Spring work on a Kurume Azalea

Peak bloom was very nice this year. This Kurume produces three flowers per bud. Normally I remove 2 and leave one per bud, but that is time-consuming and this year I just didn’t get to it. It made for a very bright, but congested show. It also meant a lot of weight was hanging on each branch.

Time to remove the flowers, as they peak quickly and fade fast. The top and back shows they’re already beginning to wither. Once they wither, it makes their removal more challenging than when you can grab the flower and cut it off at the base, including everything down to the husk, leaving only last year’s leaves in place.

This tree is getting big, more than 32″ wide at this point. The pot is 19″. This is gonna take a while…

A time-lapse of the next 2 hours…

Time to clean up…

A few cool shots around the tree during the work:

Next steps are to get some of the weeds out of the soil. For some reason oxalis has moved in and wants to take over.

Also, probably time to deal with that rot in the back. All the punky wood was scraped out, and a couple drainage holes were drilled through, so water won’t collect. Then, a liberal coat or two of PC Petrifier was applied.

Next up, scraping away the top 1/2″ of the old soil, and replaces with fresh.

Peter Warren stated that azaleas tend to constrict themselves over time, and get old. Look at old azaleas and you can see that the twigs get very thin and it makes transport of water up and sugars down difficult, weakening the tree over time. It’s important to keep them young with hard pruning occasionally. So after a week of rest and heavy doses of organic feeding, the tree hopped into the barber chair for a haircut. Before:

After:

The tree was reduced by about 25%…or this much:

With some luck, the tree with bud back strongly and next year I can continue to replace old ramification with new, and rejuvenate the Bonsai.

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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.

2017 Repotting: Kurume Azalea

This azalea has been very infrequently repotted; 2008, 2012, and now in 2017.  Azalea roots are fibrous, shallow, and small. They dry out quickly in the air, so it is important to keep a hose nearby.  It’s been in this production-grade Chinese pot for 9 years, and while it was a good fit, it is ready for a better pot.  



Except for an occasional aeration and top-dressing, it’s been repotted into straight kanuma each of the last two repots.  Here are the roots, combed out; and as expected, even after 5 years since the last repot:


This time, I added a bit of pumice and lava.  The automatic watering system seems to keep things just a little on the wet side, and this should dry just a bit faster:


Before the reveal…and just for fun, here is a look back 10 years…2007:

And 2017:

The new pot is a larger Aiba Koyo; 18.5″ wide, green glaze over a dark clay. The effect is very similar, as this pot is only a couple inches wider. It works pretty well. Can’t wait for blooming season!