How to Take Care of Potted Japanese Maples

Written by ma wen jie
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You don't necessarily need a large space to grow and care for a Japanese maple in a pot. Japanese maples are very popular trees for bonsai, the practice of growing miniature trees in pots that mimic the shape and feel of larger, much older trees. As such, many varieties of Japanese maple are ideally suited for growth in pots.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Potted Japanese maple
  • Pruning shears
  • Fish emulsion
  • Kelp emulsion

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  1. 1

    Water your tree regularly. The smaller the pot, the more frequent it may need water. With bonsai-sized pots, water the tree every day or two. With larger pots, every two to four days should be sufficient. Check the soil with your finger daily and water whenever the soil starts to feel dry.

  2. 2

    Fertilise your tree every week or two with a half strength solution of half fish emulsion and half kelp emulsion. Fish emulsion provides organic nutrients while the kelp emulsion provides nutrients and trace elements. Diluting the combined emulsion to half strength will allow for more frequent fertilisation. Because your tree is growing in a pot, it is dependent on you for additional soil nutrients.

  3. 3

    Remove your tree from its pot every two years and prune back the roots by around 50 per cent. This prevents the tree from becoming root bound and also helps to limit the size of the tree.

  4. 4

    Do major pruning in the fall or winter. Pruning when the tree is dormant will reduce stress on the tree. You can do minor pruning at any time. When pruning, remove any branches that are drooping too far down, branches that cross, or branches that have died. Remove dead wood at any time. Prune your Japanese maple from the bottom up and from the inside out to ensure good balance on the tree. Be sure sun can penetrate the tree and reach most of the leaves.

  5. 5

    If you live in an area where the temperature drops below minus 14 degrees Fahrenheit, wrap your pot for the winter in a double layer of bubble wrap and place your tree in a protected area to keep the roots from freezing. Most Japanese maple roots will die if they experience temperatures below minus -10C.

Tips and warnings

  • Use pruning of both branches and roots to control the overall size of your Japanese maple.

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