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Japanese Maples - Care

Planting Maples

Planting maples In The Ground
Planting Maples In The Ground

Planting Maples can be done either in spring or early autumn. Autumn is preferably the most ideal time. Planting in early autumn allows the roots to somewhat spread into the surrounding soil before it becomes dormant during winter. By the time spring arrives, the root system has already been established and ready for a new season's growth.

Planting Maples should be avoided during times of active growth. For the majority of maples, this would be from late spring to early summer where new buds are emerging and new leaves are growing. Disturbing the roots during this time can be detrimental to the Maple.

Before randomly planting your Maple anywhere in the ground, careful thought should be taken on placement. Depending on the species, the eventual mature height and spread can affect where maples should be initially placed. Your current choice may look great now, but what will it look like 10 years from now? Will it approach on a building structure or property in 10-20 years? Be sure to research the specifications of your desired Maple.

Planting Maples in the ground is a fairly simple task. When digging a hole for the Maple, the hole should be twice as wide as the root ball. As an example, if the root ball is 12" (30cm) wide, dig a hole that is 24" (60cm) wide. The depth should be similar to the depth or height of the root ball.

Place the Maple in the center of the newly dug hole and fill in with soil. Make sure that the top of the root ball is fairly even with the top surface of the ground.

Watering Maples

Drainage... In general, Maples need good drainage and the roots must not become soggy and waterlogged. Having soil that is constantly over saturated with water will suffocate the roots from air and can cause the roots to rot. Young plants are very prone to root rot and mildew due to excessive water. As long as the soil allows good drainage and is well aerated, overwatering Maples is usually not a concern.

If planted in the ground, most Maples should be watered twice a week (assuming no rain) during summer and more often if the weather is very hot and windy. As the Maple matures and the root system becomes more established, the maples can become more drought tolerant. However, even mature Maples can be distressed from lack of water. Water stress can cause the leaves to brown and drop. Newly planted Maples in the ground require more frequent watering.

Maples grown in pots and containers do not retain moisture as well as mapless grown in the ground. Potted plants due not have the insulating properties of being in the ground. During times of high heat, potted Maples should be watered three to four times a week or roughly every other day. This varies depending on the size of the planter as well. Small pots hold less mositure. Large pots hold more moisture content.

Soil For Maples

Professional Potting Soil

Maples in general can grow in most well draining soil types. However, having the ideal soil will encourage healthier root systems, promote accelerated growth and grow more attractive plants.

Maples grows best in soil that is aerated, light in structure and rich in organic nutrients. The soil should allow good drainage but still retain moisture. Roots must not become soggy and waterlogged. Having soil that is constantly over saturated with water will suffocate the roots from air and can cause the roots to rot. So it is very important to have well drained soil.

If planting maples in the ground and the soil is heavy, it can always be improved. Sand or any other granular material can be mixed to improve drainage. If the soil is too sandy or light, then organic material such as compost can be mixed to help retain moisture.

Pruning Maples

Pruning maples
Pruning maples

Pruning and thinning of maples is not essential but has many benefits. It can greatly enhance the beauty and aesthetics of maples. The overall dimensions and density of the maples grove can be controlled.

The pruning or thinning of Maples can actually be done anytime of the year. However, late Fall or Winter when the leaves fall off will give better access to the branches. It can also provide a clearer view of branch aesthetics and overall shape.

Light & Temperature For Maples

The amount of light or temperature required for growing Maples is varied among the different species of Maples. In it's natural environment, Maples can be found growing in full sun to underneath shady canopies or mountain sides. Maples can be found growing on various continents, countries and altitudes. Each with it's own climate zones and temperatures. Picking a Maple suitable for your growing environment is essential for the health and survival of your Maple. See Maples Species for a listing of sunlight and temperature requirements for that particular species.

Minimum temperatures in Canada are varied throughout the country. These minimum temperatures are represented as climate zones in Canada. Canada is divided into nine climate zones (Zone 0 to 8). These nine climate zones are further broken down into sub-climate zones (ie. Zone 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b...). Each climate zone represents a range of minimum temperatures for each zone.

Plant Hardiness Zone Map Of Canada (click to enlarge)

Plant Hardiness Zone Map Of Canada

For a more detailed visual representation of your Canadian province or city, please visit Agriculture Canada's website. Here is a direct link to their Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

For the United States, a similar map can be found at The United States National Arboretum website.

Note that the above statistics do not take into account micro climates (ie. close to water, concrete structures, etc.).

Maples In Containers

Potted Maple

Maples grown in beautiful ornamental pots or containers can look quite stunning. The combination of sizes, textures, colours and shapes to go with your Maples is limitless. Growing in pots gives flexibility in manoeuvering in the garden, patio or balcony.

Most species of maples can be grown in pots or containers. However, care and maintenance can potentially be more involved depending on the species and pot sizes chosen.

As with any plant (not just Maples), they all eventually outgrow their pots and their roots become 'root bound'. If Maples remain root bound for too long, it will suffer as there are no more nutrients for the roots to seek out. Leaves do not grow as colorful or dense. New buds do not emerge as often and the new branches do not grow as thick or tall. For this reason, Maples will need to be repotted into a larger pot.

Choosing a Maple for your container is quite similar to choosing a maples for your garden. You will need to know the amount of sunlight or shade your desired location will get. Most importantly, choose a Maple that is cold hardy enough for your location. The Japanes Maples section will list the hardiness, light tolerance and growth characteristics.

The size of the root ball is directly related to the size of the Maples. The bigger the root ball, the bigger the Maple. The smaller the root ball, the smaller the Maple. Because the growing area in pots is limited, the growth potential of Maples is also limited. This translates to much smaller Maples when grown in pots. Maples grown in pots will never reach the sizes of the same species grown in the ground. If large size is the objective, then getting the biggest possible pot will give the best potential for size.

Winter Protection For Potted Maples (for extreme cold areas)

Although most potted mapless will survive a typical winter here in the Pacific Northwest, precautions should be taken during extreme freezes.

As with most potted plants, Maples in containers are much more susceptible to cold temperatures. Because potted Maples are not in the ground, it does not get the benefit of a natural water supply in the moist winter soil. It also does not have the insulation effect of the soil surrounding the roots during winter. The root system in a pot is very vulnerable to freezing. The smaller your pot, the lesss insulating properties it has and therefore is more prone too freezing than compared to a larger pot with more soil.

In areas of extreme cold, wrapping the pot in insulating material such as burlap will reduce freeze. Moving the pots to a sheltered location away from freezing winds will help. On those extreme winter nights, temporarily moving it indoors is recommended. A regular watering routine will help make sure the roots receive enough water throughout the winter. Mulching will also help prevent freezing to the root ball.