Satsuki Azalea bonsai, before and after pruning
I had the pleasure of working on this stunning shohin Satsuki Azalea late last Autumn. Ordinarily, for the best results, it is always best to prune Azalea (and all species of Rhododendron) immediately after flowering has finished, however this work can safely be carried out until the end of Autumn. (See also Azalea Care Calendar)
The foliage mass of the Azalea had become very dense and although it had a fairly pleasing outline, without deeper pruning, the branch structure would eventually become faulted and lead to the die-back of inner branches.
By pruning the bonsai correctly, I would remove faulted branches, improving the appearance of the branches themselves and allow light to reach the 'insides' of the foliage mass, prompting backbudding.
The primary branches and the branch structure itself had been established during previous stylings, and so with this bonsai, it was only necessary to ensure that the tree was pruned methodically from bottom-to-top. Previously unstyled trees should be worked on in a similar fashion and then the primary branches can be established and styled.
The 'whorl' of new shoots at the tip of this lower branch is typical of vigorous growth on Azalea bonsai of all kinds.
As with all bonsai, it is necessary to reduce the number of new shoots at the tip of a branch to just two, so that each branch divides into just two smaller parts. Ensuring that each branch adheres to this rule is more pleasing to the eye, helps balance the vigour of branches across the tree as well avoiding ugly inverse taper developing on branches.
The shoots to be retained are identified...........
........and the remainder removed.
Hard pruning a vigorous branch with such a large whorl of new shoots will nearly always produce strong back-budding immediately (assuming the correct timing of pruning after flowering).