The purpose of this post is to show how to care for and maintain an imported satsuki azalea during the first year by selective pruning, encourage back budding and developing ramification of the branches.
I purchased this shohin “chinzan” satsuki azalea pre-bonsai from David Kreutz of the Satsuki Bonsai-En in April, 2014, at our state bonsai convention. This satsuki was imported, bare-rooted, from Japan about 3-4 months ago. It has a beautiful nebari and trunk taper. Since it was a newly imported tree, I removed the flower buds and let it gained strength for the rest of the year.
The tree looked bushy and full on the exterior but there were virtually no inner secondary branches. After making sure it had acclimatized to my growing area and was healthy, the first task was to select branches I wanted to keep for future design, removed the rest, and severely pruned back the desired branches to encourage back buddings and ramifications.
The hard pruning should be done in early spring and only for a healthy tree. I did this on March 13, 2015 and also cleaned the bark with wire brush. The pruned shohin looked naked, but no worry, satsuki will bud back easily even on old wood in spring.
Three weeks later, new adventitious buds popped up along the branches and on the trunk.
By mid-May, buds had grown vigorously into new shoots. Unwanted adventitious shoots can be removed to re-direct energy to other parts of the tree.
Since this tree is still in its early stage of development. I just let it grew with light pruning in the summer to let in light and air circulation.
In fall, I prepared the tree for wintering by removing unwanted secondary branches, thinning out some leaves, and removing all the flower buds to spurt growth comes next spring. Since our winter seldom goes below 25ºF I just left all my satsuki azaleas outdoors.
Next spring, I will shorten the leader to get a nicer apex and a smoother trunk taper, develop more ramifications, and do the initial wiring. The envisioned tree is a moyogi, about 6-inch tall with a rounder and more mature looking top, and a better transition of branch thicknesses from bottom to top.
Throughout this growth process, I watered it with overhead spray, put it under full sun during spring and fall, and kept it in part shade during our zone 9 hot summer.