Ideal mix/formula for Japanese Maple? Help

M3rc_Nate(Eight, Pacific NW)June 13, 2013

Okay so I am new to Japanese Maples. My aunt visited from TN (I'm in Seattle) and brought with her her hobby for Japanese Maples. I learn fast and have a very successful raised garden so I picked up everything she was saying very quickly and it all made sense. She got me interested and now three weeks later i own:

-3 Acer Palmatums (3-4 year, regular green for grafting)
-Toyama-Nishiki Lace-leaf
-One i dont know the type
-Six 2-year old Acer Palmatums for grafting
-Corallinum (2 year)
-Hana Matoi (2 year)
-Aratama (1 year)
-Beni shichihenge (2 year)

The six Acer-P and the four i listed last are all in the 2x2 shipping pots and need to be re-potted (I bought a bunch of 1-Gal containers). The issue is I have done a lot of research, and there are just SO MANY variations on what to put in the containers. I own this book which is great: "Japanese Maples: The Complete Guide to Selection and Cultivation, Fourth Edition" by Peter Gregory and J. D. Vertrees which recommends a certain formula, then i have read some posts on this site and articles by Nurseries saying what to use, and its all different.

Currently my plan is to use the formula my aunt does and has been successful with (feel free to correct it) :
Bottom 1 inch: Shredded Cypress or Ceder (no coloring added)
Main: 3 parts Ericaceous compost/Loam based compost
Main: 1 part Sharp Sand
Top 1/2-1 inch: Mulch (coarse bark, average chip size 3/4 inch)

Any help/tips/advice/corrections are strongly desired. I have a Home-Depot/Lowes/Local Nursery all within a few miles of our house so hopefully whatever you recommend i can get at one of those places.

I have a website/blog where i put the longer story of my introduction to JPN MPLS and pictures of all my trees.

(Related question, I plan to collect the seeds from my moms Bloodgood and grow them in Cone-tainers [ ] and would you recommend the same mixture as I will use in my 1-Gal containers, for the seed cells?)

(I own Osmocote Flower & Vegetable 14-14-14, and Dyna-Grow 7-9-5 for fertilizer options, I own ProMix-BX)

This post was edited by M3rc_Nate on Thu, Jun 13, 13 at 17:53

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I have a Kamagata and a Shishi Yatsabusa, Both in Gritty Mix, and top dressed with leaf mould to help keep in the moisture.

Both are doing fantastically!!!

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 10:13AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

For maples, you can't go wrong with the Gritty Mix or the 5-1-1.

If you're going to be re-potting maples every year or two into larger containers while the plants put
on size, I heartily recommend the 5-1-1. It's lightweight, durable, and economical.

Start with a quality bark product - pine or fir bark, small size for either Orchids or for fine landscaping.
The pieces of bark should range from bark dust up to 1/2 inch (anything larger is discarded for use
as mulch).

I use a modified 5-1-1 of bark, coarse perlite, and red lava rock. When I'm out of lava rock, I use other
types of pumice, or turface mvp. I always include Osmocote, as well, because the mix has no nutrients
worth noting.

Here's an older pic of some seedlings I collected. Plopped them straight into bark, perlite, lava rock
(scoria). Now they're in a mix of bark, perlite, and potting mix - true 5-1-1.

Here's another mix I helped my sister's boyfriend make: bark, perlite, scoria, aquarium gravel
(which I do *not* recommend),

And lastly, a mix that is much closer to the Gritty Mix. Now that my Trident Maple is bigger, I bumped
it up in pot-size and gave it a more durable mix (since I won't be re-potting for another year or two).
This mix is bark, perlite, lava rock, turface, and quartzite - it is a durable, weighty mix.


    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 2:49PM
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I have around 20 JM's - ALL grown in containers. Some are around 15 years old.

It is easiest (and most economical) for me to purchase bagged potting soil rather than make my own. I am in the Seattle area myself and highly recommend the Kellogg product "acid planting mix" sold under both the Master Nursery and Gardner & Bloome labels. I use this for all my maples and a collection of containerized conifers as well (and a growing collection of hydrangeas, also in pots). These products are ONLY sold by independant garden centers - no box stores or mass retailers.

It is a highly textural (barky) and durable mix and intended for just this purpose. I think this stuff is great and so do my maples! We are blessed in this area of having many sources for both extremely high quality pre-bagged mixes as well as all the ingredients necessary to fabricate our own custom mix.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 3:15PM
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M3rc_Nate(Eight, Pacific NW)

Thank you both so much!

Greenman28: Now you mention "Gritty mix or 5-1-1"...what are those? Are they a description for mixes you (or I) would have to mix ourselves by buying the ingredients separately? Or is that something pre-bagged i can buy?

Gardengal48: THANK YOU! If it was me searching/buying the ingredients I would have no issue at all buying them and mixing my own mix, but because in my current circumstance i am relying on a family member to buy the mix for me, it is fantastic to hear about a bagged mix!

So its or Nursery Catalog.htm (scrolled half way down "Acid Planting Mix") ?

I hope my local nursery (Sky Nursery) carries one of those cause that would make it so much easier!

Now when you use that, what do you use for a mulch on-top of the soil?

Also is this perfect to use when germinating seeds? Because remember i am not only needing to re-pot my trees into 1gal pots, but i am going to be growing JM from seed and so i'll need soil for that as well, so if i can use that for seeds as well that is fantastic.

(I thought manure wasn't recommended for JPN MPL's? I read the specs for the Acid Planting Mix and it says it has: chicken manure, and bat guano)

Just called Sky-Nursery, they said they used to use Gardener & Bloome but found it too rich so they now carry and use EB-Stone mixes and for my use they recommended:
Any thoughts?

