How to plant acer trees

Written by moira clune
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How to plant acer trees
The Japanese maple produces vivid autumn colours. (Deb Casso/Caiaimage/Getty Images)

Acer is a genus of deciduous trees that includes small ornamental trees like the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) and large, economically important members like the sugar maple (Acer saccharum). Acer trees are sold in containers or balled and burlapped. Container-grown plants are lighter and easier to handle but may have deformed roots from their limited growing environment. Balled and burlapped trees might lose a significant amount of roots during the harvest procedure and require more water during their first year.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Shovel or spade
  • Wire cutters
  • Garden hose
  • Dowel

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    Dig the hole

  1. 1

    Plan to plant Acer trees at least six weeks before the first frost. This will allow the tree enough time to acclimatise to its new environment.

  2. 2

    Choose a slightly overcast, windless day for planting. This will reduce the transplant stress on your new tree.

  3. 3

    Measure the tree's container or root ball and dig a hole three times as wide. Dig to a depth that will keep the top of the root ball or the surface of the planting container even with the ground.

  4. 4

    Rough up the sides of the planting hole with a shovel or spade to help new roots spread into the surrounding soil. Use a garden hose to water the hole for five minutes.

    Plant the acer tree

  1. 1

    Bring the tree to its new location. Gently remove a containerised tree from its pot. Do not shake off any soil. If your tree is balled and burlapped, cut several shallow slits in the burlap ball. It is not necessary to remove the burlap. If the tree has a wire basket, the top half can be cut off with wire cutters after the tree is set in the hole.

  2. 2

    Hold the tree by its root ball, not the trunk, and set the tree in the hole. Fill the hole approximately half full with soil and water thoroughly.

  3. 3

    Walk around the tree to make sure it is straight. Make any adjustments before filling the hole completely.

  4. 4

    Add the remaining excavated soil, patting down carefully to avoid any air pockets. Water slowly to avoid runoff. Insert a dowel into the planting hole to test for moisture depth. The soil should be moist to a depth of 15 cm (6 inches).

Tips and warnings

  • Members of the Acer genus prefer neutral to slightly acidic pH. Buy a soil test kit to measure your soil pH.
  • Keep the Acer tree moist and in its container or burlap wrapping until you are ready to plant.
  • Apply at least 3.75 cm (1 1/2 inches) of water weekly during the first growing season.

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