One-Year Progression of A Shohin Chinzan Satsuki Azalea Bonsai

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.


Front of the tree, 02/25/2015.


Back, the tree was very healthy after a year of rest.

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.


This is the future front, slightly tilted. Some leaves were left at the top as azalea tends to have a weaker apical growth.




Side, a large lower branch was removed.

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.



Adventitious buds grew into new secondary branches and began to ramify.

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.


10/1/2015. This chinzan shohin had very compact growths with lots of inner secondary branches.

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.


10/22/2015, I left a small branch at the base to help the large cut wound heal faster. A thicker lower left sacrificial branch was left to thicken the trunk.


The severely cut branches had many new secondary branches for developing ramifications.


After thinning. Our zone 9 weather is still warm with day time temperatures of 80+F. The azalea will continue to push out some leaves before winter.

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.


7 thoughts on “One-Year Progression of A Shohin Chinzan Satsuki Azalea Bonsai

    • If you are looking for nursery stocks, you can mail order from Nuccio’s Nursery or Azalea Hill Gardens and Nursery, I had very good experience ordering from Azalea Hill. For Nikko bonsai, David Kreutz of Satsuki Bonsai-En and Matt Smith carry them. You can find Matt’s Nikko for sale in eBay or go to his Facebook for contact.
      Happy New Year!

      • Hello,
        Thank you for your response. Neither Nuccio’s or Azaleahill currently have any Nikko azaleas and Matt’s are already established and a little costly for my budget. I am looking for more of a stock sized plant. Would you have any that you would consider selling?



  1. I have to root some cuttings this spring if you don’t mind getting twiggy seedlings. You can have them for free if I get them to root. Plant the seedlings in the ground and they grow reasonably fast, at least in our zone. You might get pinky-size pre-bonsai in 3-4 years. Also try David Kreutz of Satsuki Bonsai-En, He normally gets new shipments from Japan around this time of the year. He might have them as whips or shohins. I have bought a few trees from him, a very knowledgeable and great guy. Another place to try is Telperion Farm from Oregon, They do grow many satsuki cultivars specifically for bonsai.

    • Hi Larry, my apology for the late reply. Just came back from our state bonsai convention and had a blast with friends. I just use composted chicken manure for my trees. The one I bought from local feed store is safe and does not burn. I put them in tea bags and placed two bags on top of soil for azalea of this size. I also supplemented with liquid kelp foliar feeding 2-3 times a year, and a very dilute Monty’s Joy Juice (1/4 teaspoon per gallon of water) foliar spray about once a month, and drenched the soil with liquid Fertilome chelated iron twice a year to prevent chlorosis.

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