Rank Beginner needs advice for Commercial Azalea Bonsai gift

Rank beginner here. My daughter gave me an single-trunk (from a whip?) bonsai, which was delivered about a week ago. The info in the box was for Outdoor Bonsai, but no where did it say what species the plant was. . . My daughter told me it was supposed to be an azalea. I’m from VA originally, so am a bit familiar with azaleas. Flagstaff, AZ, may be hard for it.

I put it out on our west-facing deck, in bright shade, on the hydration tray with pebbles. I read “The Little Book” and the azalea articles here. We have hard water here; when it rains (early July?), I’ll catch rainwater. Now I water each day with tap water, which has sat out for 24 hours (to release chlorine, etc.), and started misting today with distilled water. It has dropped a lot of leaves, but I hope I caught it in time. Advice?

The soil has small green spherical pellets that look like fertilizer. I have some Miracle Gro fertilizer that I can use now. I also ordered Uncle Bill’s 3-3-3, and can order Miracid for the spring flowering. Should I hold off on all fertilizer until it adjusts to the new environment? What fertilizer do you then suggest? Any advice about any of this would be much appreciated! Thanks in advance!

P.S. If I knew how to add photos of my little tree, I would. . .

Good question - am curious what led the leaves to drop. Too dry is the most common issue, and there may have been some stress on the tree during shipping.

Here’s some info on uploading photos, btw - let us know if questions come up:

Flagstaff might be a challenge for satsuki, but it’s definitely worth a try. Applying some fertilizer now is a good idea, though if there are plenty of the green pellets (it’s fertilizer, possibly Apex), that might be adequate.

Speaking from experience, hard water will kill any plant in the rhododendron family. With only one plant it should be easy for you to acidify your water. All you need to do is add 2 to 3 tablespoons of distilled white vinegar to a gallon of your tapwater before watering your plant. Best to use a test strip but 2 tablespoons should get your pH down below seven and a second down even farther of course but a test strip will help you control the pH better. You definitely don’t want to get much below 6. If you persisting using tap water then keep an eye out for chlorosis. If the leaves turn pale green or yellow-ish and the veins of the leaves remain a darker green. Good luck.

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Hi, Ken,
Thanks for the great idea for acidifying my water. I have gallons of white vinegar here as it works for lots of things. I’ve dealt with chlorosis before, but didn’t think of that for this little one, so thanks also for that heads up.

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Hi, Jonas,
Thanks for your speedy reply. My elevation here in Flagstaff is about 7,000 Ft and yesterday it was only 9% humidity, so I’m sure this will be an uphill struggle. My top choice would have been a local juniper!
I suspect it dropped leaves because of shipping stress, although it was all intact when it arrived. The plastic used to cover the soil had a lot of condensation, so maybe the soil itself had dried too much. I’ll lightly fertilize, mist often, keep the hydration tray wet, use Ken’s suggestions for acidifying the water, and see how it goes. . . Thanks again, Trink

P.S. I see the upload arrow in your attached image, but do not see it in or around my Edit Window.??

Hey Ann. Don’t fertilize a stressed tree. Wait till it has fully recovered.

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One thing that can help in low humidity environments is to create a small shade structure. Instead of simply providing shade above, adding walls to the structure (it can be small, just bigger than the tree itself) will cut down on the wind (which azaleas don’t like) and improve the relative humidity.

And it looks like there’s a new upload image icon (will update the instruction post):