Satsuki Azalea After-Flowering Maintenance, Part 2 – Back Budding Results

In my last post, I discussed the basics of how to prune back azalea to two shoots and two leaves after removing the flowers.  In this post, I will show back budding results from those cut-backs.

This Wakaebisu has been under development for about 10 years from a nursery stock.  Although it has a good trunk base and nebari, I decided to train it into a meika azalea to enjoy the flowers instead of a shorter moyogi style bonsai.

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This is a 2018 photo. I did not take one this year.

The after-flowering maintenance was done on May 22.  By June 10, a lot of buds have popped up from where the shoots were pruned to two leaves and on some hardwood branches.

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Here are details of the back-budding results:

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A indicates where new leaf buds emerged from where the shoots were cut back to two leaves.

B indicates buddings further back on the branches.

This tree has developed the basic fan-like pad structures, it is now a matter of selecting newly formed buds and let them grow into side branches to develop ramifications. Similar profusion of back buddings also occurred at near the apex, which gave choices for top development.

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In the following photo, a two-year old branch was shortened to create a more proportional bifurcation with the other branch.  As long as a small branchlet, C, was left untouched, there was no danger of the shortened branch dying.  For a strong and healthy tree, back budding would occur on branches cut back without leaving any leaves, but it is always safe to leave something to make sure there is no die back.  The removal of auxin of the shortened branch also encouraged a profusion of back buddings.

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Azalea forms two kinds of shoots: one which readily flowers; the other is strong in vegetative growth and behaves like a water sprout in trees, which fattens very quickly.  I kept these two vegetative shoots without cutting their growing tips.  When they lignified, I have a choice of either cutting them back to extend the ramifications or cut-off the side branch at the red line to change the angle of bifurcation.

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By doing this type of pruning repeatedly and directing growth energies to selected new shoots, a tree would develop the desired structures more quickly.

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