The satsuki azalea is, like all other azaleas, part of the rhododendron family. What sets this variety of azalea apart, is its ability to produce different coloured flowers on the same plant.
Satsuki translates as fifth moon. This refers to its flowering period, which falls within the fifth month of the oriental lunar calendar. It also conveniently happens to fall within the fifth month of our calendar, namely late May/early June! Our members, as well as I’m sure growers across the country are finding that their satsuki azaleas are flowering earlier and earlier each year. It really does depends on what the weather throws at us in the growing part of the year as to how early the satsuki will flower.
Satsuki azaleas tend to be grown for their flowers and in Britain certainly, they tend to only be shown in bloom. When developing their tree, owners of satsuki azaleas also tend to focus on the overall effect of the bonsai when it is in bloom. However in Japan, these spectacular bonsai are given two shows per year. One in full bloom but also later in the year when they are only in leaf. Perhaps we should all take a ‘leaf’ (sorry couldn’t resist!) out of the Japanese grower’s book and aim to give these bonsai the love and attention they deserve; not only focussing on the form in flower, but also in leaf. It does seem a crime to only give these beautiful trees attention for the 2-4 weeks that they flower in a year.