right amount of light, while protecting it from overheating and sunburn.
  • To keep your satsuki azaleas healthy remove any dead flowers and leaves immediately.
  • To enhance the overall structure of the tree it is important that yearly growth be removed or trained as soon as the flowering season ends. Any secondary shoots should be pruned in midsummer.
  • Azaleas respond well to hard pruning and if pruned back to a stump after flowering will bud-back prolifically and can be shaped in just about any bonsai style.
  • Watch carefully for insects and pests and treat accordingly.
  • Water as needed, but not too much. Keep humidity high if possible.

Dennis Hawkins removing spent flowers and secondary branches on his Satsuki azalea bonsai.

–  Notes and photos provided by George Haas

2016 BASA Show


This year’s Spring Show was was a smashing success! Mother nature favored us with a mild Spring which provided a bounty of dazzling azaleas in full, gorgeous flower. Many visitors and members felt this was the best show ever in the quality and quantity of trees, and the presentation.

Congratulations to all who contributed in large and small ways. BASA is a terrific club for team spirit and it was on full display during the show. No slackers, despite what the above photo suggests. Special thanks to George Haas whose efforts in making our advertising for the show available early and distributed widely resulted in good attendance both days. We all have lots to be proud of.


Click to see more photos from the show

Click to see more photos from the show


Hello Everyone, Thank you all for your help in making out 2016 Azalea Show the best ever. With all your help setting up and tearing down seemed easy. Raffle ticket sales were great, but most of all the trees were truly spectacular! Beautiful flowers and lots of good comments. Through everyone’s efforts we made it possible.

There was so much interest in our trees. People were curious about the moss on top of the soil, care in hot weather, the soil we use, feeding and more. Wouldn’t it be nice if some of these curious people join our club?

We have a very special club with members willing to share their ideas and help new members learn and grow with their trees. I’m very proud of our members and the club.

– Mike

Stone bonsai stands

Stone Bonsai StandsI recently purchased two lime stone pieces from American Soil and Stone, Richmond, CA. I got tired of wood bonsai stands and fighting wood rot and termites. I wanted something different in the way of bonsai stands in the landscape.

Stone Bonsai Stands

The two lime stones were cut but are odd pieces in that they show some raw sections of the original stone. I believe they look artistic. In any case, I got a price deal because the stones were not perfectly squared off. I paid $150 each, plus $210 and tax to deliver the stones to my driveway in Petaluma. I had to figure a way to lift and move the stones from the driveway to the landscape. With a good dolly having new tires and the help from a solid friend, we muscled the stones into place. I then topped the stones with bonsai from my collection.

I think the stones make great alternative bonsai stands and add an artistic touch to the overall landscape.

George Haas

Stone Bonsai Stands