Kokinsai Satsuki Azalea Reddish/Brown Foliage

aredmon48(z9b NorCal)June 2, 2012

I bought a small Kokinsai Satsuki Azalea cutting (apx 2 yrs old) from a local bonsai lady. From what I can find about this cultivar it is an evergreen shrub. If I understand correctly, that means it should have green foliage all year long but the leaves of my plant are all a sort of reddish brown color, at least around the outsides of the leaves. It has been this color, on the whole plant, since I got it at the beginning of May about 5 weeks ago. The foliage is sparse but the leaves are not curling or falling off and there are no spots or holes or yellowing or any other symptoms that I have read about. It is in a bonsai training pot apx 6" with a well-draining bonsai mix. I water it with distilled water with apx 1 mL of vinegar to lower the pH of our water (which is apx 7.4). I have not fertilized yet as I have not seen anything that would resemble vigorous growth. The plant is in dappled sun (from a big tree) with 2-4 hours of morning sun. I am in Chico, CA USDA zone 9b.

Any help or input would be greatly appreciated!


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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

It looks like R. stenopetalum 'Macrosepalum'. R. stenopetalum 'Macrosepalum' is the only "evergreen" azalea species reported to be moderately or highly fragrant. It is actually deciduous, but it is classified in Subgenus Azaleastrum, which is the group with all of the evergreen azalea species. Other evergreen azaleas are sometimes semi-deciduous or deciduous, especially in certain environments. This is an unusual species. It is normally 4-foot-tall shrub with narrow, ribbon-like evergreen leaves, 3 inches long and 1/2 inch wide, and rose-pink flowers with deeply divided petals. The variety 'Linearifolium' (formerly R. macrosepalum 'Linearifolium' or R. linearifolium) is somewhat smaller, 3 feet tall, and the leaves are deciduous and 3 inches long. But the flowers are even more curiously shaped than those of the species; they have 1 1/4-inch-long sepals that overshadow the petals. The flowers of this variety are fragrant and have been bred in several colors; in one, 'Polypetalum', flower petals and leaves are so similar in size that the plant seems to have pink and green leaves.

Actually yours looks like a hybrid, Koromo Shikibu -- (a R. stenopetalum 'Linearifolium' hybrid) -15F, 3'. This spreader is distinguished by its light green, hairy leaves that take on a red tinge in winter. Fragrant flowers are lavender with rose-violet flecks and dark tips. Formerly called macrosepalum, its strap-like petals, measuring 1/2'' in width and 1 1/2'' in length, provide a nice contrast to the broader lobed flowers of most azaleas. Hence, the red tinge the foliage is the winter foliage and is a feature, not a problem.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 11:39AM
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aredmon48(z9b NorCal)

Thank you so much for your response.

So, to make sure I'm clear, you do not think this is a Kokinsai? I was going completely off the tag that came with the plant.

How long would winter foliage color persist? I am still unclear about growth habits and how to tell last year's growth from new growth (or any other growth for that matter). I have not yet seen any new growth but I have only had the plant for 6 weeks.

I just brought the plant in to take new pictures to compare. It is apparent that the plant had dropped a lot of leaves and what little green was there is mostly gone. Is this normal? It seems concerning to me. It has grown almost a whole inch though. It measures 11" from the base when I got it but about 12" now (hence the hard time fitting it into my little photo box). That's a good sign, right?

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 7:33PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Where in the world are you? Is it summer or winter, is it tropical or temperate?

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 9:39AM
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aredmon48(z9b NorCal)

I am in Chico, CA. USDA zone 9b. I'm in the Central Valley so it gets quite hot (100+). The plant is in dappled sun (from a big tree) with 2-4 hours of full morning sun.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 12:49PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

The plant seems to be quite confused. Perhaps it was forced. That will completely confuse a plants sense of seasons.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 11:23AM
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aredmon48(z9b NorCal)

Is there anyway I can help it? Should I fertilize? Maybe that would help it put on new foliage. Or should I leave it be?

Thank you for the help!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 12:52PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Don't force it. It needs plenty of light, not full sun, but not full shade.
It may have plenty of fertilizer depending upon the nursery. The most important single thing is drainage. The pot must be well drained. Repot if it isn't. If there are any signs of chlorosis (yellowing of leaves between green veins), address that. Do not overwater. It is better to let it dry slightly and then water thoroughly. Tap water can build up salts in the soil. Rain water is much better.

Here is a link that might be useful: How to grow azaleas

    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 2:22PM
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aredmon48(z9b NorCal)

Thank you for your help! Those are all the things I have been doing so I will just wait and see how it does.

I looked up the nursery that the plant came from originally. Their site said "All plants are raised or grown-on in Sonoma County, and hardened-off to help ensure long life." I looked at the pictures and it seems everything is outside but there were a few greenhouses. The nursery is in the same USDA zone as I am. It doesn't seem that it was forced but who knows what happened. I guess I will just do my best and wait and see!

Thank you again for all of your help. I really appreciate it!


    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 12:21PM
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