Japanese maple can survive in a pot. This is why many gardeners prefer container cultivation of this tree.
Taking care of a potted Japanese Maple is all about constantly checking the soil and not letting it dry out more than 2 inches. Fertilize once a year and provide a few hours of direct sunlight a day.
Quick tips for growing a Japanese maple in a pot
- Plant the Japanese Maple in a pot several inches larger than the root ball.
- Use a well-drained and nutritious organic matter-based soil.
- Place the Japanese Maple pot in a location with 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
- Water when the soil in the pot is 2 inches dry.
- Fertilize the tree once a year with a slow-release fertilizer in early spring.
- Mulch the soil surface with compost or other organic material 1-2 inches thick.
- Prune the potted Japanese Maple lightly just to give it a more regular shape.
- Transplant the tree into a slightly larger pot each year at the beginning of the season.
How large should a container be for a Japanese maple?
The pot for a Japanese Maple should be large enough to accommodate the entire root ball plus 1 to 2 inches on each side. In other words, the pot should be slightly larger than the root system of the tree.
For example, you bought a Japanese Maple in a 1-gallon pot, then plant it in a new pot no larger than a 2-gallon pot.
This is because a pot that is too large will contain a lot of soil while the root system is still small. In heavy rains, the wetness of excessive soil can lead to root rot.
The material from which the pot is made can be either plastic or clay. Clay pots are more decorative but less resistant to frost. At the same time, a plastic container is more tolerant of harsh climatic conditions.
Be sure that the container has several drainage holes in the bottom. The holes should be at least a quarter of an inch in diameter. The more holes the better. If there are few or no holes make them.
Put some pebbles in the bottom of the pot before planting. This is to prevent the soil from washing out through the drainage holes. The pebbles will easily let excess water pass through and will not let the soil pass through the holes.
What kind of potting soil does a Japanese maple need?
Potted Japanese Maple needs high-quality, well-drained potting soil with high organic content, such as pine bark or compost.
A multipurpose potting soil usually works well. The first thing to look at is the reviews of the potting soil manufacturer. Choose the one with a lot of positive reviews.
The potting soil should be either neutral or slightly acidic. In other words, make sure that the pH is between 5.5 and 7.0. Avoid soil with a high pH because such alkaline soil will have a negative effect on the growth of the tree.
Choose a cloudy day to plant the Japanese Maple in its new pot. If it has not rained the day before, water the maple well.
Gently pull the tree out of the old pot without damaging the roots. Place it in the new pot so that the surface of the ground is about 1 inch below the edge of the pot. Add a little soil to the bottom if necessary.
Fill all the empty space around the roots with potting soil. Gently shake the pot to compact the soil, if necessary, pour in more soil.
Avoid covering the tree trunk with soil. The place where the trunk and roots join should be at ground level, only the roots should be below the ground.
How much sun does a potted Japanese maple need?
Potted Japanese Maple needs 4-6 hours of direct sunlight a day. It is better for the tree to get direct sun in the first half of the day and the rest of the time it needs shade.
In such a sunny exposure, you can count on bright leaf color and no problems with overheating of the root system. Some varieties can tolerate a little more light than others.
What you should avoid is placing a potted maple in full sun. This is especially true for young trees in small pots. If there is too much sun, the soil can dry out quickly and the leaves will get scorched.
The larger the maple and the larger the pot, the more sun it can tolerate. If your maple has a wide canopy that covers the pot from the sun, it can be grown in almost full sun. But still, some varieties require partial sun, so be sure to find out how many hours of direct sun your variety can tolerate.
Full shade is bad for potted maple growth. Some varieties can tolerate full shade, but most still require at least a few hours of direct sun. In the shade, the leaves will not be brightly colored and the crown will not be very dense.
How often should I water my potted Japanese maple?
Potted Japanese Maple should be watered when the soil is more than 1 inch dry. Keep an eye on how wet the soil is at all times, especially during the hot summer months.
When watering you should use as much water as you need to make the soil evenly moist. Usually 1 gallon is enough to moisten the soil well. The excess should flow out through the drainage holes.
Avoid watering on a schedule such as once a week. Some experts recommend watering a potted Japanese Maple once a day in the heat to avoid leaf scorch. This is a sure way to lose the maple as daily watering will lead to root rot.
If the heat and sun are too intense, move the potted Japanese maple to a place with minimal sunlight. Frequent watering will not save the maple from leaf scorch.
To prevent the soil from drying out quickly, mulch the surface with pine bark chips or other organic matter. The layer of mulch should be about 1 to 2 inches. Avoid volcano mulching, which means do not bury the maple trunk under the mulch.
In winter, the potted Japanese Maple does not need much watering because it is in hibernation. Natural precipitation is usually sufficient for it. The exception may be a very dry and warm winter.
What do you feed a potted Japanese maple?
The best fertilizer for potted Japanese maple is slow-release pellets. In terms of composition, a multi-purpose fertilizer is great, but make sure the amount of nitrogen is no more than 12.
It is also important that the product contain phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and iron.
The best time to fertilize Japanese maple is early spring. Usually, one fertilization is enough since the active period of most such fertilizers is 6 months. This means that your maple will be fed for the entire growing season.
Always follow the advice on the label regarding the amount of fertilizer. Too many pellets can cause overfertilization and damage the root system.
Avoid applying this fertilizer twice a season or later than July. Otherwise, the tree may remain active over the winter. This will result in frost damage.
You should also not use liquid fertilizer, because it has a short effect and will not provide the tree with enough nutrition. Also do not use animal-based fertilizers such as cow manure. Such fertilizers are very aggressive and will cause severe damage to the tree.
You can also use compost as a mulch and this adds nutrients to your plants. Such organic fertilization is good for the growth of the tree, but make sure that the compost is of good quality.
Pruning potted Japanese maple
Potted Japanese maples need almost no pruning because they are usually compact in size and have a small annual growth rate.
Sometimes it is necessary to remove branches that intertwine and suppress each other. In this case, remove one of the branches that are intertwined as close to the trunk as possible.
Also, in some cases, it may be necessary to give the maple a more regular shape because it is very overgrown. This can be done by removing unwanted branches, but do not remove more than a quarter of the crown in one year.
The best time to prune a potted Japanese Maple is early spring. The tree should be out of hibernation but not yet covered with much foliage. By the end of the season, all the wounds will have healed and the tree will look great.
Always use good quality, sharp tools for pruning. Be sure to disinfect them before working.
Read more: How Do You Winterize A Potted Japanese Maple Tree?