The maple bonsai is also known as Acer Palmatum and heralds from Japan, Korea and China.
Its botanical name refers to the palm of the hand and the delicate finger-like leaves that boast a beautiful range of glorious colours throughout its seasons. The leaves have five-lacy-pointed lobes, and it has greenish-yellow flowers that appear in the early summer months.
The flowers transform into mini winged-nut shaped seeds that flit on a breeze like mini-propellers as they fall to the ground.
Horticulturists have developed thousands of Japanese maple varieties over several millennia; whilst their leaf shape remains similar, their many unique forms are popular with traditional and bonsai gardeners alike.
The most important differentiation is the display of branches; some look like regular trees, whilst some have horizontal branches that form low, broad trees and others have branches that fall at lower angles forming weeping and cascading forms.
Care Guidelines For Japanese Maple Bonsai
The Japanese maple is an outside bonsai tree that enjoys the partial shade. It loves to be in a bright spot but doesn’t fare well in the full summer sun and can result in leaf burn. It must receive some direct sun because this creates the beautiful red hues of the leaves in the autumn months. Where possible, they like to be in a sheltered location; stron
g winds can dry out their delicate leaves. You can protect them with the light shade netting found in garden centres and provides ideal dappled shade.
The acer palmatum is quite resistant to the cold and can withstand temperatures as low as minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit. During the winter months, your Japanese maple will undergo dormancy critical to a long and healthy life. The tree will lose its leaves, and the cold will toughen up new growth.
You must water your Japanese maple bonsai every day during the growing season. Therefore, you will need to assess the tree regularly. It may need watering several times a day if the tree is healthy and in well-drained soil. During dormancy in the winter months, you’ll need to prevent the soil from being completely dry. If possible, avoid using chalky calcium carbonate water; the Japanese maple prefers a neutral or slightly acid pH value.
Soil And Fertilizing
The best way to deliver micronutrients to your maple bonsai is with a solid slow-release organic fertiliser.
You need to be careful to ensure balanced fertilisation; if you feed your maple bonsai tree too much nitrogen, the internodes will likely be too long and the leaves too big. Slow-release fertilisers are ideal for more mature trees. If you want stronger and rapid growth, you can introduce a liquid bonsai fertiliser once each week.
You can prune the Japanese maple bonsai throughout the year. To reduce the size of the leaves and maintain short internodes, pinch out the new tree shoots regularly to maintain the required shape and encourage optimal branching. It’s best to prune the main branches during the winter dormancy months. When pruning the branches, apply a pruning paste over the cut to prevent any fungal diseases to which the maple is vulnerable.
To encourage a second and more prolific growth, you can consider full or partial leaf pruning. When pruning, remove all of the leaves but make sure that you leave the leaf stems intact. You should only full prune bi-annually as it can put stress on the tree. Partial pruning is a gentler procedure where you will remove just the larger leaves from the most substantial areas of the tree; you can do this annually.
There are various ways of propagating a Japanese maple bonsai. The Japanese maple can easily be propagated by planting seeds, cuttings, or air layering in the summer. However, the easiest way to propagate a tree is with a cutting. The best time to take this cutting is in spring or early summer.
The cutting should contain three leaf nodes and the heel of the bark from the parent tree. Dip the cut end of the maple cutting into rooting hormone powder. Prepare a clay pot with appropriate fast-draining soil and make a hole in the centre of the pot in the soil to accept the cutting without disturbing the rooting powder. Ensure that one of the leaf nodes is submerged into the soil. Enclose the cutting and pot into a plastic bag to create a humid growing environment.
Twice a day, you’ll need to open the bag to provide ventilation and regularly mist the cutting so that the soil does not dry out. Roots should start to sprout between 14 and 21 days. Maintain the cutting for about a year before transferring it to a larger pot.
Potential Pests And Diseases
Although the Japanese maple bonsai tree is very hardy, it can be affected by aphids, minute bugs that hungrily feed on sap sucked from plants. The aphids reproduce quickly and may live in large colonies that cause extensive damage to bonsai and other plants. You can get rid of these with a standard insecticide formula.
Identifiable by black spots on recently pruned wood, verticillium wilt can cause your bonsai to die. The disease is not treatable, and you can unintentionally transmit it with your bonsai tools to other trees. Make sure that you thoroughly clean and disinfect your tools to prevent spread.
You can repot your Japanese maple bonsai every other year. Maple roots are strong and proliferate so that they quickly fill their pots and become pot-bound resulting in them starving to death. A tree will become pot-bound, and its roots will grow to the shape of the pot and use up all of the nutrients in the soil. Re-potting will give the tree lots of fresh nutrients for it to grow and flourish. It’s best to use well-drained soil with a mixture of lava rock, pumice and akadama. You should try to repot young trees annually, and you should schedule trees over 10 years to be repotted every three years.