I’ve been cooped up with the rest of the country, so this tree got the full spa treatment. Removing blooms is getting to be a big task, as the tree has grown to about 32″ wide. So let’s start off with a few money shots at peak bloom before we jump in.
And now the work begins.
Remove all flower parts, down to the husk of the flower:
A close up of spent blooms:
To end up like this:
Then, prune back fairly hard. As azaleas age, the branches constrict and the cambium becomes thin, so it’s important to prune hard to keep renewing the tree with young growth. I cut back branches to pairs of evenly-sized shoots, and replace heavy branches with finer branches.
Here is a close up example of pruning back a typical branch with multiple whorls, long internodes, and upward growth:
To end up with this:
Another example where outer growth is getting old and weaker:
See this area, how it hasn’t really started moving yet?
Prune back, leaving balanced new growth to replace the older growth on the ends:
The end result is a little rough to start with, but with a few weeks of growth, the tree will look renewed, and I can hope for strong new growth throughout the tree.
Closer shots, before and after of some branches.
And lower right:
Underside the left trunk shows taper of branches, pruning back to pairs, and fairly even spacing to allow for balanced growth:
I have grown this azalea in a bonsai pot for 15 years now, and never given it a break from blooming. I think this year, I’ll remove the flower buds as they form and give it next year off.
At some point, I knew I’d have to address the rot at the split in the trunks on the back. It had become soft.
So, using a long drill bit, I bore a hole through to the bottom of the pot to help drain away water.
Then, clean away all the soft wood using a gouge.
Apply a preservative, I use water-based PC Petrifier.
And a video walk around:
Next year, I’ll repot, and prune more conservatively. For now, the tree is returned to the bench, with a heavy dose of acidic organic fertilizer, and allowed to grow for the summer.