Ben Oki Azalea bust

Sometimes things don’t work out.  This azalea has been reliable for a great show every April for the last 15 years.  This year, it was repotted into a nice Koyo pot, and I was looking forward to the new combination.  I didn’t do much root pruning, just new soil.  As of April 8, it seemed well on the way.

A few days later on April 13, still on track, but maybe a bit slow.  I chalked it up to repotting and a cool spring:

Then, it stalled out entirely.  I gave it another week, and by April 23, it was clear the crop of blooms had blasted:

So, it could be several problems; it dried out, froze, or maybe hit with a pesticide or fungicide.  I’m pretty careful to avoid spraying trees with chemicals while they’re blooming.  Checking the weather almanac, it didn’t freeze between 4/13 and 4/23, but it also didn’t rain.

Here is what I think caused it: I moved the azalea to keep the blooms out of the sun, and apparently the spot didn’t get good coverage by the irrigation system.  Hopefully losing the flowers for a year was the worst of it, and it will be a good growing season, but for now, here it is, cleaned up after the flowering bust.

By mid-May,the weak new growth was very yellow.

I’m thinking it could be one of three things:

1.  Lack of Nitrogen or Magnesium; or the ability to use what’s there.

2.  Fungal problem.

3.  Cumulative effects of 2 years in full sun.

I soaked the tree for a few hours in a solution of Eco-Vie.  I’ve been hitting everything almost weekly with Daconil, so I doubt it’s fungal.  But to be safe, I dunked the tree in a biological fungicide for a few hours to kill off anything that might be soilborne; maybe from the last tree I had in that Koyo pot.

The last option is to move the azalea into a whole lot of shade.  Which I did, in mid-July, as the heat index was hitting 106.  And while it was sitting in the shade, and I was sitting in the house searching the inter webs for other potential causes, I read where (duh) high soil pH presents as light colored leaves, or sections of the tree in azaleas.  So, I bought some soil acidifier and gave it a shot.

So after a month of feeding a soil-acidifying organic fertilizer, the color and turgor are a bit better, but still not impressive.  This is mid-August:

And 10 days later, the foliage color was improving, but the vigor has not.  The lower right branch is still rather yellow:

  I think I’ll remove the flower buds and keep piling on the acidic fertilizer and see how the next 6 months go.

At least it’s still sorta green!

And worst case scenario…ok, second-worst-case scenario, it could be an interesting single-trunk tree.  Hope we don’t get there though.


12 thoughts on “Ben Oki Azalea bust

  1. Hello
    I can’t see the soil, but it seems you didn’t use pure kanuma. Here in France, we are told to repot azaleas after blooming, in kanuma, and to put the tree under shadehouse.
    Hope it can help you, and that your tree will get better and better

    • It was in pure kanuma for 10 years. When I repotted it this spring, I added added 25-30% lava and pumice to the kanuma to accommodate for the automatic watering system.

  2. Brian, have you tried Ironite? Some of my azaleas sometimes get a yellowish tinge, especially in the summer due to lots of watering. I sprinkle a little ironite on top of the soil and they green right up in a week or so. Sorry to hear that you are having trouble with it, it is a really nice tree.

  3. Glad to know that I’m not the only person fighting water/leaf discoloration issues this year. I have been using Cal-Mag + with good results for liquid and foliar feeding, and Essential Minor Elements as the granular. Best of luck, hope it goes well for you.

  4. Don’t have a suggestion for a cure. I will urge you to give it time. Try some of these additives if you wish but please don’t do anything drastic, at least not now. It’s a beautiful tree. Think of how long it may take to recover from an amputation.

  5. Brian, that is one of my favorite trees (of yours) I have read all your links on it. Always impressed what you have done with something that was not started out for bonsai. Hope it pulls through…

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