Kurume Azalea after the show

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:

Cut here:

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:

Cut here:

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.

Before:

After:

Closer shots, before and after of some branches.

Upper left:

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.

After

And a video walk around:

https://youtu.be/53lR-NURqso

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.

Watch for pests!

This tree was clean on Monday, and I didn’t pay much attention to it when I was back in town, other than to think it was looking slightly puny…leaves seemed like they weren’t quite getting enough water, so I watered it in the afternoon and didn’t pay it any closer attention. Friday evening, some black spots caught my eye and it was clear this maple was loaded with aphids. Wow!

Pay close attention every day, and get to know your trees well enough that if a glance tells you something might be just a bit off, investigate quickly!

This tree got nuked with Malathion, which will have been rinsed off by the time you read this.

Take it a step further. If aphids are popping up in this maple, are they hitting other maples? Let’s take a look at the maple a couple benches down…

Fortunately, they’re easy to kill, but easy to return. Stay vigilant my friends.