Azalea and red heart althea cuttings for bonsai?

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Azalea and red heart althea cuttings for bonsai?

Post  Guest on Sat Jun 09, 2012 6:15 pm

Hi everyone Very Happy

I took these cuttings yesterday, thinking that they would make pretty cool looking bonsai trees in the future.
First one is an already semi-tree shaped dwarf white azalea:



The problem with it is well, a trunk is pretty much non-existent.

While here is the red heart althea cutting:





Both of the plants I got them from are in my yard, so if these don't look like they will work I could easily get more Wink

I have had my azalea outside for years now, and no trunk thickening is happening with it in the ground. So I don't know if the cutting I took will thicken any either.

I could have gotten a branch off of my althea that could be almost two inches thick, as it is a pretty good sized bush. So it may just be easier to get a new branch (if you all think it wouldn't harm the althea to take a large cutting) let it root in a larger pot, and then cut it down an stick it in the bonsai pot.

What do you all think? Would these work or would I be better off going to the store and finding some small plants, go outside and see what else I can find, or just start some more jade cuttings Wink


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Re: Azalea and red heart althea cuttings for bonsai?

Post  Glaucus on Sat Jun 09, 2012 9:22 pm

This is still old growth on that azalea. Remove the fruits and wait for new growth to harden off. Cut those off and put those in some pots. Bags and pots that increase moisture help a bit but beware of fungus.

I'll do a rooting cutting article on my site in a few weeks. But first the flowering has to end, the new growth has to grow a bit more and then harden off a bit more.

This may root but the odds aren't as good. It will also be much slower and so many leaves often don't really help.

Azalea need to be styled for bonsai from a young age for them to become good quality. Raw garden azalea material often has problems that can't be fixed. Starting off with cuttings is very slow and one should only do it if the cultivar is really nice, imo.

Any plant will have to thicken up the trunk if the total leaf surface increases.

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Re: Azalea and red heart althea cuttings for bonsai?

Post  Guest on Sat Jun 09, 2012 9:35 pm

I might just forget about doing the azalea as bonsai then, find something different to use in the pot.

Do you think the hibiscus (red heart althea) would be a good choice?

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"Bag it" method for striking cuttings

Post  Leo Schordje on Sat Jun 09, 2012 11:30 pm

For azalea cuttings, I get the quickest results from semi-hardwood cuttings taken late July, early August, where the whole cutting is this seasons growth, but it has largely finished growing. I cut off the newest soft growth which has a higher water demand, and reduce the number of leaves to no more than 2 leaves per branch. The cuttings that root easiest are short, several node single stems with no branching. Dip the end of the cuttings in a rooting hormone, liquid or powder, this isn't absolutely necessary, but it helps increase the success rate. Then I stick the cuttings in a pot of the same mix I grow my other azalea in. Then after a good watering, I take a large, clear, zip lock bag and place the pot and all into the bag and seal it. this will keep the humidity up. Place the bag in bright shade, but make certain no direct sun will hit the bag. (bag will heat to lethal temperatures in the sun) I'm between Chicago & Milwaukee, so in my yard: for semi-hardwood cuttings it takes between 3 and 6 months for there to be enough roots to take the pot with the cuttings out of the bag. You can root MUCH older wood on azaleas, but the success rate goes from above 90% to less than 30% as the wood gets older. I have rooted 2 year old wood with branches, but when it worked I had to leave the cutting in the bag for over 18 months. Every couple months I take the pot out of the bag, water it if needed, and set it out to observe, if the leaves start wilting in less than 3 days, the pot goes back into the bag. When fall comes, I just toss the bags of cuttings into the cold cellar with the trees for the winter.

The 'bag it' method is an acceptable, low tech way for a hobby grower to root a few cuttings without investing in misting beds or a greenhouse. You can just set the pot of cuttings on your growing bench, you will get the occasional success, but using a plastic bag you can greatly improve your chances.

Same technique should work for the althea, and just about any other deciduous tree or shrub - recognizing certain species or even whole genera have specific issues that make them uniquely resistant to propagation by cuttings. But if it is possible to root a cutting from a species, the 'bag it' method will give you some modest success. Its not a good method for the commercial guys, to much individual handling and not a 99% guarantee method, but it will work more often than not.

