growing japanese maples in containers

Most Japanese maples grow slowly and are ideal for containers. Some varieties need protection from hot afternoon sun and wind, so a location with bright shade or only morning sun will best suit most potted maples.

Use a container no larger than twice the diameter of the root ball and half again as deep. Japanese maples prefer to grow snug in a container. If too much soil is allowed around the root ball, there is a greater chance of the soil becoming oversaturated with water, which can lead to root rot. Whatever container you choose, adequate drainage is essential. Drainage holes must be large enough to allow excess water to drain. Elevate the pot slightly with pot feet or a wheeled platform so drainage holes remain unblocked.

Japanese maples thrive on moist but fast-draining soils with high air content. We recommend one of our high quality potting soils such as “Edna’s Best Potting Soil.” Do not use soil from your garden; it doesn’t drain well and may introduce disease. Plant the root ball and top of soil level 1–2” below rim of pot for watering.

Japanese maple trees are not heavy feeders so it is important not to over fertilize. Once transplanted, wait until the second growing season before fertilizing in spring with an organic fertilizer.

When growing your maple in a container, it’s important to prune the roots and repot every 3 –4 years in the early spring, prior to any new growth. Root pruning is not difficult and is essential for the long-term health of your tree. Remove the outer 1" of matted roots, massage the roots apart, and prune any that have become large and woody. Then you may replant your maple in the same pot or another one. Whenever pruning roots, be sure to also prune approximately the same percentage of top growth as removed roots. Consult one of our plant specialists for more information. 

SOME JAPANESE MAPLES SUITABLE FOR CONTAINER CULTURE

Bihou Japanese Maple Acer palmatum ‘Bihou’
‘Bihou’ is an exciting new small variety with green foliage that turns vivid gold, orange, and red before dropping in the fall. The bare stems that follow turn brilliant yellow-gold with orange highlights. ‘Bihou’ prefers protection from hot afternoon sun.

Jordan Full Moon Maple Acer shirasawanum ‘Jordan’
This new maple’s foliage emerges in the spring as a shockingly bright orange, then turns bright yellow over the summer. In fall, the leaves adopt orange highlights before dropping. Grown in shade, the foliage will be more chartreuse and fall color somewhat muted. ‘Jordan’ is unusually sun and heat tolerant for a yellow foliage plant, but we recommend protecting it from hot afternoon sun. 

Ever Autumn Maple Acer shirasawanum ‘Ever autumn’
This maple’s varying foliage color adds a dynamic element to the landscape. In spring the foliage emerges bright salmon-pink, then turns green with blushes of red-orange through the growing season. The fall leaf color starts early with stunning oranges and reds.

Ground Cover Japanese Maple Acer palmatum ‘Ground Cover’
This peculiar beauty has the most unusual growth habit: It grows nearly exclusively horizontal with an effect that’s like a ground cover. The green summer foliage turns magnificent orange in the fall.

Mikawa Yatsubusa Japanese Maple Acer palmatum ‘Mikawa Yatsubusa’
This compact maple has very dense foliage arranged like shingles on a roof. It’s one of the most interesting dwarf specimen maples available. In fall the foliage turns orange and red.

Ryusen Japanese Maple Acer palmatum ‘Ryusen’
Japanese Maple nerds rejoice! ‘Ryusen’ is finally here! For all non-maple-nerds: ‘Ryusen’ is a new variety offering a very weeping habit that allows an unusually narrow specimen. Most weepers have dissected leaves, but ‘Ryusen’ atypically has large palmate (star shaped) leaves. In addition, the tree’s fall color is gorgeous.