Mangetsu azalea fusion

I went and saw my friend Will Feldman the other day and noticed this azalea that I had missed on previous visits. Will said it was a Mangetsu azalea and believed it to be a Satuki/Kurume hybrid. Seeing my interest Will gifted me the tree. Will has so much material to work with and maintain that I believe he did not want to be tasked with repairing the trunk.

As you can see there are some significant gaps that will take quite a long time to close if left alone. Will assembled this tree 4 years ago using 2 year old cuttings and ran out of cuttings before he could cover the frame completely leaving some gaps. A few of the cuttings died resulting in even larger gaps.

There is some good fusion at the base of one side. No repair is needed here. There are currently about 3 dozen flower buds on this tree. The plan is to let the tree bloom in spring and after the flowers fade take cuttings to root and fill gaps on the trunk.

These are blooms from the parent tree that cuttings were taken from. Thank you Will.

Update 01/24/2013

split apex

Repairs are inevitable with the trunk fusion technique. Seedlings die leaving gaps that need to be filled and twist ties break releasing pressure necessary to fuse. On this azalea the the twist tie snapped and the apex has separated into two clusters of fused seedlings. I want to fuse these two clusters together but a twist tie will not hold them since they are now large and strong.


I will use a screw to hold these two clusters together. Screws actually work better than twist ties at holding pieces together but they must be very small and the wood must be 3 or 4 times the diameter of the screw or the wood will simply split.

screw inserted

After I insert the screw and both pieces of wood are secure I cut the screw head flush and seal with cut paste to allow healing over. This is the only area of this tree that a screw can be used. I added several new twist ties to tighten and fill in some gaps on the trunk. The next step will be to root cuttings to fill in more gaps on the trunk.

Update 05/19/2013


When I got this tree from Will Feldman almost a year ago the blooms had already fallen so I let them bloom this year just to see what they looked like. In the next few years I will remove the flower buds before they bloom. The flowers tax the strength of the tree and I want full strength and growth at this stage. After the trunk has completely fused I will let it bloom. I decided not to take cuttings as I had originally planned to use to fill in gaps. I found on my Dawn Redwood test piece that when I topped the tree it slowed growth and fusion to a standstill, so I will let this tree grow freely and hope that the cuttings thicken and fuse. This tree is 5 years old now and needs to be repotted with new soil. It would probably grow faster in the ground but I have run out of yard space so I will put it in a grow tray.blooms

The first step  was to remove all the blooms.


The next step was to rake the roots out. I was a little surprised how few roots there were. I figured after 5 years they would be pot bound.


I used a soil mix of 2 parts Virginia Fines pine mulch, 1 part crushed lava and 1 part course sifted sand. I soaked the whole tray in a B1 solution for about 15 minutes before putting it back on the shelf to rest. In a few weeks I will begin fertilizing heavily.

update 11-11-2013

At this stage of trunk development I am looking for maximum growth.  This tree would have been completely covered with blooms next spring and been quite spectacular, but the flowers will zap this trees energy, so I removed all of the flower buds.

mangetsu flower buds 2

Tweezers were needed for this delicate work.

mangetsu flower buds 3

I simply plucked the buds.

mangetsu flower buds 4

Only a few hundred left.

mangetsu flower buds 5

90 minutes later all the buds were removed. Too many to count.

twist tie

This tree produced many  buds that grew strong over the summer and I tied several to fill in gaps. I simply made a hook with a twist tie, then pushed in and pulled out at the appropriate spot.

gap fill

I think using these whips to fill in gaps will work better than adding new rooted cuttings. I tied in about 15  of these whips and will continue to tie in more next year until I can’t squeeze a twist tie through the gaps.

bonsai enthusiast

Warning! Bonsai enthusiast at work.

Update 7/21/2014

fusionazalea1 Last fall I removed the flower buds to get more rapid growth and I got just that. The foliage is very dense. Time for a hard prune.

fusionazalea2 Many new buds had popped. I will leave these.

fusionazalea3 I removed the heaver growth leaving stubs as possible future branches. I saved the cuttings for rooting out. These will be added next year at the base of the trunk to fill in a few gaps.fusionazalea4 The upper section of the trunk is fusing nicely.

I will continue to feed heavily to stimulate robust back budding and aggressive growth.

Have fun!



Have fun!

3 Responses to “Mangetsu azalea fusion”

  1. Kelly Green Says:

    Hello my name is Kelly Green, I have playing around with bonzai treese for a year and a half probably. Just discovered the fused trunk method a couple days ago, and I think I’m going to start gathering cuttings to try one. Thinking either Amur maple as there’s a nice one in my yard, elm(there’s a big old one in a church yard nearby I can access quite easily, or willow( what I really want to do, but haven’t located a donor parent tree I like) from what I can tell I should probably Try more than one as there’s a good chance I’ll do something wrong my first few goes. Anyways I just want to say thank you for your write up, I enjoyed reading it and learned A few good pointers. If you are still working on this tree I’d love to see another update.

    • I am way overdue for updates, but I am quite busy now. Maples seem to fuse better than other species.
      Take pics and let me know if you have success.
      Good luck.

      • Kelly Green Says:

        Bonzai is an art of patients. I will not rush you for updates, just wanted to say I found it interesting and would love to see them. Take your time obviously.

        Also thanks for the hint. Iv decided to take 80 or so cuttings from a good healthy box elder in my yard.(chose the box elder because of the fast growth tendencies) I’m told maple species can be a little harder to get to root so I will continue taking more untill I have about 3x what I will need in case most fail. It will be next year before I will get to try and put a tree together out of them and that’s if I’m lucky. Thanks for the inspiration. I imagine I’ll start taking cutting from some other treese to keep me occupied.

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