How to Shape your Azalea Bonsai
Shaping your Satsuki Azalea requires patience but the reward of a beautiful tree is tremendous. With the proper amount of work, your tree will take shape and develop over the seasons. To train your Satsuki Azalea, you will need to utilize both wire and the clip and grow method.
Satsuki Azaleas are particularly brittle making them difficult to wire. However, the key is to know the limits of your branches. Unlike Junipers or Black Pines, the branches won't be as flexible. However, they can still be bent slightly to create more movement. Wire your branches with heavy wire. You may need to break the 1/3 rule in order to hold your branches in position due to the strength of the wood on an azalea. For extremely heavy branches, you can use guy wire to bring the branch down.
Clip and Grow
Once you've set your branches with wire, prune back leggy growth on your branches. Leave some growth on the branches to make sure that energy still gets extended to the end of the branch. This will help ensure that back buds form. Cut back branches that are going up and start developing downwards branches. It will take time to ramify and develop the branch structure. Continue to do this every season to develop the pads.
When your branches are completely set, you can remove wire and utilize the clip and grow method solely to develop branch structure.