Japanese Maple Planting and CareOnce you receive you tree, you should immediately remove it from the plastic bag and place it in a shady spot. Placing the tree in full sun or strong wind will often result in severe shock to the tree. Quart size trees are normally not ready to be planted in the ground. They should be planted in a one gallon size pot for the first season so the root system can become stronger. We normally offer a nice selection of gallon size trees, which are ready to be planted.
* Planting in pots
When growing Japanese Maples in pots, the correct medium is very important. We highly recommend using Pine Bark as your growing medium. Pine bark is a very stable growing medium and is relatively slow to decompose. But most important, Pine bark drains well. Using a well drained soil medium is the MOST important factor when growing Japanese Maple in pots. A well drained medium will result in a well-aerated mix, which is so important with woody ornamentals, and especially important with Japanese Maples. Check your local garden center or better yet, a nearby Nursery for pine bark.
Using Peat based potting soil on its own is one of the worst choices because the roots will have very little air exchange in these types of soils. Standard potting soil is mostly peat moss with a bit of perlite and vermiculite, and is designed to hold moisture. These types of potting soils are perfect for most annuals but terrible for Japanese Maples. You can use regular potting soil if it is only around 30% of your mix. A mix with 30% potting soil, 50% pine bark, and 20% perlite will give you a mix that drains well and allows air exchange on the roots. Also, avoid adding sand to your mix.
* Planting in the ground
When planting your new tree in the ground, it is important to choose the correct location. Most Japanese Maples prefer morning sun and afternoon shade. If planted in full sun, the tree will be under more stress, especially before it has established a good root system in the ground. Extra care will be needed to make sure the roots do not dry out during the first season after you have planted it. When digging the planting hole, it is important to dig a hole that is 4-5 times wider then the root ball. Remember that most of the roots will spread out horizontally from the tree. If you have clay soil, remove as much of it as possible. Replace the soil with a mix of bark and peat moss. Be sure to raise the soil level a couple inches so the new maple is planted on a mound. This will allow the good drainage that is so important to Japanese Maples. It is also very important to mulch around the newly planted tree. Mulch will protect the root system and also provide nutrients as it decomposes.
A low dose of time release fertilizer in spring is also very beneficial. We sell small containers of time release fertilizer that is specially formulated for Japanese Maples. Avoid using liquid fertilizer. This type of fertilizer provides too much initial feed. Japanese Maples prefer more of a coninuous feed of a lower dose of fertilizer. Time release type fertilizer provides a slower release over the whole growing season.
* Winter Care
Winter is a great time to ship Japanese Maples because they are dormant and not easily stressed from the shipping process. If you purchase a Japanese Maple in winter, it is important to protect it from temperatures much below 20F. Storing the tree in an un-heated garage or shed is the best option. Do not be tempted to store the maple in your house. It needs to stay cold and dormant for the winter months, which is very important for the health of the tree.