Would this type azalea be a good bonsai, plus other questions

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Would this type azalea be a good bonsai, plus other questions

Post  katsols on Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:12 am

For a month now i've been doing research on bonsai, azalea bonsai and azalea care but still some things are confusing to me.
Hi, my name is Katerina and i live in zone 7b according to the new usda map. I wanted to turn a nursery bloom-a-thon azalea into a bonsai. I wanna buy it online, this one to be specific http://www.soonerplantfarm.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/plants.plantDetail/plant_id/2243/index.htm a 3 gal potted. Or an encore azalea, which is also in the same website.

Also, i can't figure out what kind of soil i should use for it. I have a good local bonsai store "bonsai of brooklyn" and they have bonsai soil. Is there something azaleas need specifically in their soil? other than it has to be acidic? I've heard some people use plain potting soil with just a lot of mulch and pearlite.

Lastly, I've read here that it's best if azaleas are wintered outside, i live in an apartment building but we have a little patio outside where everyone takes out their plants. So what i need to do basically is leave my azalea outdoors for the fall and winter season? but some people grow azaleas in texas or florida and it's warm year round. Is it necessary?

If there is anything else important to know about azaleas, i would love the help! i've already read my share of books =]
Thank you.

katsols
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Re: Would this type azalea be a good bonsai, plus other questions

Post  Glaucus on Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:28 pm

Well, since these are copyrighted, you aren't allowed to root them without permission. It says so straight in your face on that page. So for that reason I would already suggest you try something else because most likely a random azalea scrub will have a trunk that can't really be made into a bonsai.

If you are lucky then it can be done. But often it will be some strange design or cutting back to a stub and then growing that out over a period of 10 years into a major trunk. And that one won't have any movement so then taper, age and nebari are key.


All evergreen azalea can potentially be made into bonsai. You have to realize all azalea you buy at nurseries are cultivated hybrids or special mutations and selections of species. These are breeding projects, reshuffeling the genes of different species to get what the plant breeder desires. That's also why people not copyright them.

The bloom a thon and encore azalea are both azalea bred so that they bloom twice a year. Maybe you suggest this is what you want since both azalea you mention are of this type, which is kind ofa new trend in azalea breeding. But with bonsai we usually don't let them flower that often anyway. So an azalea that keeps trying to grow flower buds and opens them in flowers as long as it isn't very cold may not be what you want.

Secondly, the flowers for azalea bonsai make up 50% of the importance. The other 50% are the usual bonsai stuff that make up 100% of a pine. It is very important. I can't tell you what flower you like most.
In Japan they use satsuki azalea. While these hybrids are also very diverse, they have some flower properties that in my opinion are superior for potted plants and bonsai. I prefer the flatter less funnel-like flower. I like the single plant flower. I like multicoloured flowers. And I like multiple flowers on 1 plant.

For growth habit and plant qualities I like the very compact strongly basal growth. Some satsuki have that. Hybrids with strong kiusianum influence have that too. Kurume hybrids with strong kaempferi influence have a bit less of that.
Small leaves are also often desirable. There is a lot of variation in flower size and shape.
Evergreenness is also important for me.

I have never seen any Encore or Bloom a Thon azalea in person as they are American and they still aren't here in Europe yet. Propagation copyright means they need a license and azalea growers here are already very reculant to go to Japan orthe US and get what is best. They prefer their own plants very much. So they aren't going to pay for American ones. I really doubt we will ever see them here.

'White Gumpo' is a satsuki and grows very compact with nice leaves. But the flowers are medium size and not very interesting because pattern colours are rare.
'Pink Gumpo' is similar but pink. When I go through satsuki bonsai books or magazines I very rarely see 'Gumpo'. Even in Japan it seems more popular as a landscape plant.
PP21477 AZALEA 'BLOOM-A-THON DOUBLE PINK has some satsuki blood through Robin Hill hybrid 'Watchet'. If you like those flowers the plant habit may be nice for bonsai. But thats' just guesswork.

Encore 'ENCORE AUTUMN TWIST' has nice flower patterns. Since this one is patented I was able to look up the parentage as 'Georgia Giant' x R.oldhamii `Fourth of July`
R.oldhamii seems to be an azalea species often uses in the creation of twice blooming cultivar. 'Georgia Giant' must be found in the Mucronatum hybrid or Hirado hybrid corner. The flower size means you need to grow something very tall and the leaves will probably be very big.

'ENCORE AUTUMN DEBUTANTE' also has satsuki genes. I like those flowers and they look a bit like satsuki to me so I checked the parents. It is 'Watchet' x ('Watchet' x 'Fourth of July`)
'ENCORE AUTUMN SWEETHEART' looks very similar and indeed it is a sibling.

Very different would be a strongly kiusianum kurume named 'Snow'. That one should have dwarf habit, small flowers and leaves. But as you can see, plant white funnel shaped hose in hose flowers. I don't like those as much myself.

The Bloom-A-Thon LAVENDER you linked to has it's parentage obscured in the patent claim. So it seems the creator wants to keep that a secret for some reason.

I can go through these further if you want. But as I said before, if you order a cultivar you really like online you will be best rooting as many cuttings you can. Yes it is slow but it is the best way to start out an azalea bonsai. And yet this is not allowed because of the patent.


