A bonsai tree made from an azalea plant makes an elegant and colorful decoration. As with any plant, there are specific tricks for keeping azaleas in the best of health and producing the finest flowers.
To keep your azalea healthy, use a lime-free soil mix. These plants prefer soil with a high acidity.
Because of the high lime content in hard water, azaleas should ideally be watered with rain water. Since your bonsai plant is probably indoors, make your own mixture to eliminate damaging lime-buildup from the soil. Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to 1 gallon of water, and treat the plant once a month.
Water your bonsai daily, especially during the growing season. Azaleas are at high risk of drying out. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Misting the whole tree occasionally will help perk up your bonsai.
Most azaleas prefer mild shade, but there are a few hybrid varieties that prefer direct sunlight. Research your particular variety before choosing a home for your tree. Direct sunlight may damage the color of some azaleas or even kill your flowers.
Feed your bonsai every 2 weeks during the spring until it blooms. Once it begins to bloom, stop feeding altogether.
Once the blossoming ends, feed your bonsai only once a month. Never use rapid growth fertilizers. Your goal is to produce vibrant blooms without growing out your bonsai shape and size.
Prune your azalea bonsai after the flowering season. Remove all dead flowers immediately. This will keep your plant from growing seed pods—a process that may kill it.
Shape your azalea as you would any other bonsai. Trim unwanted branches and wire other branches to direct growth. Make all cuts close and tight, and seal them immediately. Azaleas grow best at the bottom and sides, not the top, so be sure to prune this area thoroughly.
Every 2 or 3 years, prune the roots. Remove your azalea from its pot. Fine, hairlike roots will fill the entire space, leaving little room for the soil. Cut half the ball off, and then return the azalea to the pot. Fill in the empty space with fresh soil. This will provide your azalea with better soil and limit growth.
Azaleas have brittle bark. Use the softer aluminum wire when wiring your bonsai. Try wrapping your branches with soft cloth or your wire with florist tape to protect the bark.
Diseases and Pests
- Azaleas can suffer from damage from whiteflies, scale insects, caterpillars, aphids, mildew, budblast, rust, leaf gall, petal blight and lime-induced chlorosis.
- Do not overwater your tree,
- Use counter-agents for lime build-up as presented in the soil and water section.
- Apply all pest treatments to the roots and trunk, never the leaves and flowers. Herbicides or fungicides applied to the flowers will cause them to wilt and fall.