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Japanese Maple

Updated: Feb 2, 2020

Acer palmatum

The Japanese Maple is native to China, Korea and Japan and has been in cultivation for over 300 years. The area small slow-growing shrub that is ideally suited for garden and pot culture. They are grown for their autumn colour, graceful form, dissected leaves, and in many cases for their colourful, eye-catching bark and stems.

Styles & Sizes: With the hundreds of varieties and cultivars, they are an unending source of flamboyant material for bonsai artists. They can be grown from very small bonsai to extremely large bonsai.

Position: The Japanese Maples foliage and colour is best protected in a semi-shade aspect. While they are a hardy species, as bonsai, they are best secured in cool greenhouses if temperatures are like to fall below -4°C.

Watering: Water thoroughly in the early morning, do not let the growing medium dry out, as the leaf tips can singe. During the hotter summer days, you may need to water between 2 and 3 times a day. If you are unable to water as frequently find a semi-shaded position for it.

Feeding: Use a balanced organic fertiliser, as this will help with ensuring that excessive nutrients are not supplied, which will only result in more substantial leaves, and bigger inter-node distances.

Acer Palmatun 'Seigen' Bonsai
Acer Palmatun 'Seigen' Bonsai

Repotting: In spring or early autumn; if repotted in autumn remember to protect the tree overwinter in an unheated greenhouse, out of winter rain and wind. Younger trees grow rapidly and need to be repotted every year or two. More mature bonsai trees only when pots are root-bound. When repotting reduce root-ball by no more than a third. Use a humus-rich free-draining growing medium of loam, sharp sand, bark or leaf mould in equal amounts. Alternatively, you can use a mix of 2 parts Akadama and 1 Part Pumice.

Pruning: Pruning is the primary means of shaping. Pruning and leaf trimming can be used to induce back budding and branching. Prune new shoots to leave three active leaf nodes.

Wiring: Best styled with the ‘clip and grow’ pruning method. If wiring is needed, wire in autumn when the bonsai is dormant and remove wire before spring sets in. Don’t leave the wire on for too long as it will scar the bark.

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