Grow Japanese Maple tree in container?

n_tx_new2gardeningJuly 19, 2009

Hi, I just bought two Japanese Maple trees ( 3ft Crimson Queen, 5ft inaba shidare) yesterday and got mixed opinions on whether I should plant them in huge container or on the ground in my south facing backyard.

Q1) Is it possible to plant JM in the pot? What size should I use?

Q2) If plant it on the ground, how far should it be away from the foundation?


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Question 1--I don't know how low your temperatures go in winter or what variety of maple you have, so here is what I do know.

Most Japanese Maples are only hardy to zone 6 and some even to zone 8 or 9. Any plant in a container is subjected to a freeze and thaw cycle that will not protect the tree in winter. Just think a minute--the tree is in that little container. When it freezes it freezes from all sides and then the weather gets a bit warmer and the soil thaws--not very good for any tree. When it is in the ground it is protected by all the soil around it and that great expanse of soil takes longer to thaw.

If you do use a container make it big and insulate it--you can put styrofoam all around the inside.

Question 2--- and what I think is the best option. This is my rule for planting shrubs and trees along the foundation. The plant tag usually tells you the mature height and width of the tree or shrub. I plant so that at maturity it will be 1 foot away from the foundation--eg. If the mature shrub is 3 feet wide I go 1/2 of 3 is 1 1/2--the center of the shrub + 1, so it would go 2 1/2 feet from the foundation. This leaves room to work on the house if needs be or maintainence on the tree and gives room for air flow to keep the house from damage due to moisture. Also look up--will it interfere with telephone or hydro lines or the eaves--not in your case but I was just stating my rule
I hope this helps

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 10:08PM
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I'm going to offer a different opinion :-) Japanese maples are in general immensely suitable to growing in containers - I grow ALL of mine in containers and there is considerable discussion on the Maple forum regarding container culture of these trees in all sorts of climate zones. Obviously, in colder zones, some sort of winter protection is desired but in zone 8, it is not necessary. (most J. maples are fully ground hardy to zone 5 - I know of none that have only a zone 8 or 9 hardiness rating). We had winter temperatures this past December that dropped into the single digits - unusual for a zone 8 - and all my containered maples were fine. If you have poor soil conditions, bad drainage or the presence of verticillium wilt pathogen, growing Japanese maples in a container may be the most reasonable course of action.

The size of the container is dependent on the size of the plant, but I'd suggest at least a 24" box (or the container equivalent) for long term container culture of a JM. And pay very close attention to your potting medium. Japanese maples prefer a very well draining, chunky (aerated) potting mix that is on the acidic side. You will also need to pay close attention to watering and fertilizing, as you would with any plant grown long term in a container. And periodically, these will need to be unpotted, root pruned, the soil refreshed and repotted. It's not a plant and forget situation!

'Crimson Queen' in particular has an ability to develop some serious width - at a previous nursery we had a boxed mature CQ that was 9' across! Plant tag info on height and width are estimates and often, only estimates for a 10 year growth period. When in doubt, allow extra room so the tree will not interfer with any structure or walkway, as you don't want to prune constantly to keep size in check. Height on either of these should not be a concern - both are relatively low weepers. But they do grow into mature trees with a lot of sculptural interest, so placing them where they can be seen and admired in all seasons is preferable than squeezing them into a foundation planting situation. These are specimen trees and deserve pride of place.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 10:35AM
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