Japanese Maple Planting Instructions
In choosing a location for your plant - most red Japanese Maples prefer some shade. This helps protect the foliage from the harshest summer light. But in order to develop their deep reds that they are known for, these plants need direct sunlight for at least a portion of the day. They are called “understory” plants that need partial shade in order to thrive.
The root system is not a deep taproot variety, rather it consists of a fibrous root network that stays in the upper levels of the soil. As with any tree, its roots over time will get deeper and deeper.
Even though its roots stay more towards the surface level, these plants are fairly non-competitive. They will still grow well surrounded by an abundance of other plants and foliage.
- The hole should be dug slightly larger than the root system of the plant.
- To help the roots establish themselves quickly, it helps to mix the soil with an organic compost (conifer bark mulch, rhododendron or azalea planting mix or rose compost) that is recommended but not necessarily needed.
- The root collar of the plant, the ground line on the stem where the young plant was grown, should be level with the ground surface.
- Exception- If you have clay soil, dig your hole rather shallow, so that the root system is partly above the ground. When filling the hole, the soil should be mounded up to the root collar to protect the tree from drying out. (If deep holes are dug in heavy soils such as clay, the hole acts like a large iron kettle with no drainage, causing the water to build up, drowning and killing your tree.)
Mulching helps to maintain a weed free area, minimizes water loss in dry conditions, and provides winter protection for the roots during cold frosts.
- The ideal mulch bed is a 2in. layer of coarse bark
- The “average” amount of water supplied to most common lawn and garden plants should be adequate for your new Japanese Maple
- During the hot summer months, water in early morning or evening. This will help protect against a condition known as “scorching” where the leaves appear to have been burnt by the sun, a condition thought to be brought on by watering in the mid-day sun.
- Japanese maples do not require large amounts of nutrients. If your other lawn and garden plants do well, your Japanese Maple should grow just fine.
- Any recommended fertilization should use a balanced complete fertilizer for shrubs and trees. This should be applied once a year in early spring, and if possible be applied just before the leaves appear.
Your tree will need 2 to 3 years to become firmly established in your lawn or garden. After this period, you may begin to prune your tree if desired, although it is not required.
*These instructions have been compiled from portions of the magnificent book Japanese Maples by Gregory Vertrees, Third Edition.