With over 30 varieties of Acer to chose from and in a range of sizes to suit all
Japanese Maple (Acer Palmatum) have been cultivated for over 300 years. They are small, deciduous trees grown for their graceful habit and offer gardens continuous interest with their varied leaf colours, textures and amazing autumn foliage colour. Japanese Maples do not attain great mature heights, averaging 5-6 metres for the upright cultivars and 1-2 metres for most of the dissectum group. They are relatively slow growing and the bare branches in winter provide a contrast in form and shape with interesting bark colours.
As many Acers grow extremely slowly they are perfect for a smaller garden or for growing in a large container.
They prefer slightly acidic, sandy, well-drained loamy soils with a good amount of organic matter. Don’t worry if you have not got perfect soil conditions as most can be grown in other soils. However, they will not tolerate wet, dry or very alkaline conditions.
Acers will grow best in a sheltered position however, red and purple leaved types need some sun to fully develop their dark hues. Variegated types need partial shade to prevent the afternoon sun from scorching their foliage. Green-leaved forms will tolerate full sun, but are still best in a partial shade position as very bright conditions can sometimes cause scorching.
Most Acers have shallow fibrous root systems that resent competition from other plants, so ensure that they are not too crowded. Mulch every couple of years with well rotted garden compost or well-rotted manure.
Growing in containers
Japanese maples are ideal plants for growing in containers. Plant in a loam based compost, which allows good drainage such as John Innes Ericaceous or John Innes No 2.
Keep the compost evenly moist, but not soaking wet and feed in spring and early summer with a slow-release fertiliser or liquid feed.
Acers will need re-potting into a slightly bigger container every couple of years, with April or September being ideal months to do this.
The roots of maples in pots are vulnerable to frost over winter, so wrap containers with Hessian or a double layer of fleece during the winter months.
Pruning and training
Acers are best pruned when fully dormant (November to early February), as maples bleed sap from pruning cuts at other times, weakening the tree. Pruning is best kept to a minimum so try to only remove badly-placed or crossing shoots to encourage a good framework of branches to form. Due to the slow growth rate of Acers they can over time be pruned and trained to form fantastic Bonsai plants.