Planting Japanese Maples

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Planting Japanese Maples 2018-09-27T00:51:29+00:00

Planting  Japanese Maples-JMs

Planting a Japanese Maple the right way will avoid problems in the future.  The best soil for your Japanese maple is a fast draining sandy loam and the worst is clay. Japanese maples do not like ‘wet feet’, a term used for poor drainage. In my opinion 99% of the JMs that die are from poor drainage or root rot which can leave the maple suceptical to diseases such as Pseudomonas.

If you have clay soil in your area the best plan is to create a raised mound that is at least four to eight inches above the clay. This will allow the roots to stay healthy above the heavy wet soil. Dig a hole in the clay about 12″ to 15″ deep and a little wider. Fill the hole with bark chips and compost to keep the mixture loose. Backfill the hole until it is level with the surrounding ground. Set the JM pot on the soil where you want to plant it. Remove it and dig out the impression that it made about 8″ or less if planting a small maple.  After soaking the root ball in a solution of SuperThrive [explained later in this article]. Carefully place the root ball in the shallow hole and then pack the same amended soil around the root ball to make a slightly mounded area which can be at 3′ or 4′ across.

You may want to make a half-moon shaped mound that tapers off gently from the base of the trunk of the maple to be level with the surrounding ground. Water throughly with more SuperThrive solution and check for settling of the soil, if needed pack more soil around the trunk being careful not to bury the trunk.

Use a stake to hold the root ball in place. The wind can rock the root ball and this will break the feeder roots trying to get established. Make sure the stake goes through the root ball into the soil beneath to hold it firmly in place.

If you are fortunate to have sandy or rocky soil, dig a hole larger than the root ball and backfill the hole with mulch, bark chips or compost so that the maple, when planted, is even with the surrounding ground. When planting your maple in the ground or in a container, be careful not to disturb the root ball any more than necessary. Root bound maples will require you to loosen the roots a little.

Transplanting on a hot summer day is not recommended. Cooler weather will be less stressful on the maple. I recommend using SuperThrive to prevent transplant shock. Thoroughly water the root ball with the mixture of  Superthrive right after planting and then water once a week durng the hottest summer months. When cooler weather prevails you can water every two weeks and then once a month beginning in fall. If you have rain or snow in the winter months do not water. Begin with once a month watering again in March/April depending upon your climate zone, or when the maples begin to leaf out. When temperatures rise in July and August water once every couple of weeks.

Please remember that nearly every JM shows a little leaf burn during the first summer and sometimes the second summer. It is OK, do not over water. Watering deep with a drip system or hand watering using a hose that is left to gradually spread water over the root ball will force the roots to go deep. Sprinkler systems that water a little every couple of days keep roots on the surface.

Very important – Do not plant the base of the trunk below the soil line. To conserve moisture and protect the maple in the winter–use mulch or bark chips around the base of the tree. If planting in the fall or winter reduce watering because of rain. Do not overwater.

If you decide to plant your maple in a container (they make wonderful container plants), care should be taken to use a planting mix with adequate drainage so that the roots do not become water logged.  The container must have drainage holes-though a small amount of gravel at the bottom can help with drainage. Again the soil should be loose, so add some bark chips to your potting mix and water as needed, depending upon time of planting.

Lastly, Japanese maples do not like a lot of fertilizer. In fact, variegated maples may even loose their color variation if over fertilized. A slow-release fertilizer, such as Osmocote, is recommended. If planted in the ground fertilize once in the spring. Do not fertilize in the fall or winter as the maple requires a dormant period, which would be jeopardized by applying fertilizer. When in doubt or if you have questions not answered in this section – Planting Instructions for Japanese Maples – please call or email me.

Sam, the Maple Lady.

Phone 360.263.2662

Article Name
Planting Japanese Maples
The do's and don'ts for planting Japanese Maples. Pay attention to the details when planting your maple. Doing it right in the beginning will make sure you have a happy maple.