I encourage you to try growing candidates for bonsai from cuttings and seed. Its not all about the finished product, its the process that is the reward. Growing cuttings is one way to overcome the problems one often finds in nursery material. BUT starting a bonsai from cuttings or seed can be very slow. One I started from a cutting is only recently beginning to trunk up and look like a decent tree, and I have been watering it for over 30 years. But it is not about the end goal, it is the enjoyment of the process along the way. Most of my cuttings I pass along to others along the way. So it is not a 'lifetime' commitment. Start cuttings or trees from seed, work on them with the eye for becoming bonsai for a few years, then find someone younger than yourself and pass them along.

Keep the 'best looking' of the cuttings for yourself, if you are going for Shohin size, you can turn out something pleasant to look at in less than 10 years.

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Re: Azalea and red heart althea cuttings for bonsai?

Post  Guest on Sat Jun 09, 2012 11:39 pm

Thanks for the great explanation! Very Happy

I might try two cuttings from the Althea, unless I see something else that would be good to use. The azalea I got doesn't get the nice trunk like others do, even with age for some reason.

I am trying jade cuttings for bonsai also, they should turn out nice later on Smile

The pots I got (in the pictures) are for either Mame, or very close to the size of mame. Which would be Shohin.

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Re: Azalea and red heart althea cuttings for bonsai?

Post  Glaucus on Sat Jun 09, 2012 11:52 pm

You are 16. Many bonsai people are of old age and they can't start brand new trees.. You have time to experiment. I am not that old either so I also start up cuttings that might be bonsai one day.

Growing good trunks is key and that takes a long long time.

The window of semi-hardwood is still a few weeks in the future. I myself don't mind the slightly larger flowers and prefer satsuki because of their flower patterns. When the new growth turns yellowish it is time to prune them and try to root them.

Azalea that back bud well are easy to work with. Especially if they are hardy in your climate.

I don't know why you say your azalea doesn't get the nice trunk other species get. Azalea don't have bark but with enough time and skill you can get tapering fat trunks with nice movement. They don't grow fast but they do flowers. I myself prefer strongly and wild growing big azalea with bicolour or patterned blooms over fat sticks in pots. But then again I am an azalea person first, bonsai person second if I am a bonsai person at all.

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Re: Azalea and red heart althea cuttings for bonsai?

Post  Guest on Sun Jun 10, 2012 12:47 am

The hybrid (or whatever it is) azalea like mine said on the tag that it doesn't make one trunk. But I guess like you said if you trained it enough it would have one anyway... I need to get the bonsai section of my brain trained more Wink

Once it gets more close to time for the cuttings I will take some, even if I don't use them for bonsai.

I am going to probably wrap up my bonsai pots and save them for when all of my trees and cuttings are ready for them. Meanwhile I can be getting a bunch of cuttings going to get everything ready so I have a good variety to choose for each pot Smile

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Re: Azalea and red heart althea cuttings for bonsai?

Post  Glaucus on Sun Jun 10, 2012 11:07 pm

No azalea grows a single trunk. They aren't trees. The Japanese developed a tradition of growing hybrids with interesting flowers and styled them as potted plants. This at one point crossed over into bonsai but it has it's own origin.

The evergreen azalea is native to Japan and a very popular landscape plant. Those with a deep love for azalea started breeding interesting cultivar and styling them in potted plants was purely meant to show off the qualities of these new cultivar. The single trunk meika style was the main way to do this and it already is a bit akin to bonsai.

There is thus a difference between varieties that are good for landscape planting and varieties that do well as potted styled plants, showing off flower shape and flower pattern. For landscape azalea the shape of individual flowers is not important. It matters how it looks from a distance. So there is a bit of a split between satsuki azalea and landscape kurume azalea. In Japan people have one as a hobby but not the other.

In the US azalea people generally like all evergreen and deciduous azalea, since the US has many native deciduous azalea. In Europe satsuki azalea very rarely enter the nursery trade and azalea people aren't familiar with them. So the only people that grow satsuki azalea are usually bonsai people.
In Japan many satsuki azalea people aren't really bonsai people and they prefer flowers over traditional bonsai qualities.
Of course they now also have very old azalea bonsai that are as good in quality as any other bonsai species and these are often displayed and rated out of the flowering season.

Then you have the people that are experts in how to maintain azalea landscape gardens which are very popular in Japan. They have very little to do with bonsai but they might also be interested in satsuki azalea.

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Re: Azalea and red heart althea cuttings for bonsai?

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