(Here's whats in EB-Stone Azalea Mix: Contains: Composted Fir Bark, Sphagnum Peat Moss, Redwood Compost, Mushroom Compost, Volcanic Pumice Stone, Earthworm Castings, Bat Guano, Kelp Meal, Feather Meal and Gypsum)

Here's what i got so far:

1) Potting mix: EB-Stone Azalea Mix

2) I'm thinking this mulch for 1" bottom of container:

And this mulch for top 1" of container:

Feel free to give your opinion on if that's good or not good, if you know of a different type that's way better.

(The idea being a shredded mulch for the bottom of the container to help with drainage and a bigger chip-style mulch for the top layer to provide heat/moisture insulation/retention and good aeration)

This post was edited by M3rc_Nate on Fri, Jun 14, 13 at 21:49

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 4:46PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

The 5-1-1 and gritty mix are made-from-scratch mixes described in the Container Soils thread on this forum. It's well worth reading that thread even if you choose to use the EB Stone product because it will help you understand the importance of good drainage. The product sounds pretty good. But the "gritty mix" is less expensive and likely to hold up longer. And the 5-1-1 mix works very well for seedlings and young plants. Whatever you do, I urge you not to put a layer of drainage materials in the bottom of the pot. That actually raises the perched water table and reduces the ability of your pots to fully drain.

Here is a link that might be useful: Container Soils -Water Movement and Retention XVII

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 8:31PM
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M3rc_Nate(Eight, Pacific NW)

Thanks! I will definitely read that thread. Lol of course you tell me that (DONT put a layer of drainage materials in the bottom of the pot!) after I just potted 6 trees and my technique was:

1) 1" of finely shredded Ceder Mulch in bottom of pot
2) 2"+ EB-Stone Acid Mix
3) Pull JM from small pot, place it in new pot at correct height
4) Fill pot to 1" from the top with Acid Mix
5) Use Dibber to make two 3" deep holes into Acid Mix and put in 20 Osmocote 14-14-14 pellets, fill holes with Acid Mix.
6) Layer final 1" of pot with North Country Landscape Bark (Ceder) (All purpose medium grind, retards weed growth, helps conserve soil moisture, helps prevent crusting of soil and reduces erosion)
7) Water

Now for my future re-pottings should i skip using the shredded Ceder Mulch in the bottom? Or by "drainage materials" you meant rocks/broken pot fragments/river pebbles etc?

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 12:21AM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Yes, I meant you should skip the cedar mulch in the bottom. When smaller particles are on top of larger ones like that they tend to hold on to more water. It's best to have your potting mix of the same consistency from top to bottom of the pot. I know a "drainage layer" was recommended by many for as long as people have been growing in containers. But experiments have shown that it doesn't work. I'm not saying you should repot your plants, just that you should consider ditching the cedar mulch layer in the future.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 2:10AM
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Nate, the EB Stone is fine. Very similar to the Kellogg product. And if it is "too rich", no one told my maples. Or conifers or a whole bunch of other woody stuff :-) As I stated, several of my JM's have been growing in the stuff for over 10 years and ALL are thriving.

As you already determined, no gravel or mulch on the bottom of the pot and no need to mulch the top, either. And you don't have to be so deliberate with the Osmocote. I mix a bunch into the container soil when I'm potting them up and topdress with more each spring. I also use a Dyna Gro liquid fert (Grow 7-9-5) about every 6 weeks during the growing season. Happy plants :-)

ps. Sky Nursery is about 6 blocks away from my old house - moved to Kitrsap about 4 years ago. Used to shop there a lot.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 4:48PM
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M3rc_Nate(Eight, Pacific NW)

Ohiofem: That makes sense, it obviously doesnt seem to be BAD considering for many many years thats been the way to do it, heck like i said that JM book (authors are like 40 year JM masters) recommend to use it. But logic and basic scientific knowledge says your right so i wont put mulch on the bottom anymore. Thank you!

GardenGal48: Im glad to hear it, and yeah i kinda figured it (Kellogg) was fine but i just let comments of "professionals" who work are stores roll off my shoulders.
Now no need to mulch the top i assume because its not THAT important? From my understanding (again of logic and science); the mulch chips on top do actually work well to retain moisture and when cold outside, keep heat in the soil.

Yeah, i just read on a Nursery website that i bought JM's from that they do that so its very precise. That when you just put some on top they very un-evenly release fertilizer...that the second best way is like you said, to have them in the soil in the pot (mixed into the top 3-6 inches of soil).

So can you tell me the specific seasons that you fertilize? I just put the Osmocote in so i imagine those ones i repotted are pretty good for a while (4-6 months?)

(Again i have the same Dyna Grow and Osmocote)
Haha thats too funny. I live by the Highschool so im a 3-5 minute drive away from Sky depending on the stop lights.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 10:52PM
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Mulching containers is really not that important. It depends a bit I guess on the type of container you use but if anything other than plastic, you will lose almost as much moisture through the sides as from the top. Same with the cold protection - the roots are as exposed to winter cold via the sides of the container as they are the fact even more so. Mulch really provides no help in that regard at all unless you bury the entire container in it. (FWIW, winter cold isn't really much of an issue here unless we get a real hard cold spell. I've never lost a potted JM to cold yet)

As I said, I mix in Osmocote into the potting soil when I repot. Then I topdress with the same for each container each spring. And I supplement infrequently with a liquid during the growing season. Plants are imprecise organisms and growing is an imprecise science :-) I've been doing this stuff personally and professionally for a lot of years and it is my opinion that you do not have to dot every i and cross every t :-) Plants grow in spite of us - don't neglect 'em yet don't baby 'em either. They'll do fine.

We must have been neighbors - I lived just a couple blocks south of the high school!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 3:52PM
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