Evergreen azalea are generally winter hardy up to a point. Florist indoor greenhouse forced azalea are much more tender and will die in real frost in zone 7. These are all winterhardy of course. In a pot they are a bit more vulnerable. If you have the option to move them into an unheated shed during peak frost, that really helps many of them.
Many Japanese satsuki are generally more tender than locally available cultivar. So when you buy an imported satsuki bonsai, you always have to be careful.
Evergreen azalea generally love their mild winters and reasonably long warm but humid growing season.

Soil mix should be acidic, retain a bit more moisture than your typical 100% substrate bonsai mixture but still drain really well. I use coarse peat, perlite and pine bark in roughly 1-1-1 mixture for my potted plants. They aren't really bonsai though.
With bonsai most people use kanuma soil. But since that is imported from Japan it often sells for 20x as much as what it costs in Japan.
Things like vermiculite, coir, akadama, kiryu, etc can all be used.

Flower season is almost starting so you can either order online and hope it turns out well. Or you can just go and visit some nurseries and see how they look. Then you can even try to find plants that actually have a decent trunk and save 5 years.

Also take a look at http://www.rarefindnursery.com/index.cfm/action/displayProducts/level/2|6.htm
I know these azaela better and no patents. 'Chinzan' is popular with bonsai people. 'Al's Picotee' is very hardy and multicoloured and thus more interesting. 'Conversation Piece' is a New Jersey bred satsuki-type Robin Hill hybrid. 'Hilda Niblett' and 'Sir Robert' are siblings and very similar. Still, they require a tall bonsai because of flower size. 'Gunrei' is another dwarf growing satsuki with interesting flowers. Still, big flowers.
'Polypetalum' is 'Kinsai'. The Japanese love those petals. Also very nice fine plant habit for bonsai. Tons of bonsai pictures online of 'Kinsai'. Also one of the more cold hardy satsuki.
'Komo Kulshan' is a nice bicolour kiusianum. Requires a much less large bonsai than let's say 'Hilda Niblett'.
If you like plain red, 'Mt. Seven Star' is a good R.nakaharae selection, a creeping azalea species. Maybe good to try for cascade style.


Last edited by Glaucus on Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:50 pm; edited 3 times in total

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Re: Would this type azalea be a good bonsai, plus other questions

Post  JimLewis on Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:37 pm

That website, in addition to saying "thou shalt not reproduce this plant" clearly says "large flowers" and the picture seems to show large leaves behind them. While leaves will reduce under bonsai culture, flowers will not, so what you would need here would be a very large azalea bonsai. Rest assured that the plant you get when you order it will NOT be a large plant, so you wuld have many, many years' work ahead of you growing the plant to large bonsai size.

I suspect, like Glaucus says, you might want to consider something else.

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Re: Would this type azalea be a good bonsai, plus other questions

Post  Glaucus on Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:44 pm

Their flowers won't be larger than 'Kaho', which has large leaves too. But growing a bonsai that is 70 cm from cutting because the flowers are 12 cm is different from growing a 18 cm bonsai where the flowers are 2 cm. And when you start you may want to also try something that is 'fast'.

While flower and leave size are connected, some cultivar actually have very small leaves for their flower size. Those are generally perferable.

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Re: Would this type azalea be a good bonsai, plus other questions

Post  katsols on Tue Mar 27, 2012 6:43 pm

Yea all of you are right, it would be best to go to a nursery and check out all of their different azaleas. Thank you so much glaucus, and jimlewis. My local nursery has these pretty nice azaleas, Azalea 'Conversation Piece'('Emile Russave' x Carol') x 'Eikan', Azalea 'Sherwoodi' and Azalea 'Coral Bells'. The Sherwoodi, is a Kurume hybrid their parentage is predominantly R. sataense with R. kiusianum. I personally like conversation piece and coral bells a lot and Azalea Shugetsu really caught my eye, but i can't find anywhere where it's sold here =\.


Last edited by katsols on Tue Mar 27, 2012 7:07 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : additional info)

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Re: Would this type azalea be a good bonsai, plus other questions

Post  Glaucus on Tue Mar 27, 2012 10:45 pm

Here in Europe we have many kurume type cultivar that are really heavy on r.kiusianum. Much heavier so than the American kurume.
We call them kuisianum hybrids rather than kurume hybrids.
I find these kiusianum hybrids are much more dwarf, backbudding and compact than the normal kurume hybrids. So in that respect they are more similar to many satsuki.

'Coral Bells' is actually a Japanese cultivar under the name 'Kirin'.
R.sataense is probably an uniform population that evolved from a natural hybrid of R.kiusianum and R.kaempferi. But it was probably also used to create kurume hybrids. Also there are many areas where R.kaempferi and R.kiusianum overlap and natural hybrids occur.

Hybrids between R.kiusianum and R.indicum or satsuki are some of the nicest for bonsai. Like 'Kakuo' or 'Hoshi no Kagayaki'.
Personally I really like the trait of azalea that put out new foliage early in spring and flower later. Kurume and kiusianum type flower first.

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Re: Would this type azalea be a good bonsai, plus other questions

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