Caring For Potted Japanese Maples – Growing Japanese Maples In Containers

Potted japanese maple (acer palmatum) next to a barn door in Tuscany.
Image by LesleyJacques

By Teo Spengler

Can Japanese maples be grown in containers? Yes, they can. If you have a porch, a patio or even a fire escape, you have what you need to start growing Japanese maples in containers. These graceful, slender maple trees (Acer palmatum) thrive in pots as long as you know how to plant them. If you are interested in planting a Japanese maple in a pot, here’s all the information you’ll need to get started.

Can Japanese Maples Be Grown in Containers?

Growing Japanese maples in containers is not as unusual as you may think. Many different types of trees thrive in containers. The smaller the mature size of the species, the more likely it is that the tree will grow happily in a large pot.

You can grow both evergreen and deciduous trees in containers. Smaller species and dwarf varieties of evergreens usually do well as container grown plants. So do small deciduous trees like the Japanese maple.

Growing Japanese Maples in Containers

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It’s not that hard to start growing Japanese maples in containers. To start one or more potted Japanese maples, you need a large container, good potting soil and a partially sunny location for it.

The first step toward having a container grown Japanese maple is to determine a variety that would work well in your area. With hundreds of different Japanese maple cultivars available in commerce, you need to choose one that will grow in your plant hardiness zone.

Pick dwarf or semi-dwarf species for your potted Japanese maples. Generally, these maples grow slower in pots and develop smaller root systems. If you pick a tree that doesn’t get taller than 10 feet tall, you won’t have to do annual pruning.

Caring for a Japanese Maple in a Pot

If you want a healthy, happy, container grown Japanese maple, you’ll need to plant your tree in a container that is about twice the size of the tree’s root system. It is imperative that the pot has one or more drainage holes. Keep the soil moist but not wet.

Use good quality potting soil to fill the pot. Once the tree is potted, water it well. This helps to settle the roots in the soil. Don’t fertilize until spring, and even then dilute a water-based fertilizer to half-strength.

If, over time, you see that the roots of the Japanese maple in a pot touch the side or bottom of the container, it’s time for root pruning. Clip out the big, wood roots. This lets smaller roots develop.

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