Need advice on Japanese Maple grown in pot *HELP*!

jalconJuly 24, 2014

Hey guys, I need some advice. I just acquired a small Japanese Maple - "Orange Dream". It's like 12-15 inches in height.

1.) What kind of soil should I put this in?, and should I fertilize it?

2.) I live in zone 6, what can I do with the tree in the winter? Last year was one of the coldest winters on record. Can I keep in a large shed? Wrap it in a blanket? I really have no idea.

Thanks guys!

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

put it in the ground ...

all of mine.. lived thru a z5 MI winter... adn i am positive it was a lot worse than your .... your z6 should be just fine ...

i would plant it.. in mother earth.. in fall ... when the leaves of other trees change color.. that way.. you dont have the stress of losing its leaves by planting it in the heat of summer...

in the mean time... i would .. depending how big its current pot is... repot it.. w/o root disturbance.. into at least a one gallon pot.. and put it in bright full shade ... the bigger the pot ... for holding over.. the easier it will be to maintain proper watering .. do not disturb the roots..

there are many professionals.. who can do all kinds of things this time of year.. you do not impress me as such [and i am impressed you have the wisdom to ask and learn] .. so i am trying to make it a easy and fail proof as i can ...

and as to watering.. it is a tree ... over watering... watering it like an annual or a perennial.. in a pot.. will rot the roots ... let it near dry in between watering... insert finger and find out ...


    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 9:30AM
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Thanks for the advice, I should have been more clear though.

This one NEEDS to stay in a pot, as I have no shady spot for it on..mother earth.

I just want to know how to keep it alive over winter in the pot, and if it's possible. Obviously I can't just bring it inside bc it needs a period of dormancy.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 10:03AM
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Welcome to the forum. So your maple needs to stay in a container and not planted in the ground, correct?

Couple of questions. First, what size is the current container and what type of soil is in the container? Next, do you have an unheated garage or shed to store the tree in over winter?



    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 12:07PM
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Honestly, I am not sure. I have not even received it yet. Hopefully will within the week. All I know is it is anywhere from 12-18 inches in height. I imagine it's in some crappy plastic container. I plan on putting it in a nicer pot, something glazed so it has a less chance of cracking in the winter.

Yes I have an unheated garage that prob gets in the high 50s during the winter. No light though.

I also have a shed outside with windows, it obviously would get very cold in there, but at least be protected from wind.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 12:12PM
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Oh sorry, I thought you already had the tree. Well in that case it's hard to give specific advice.

What I would do, if I planned to keep a tree in a container for a long time, is to purchase a large container that the tree can live in for at least a couple of years. Maple roots can get big in a hurry so the new container should be several times as large as the current one.

We don't know what soil it's in now but I personally would use a bark based soil mix and stay away from those big bags of potting soil sold at big box stores, especially if it will be in this container for a long time.

There is a thread on Garden Web called "Trees in Containers" that has much information on this topic and may answer many of your questions about soils and watering, etc.

Hope that helps


    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 12:33PM
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Isn't orchid mix similar to the type of mix you are talking about?

With bark and such?

Thank you. I will def check that thread out.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 12:58PM
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Also, should I stick the tree in the shed in the dead of winter? Would that be sufficient?

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 12:59PM
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BTW, ceramic or terra cotta containers can crack in winter due to freeze/ thaw cycles so take that into consideration.

When storing for winter you want a location where the temps will usually be between about 20F and 45F. If your garage gets up to mid-50s then then it will be too warm based on what I've read in books and here on GW. When the tree goes dormant in early winter it should stay that way until early spring.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 1:00PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Broadly speaking, you should put it in a soil that allows you to water correctly, which is the dividing line between appropriate and inappropriate soils, no small consideration.

How you fertilize depends on your soil choice and watering habits, but it will be very hard to beat a 3:1:2 ratio fertilizer ('ratio' is different and a more important consideration than just the raw NPK %s. 24-8-16, 12-4-8, 9-3-6 all have 3:1:2 ratios).

High 50s while over-wintering is too high as it will stimulate growth very early and impart resistance to chill significantly. Burying the container out of wind and sun for the winter would be better - like on the N side of a heated building. If the shed is wind tight so it holds lots of geo heat, you can use that, but again, you should avoid soil temperatures above 42* for as long as possible. Wrapping in a blanket won't do anything unless the insulation is being used to trap an extraneous source of heat. An example would be a cardboard box overturned so it covers the plant would trap geo heat rising through the garage floor. The same arrangement on a deck or balcony would be useless unless the balcony slab was a source of heat being conducted from inside the building.

You don't really need to do anything as far as repotting goes until spring, but you might want to pot up. Repotting and potting up are different. Potting up ensures your plant will always be limited by root congestion. Repotting and the accompanying root pruning eliminates the limits imposed by root congestion.


Here is a link that might be useful: Lots of good info here about trees in pots over the long term ...

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 1:08PM
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Not to beat a dead horse, but...

You said that you are containerizing it because you have no place in shade to plant the tree. Is the shade the limiting factor? Nothing wrong with growing a tree in a pot btw (half of my tropicals wanna be trees after all). The only reason I ask is because they can take full, midday sun as long as the summer climate is not too extreme. Mine gets an unobstructed, southern exposure in a humid, Zone 7 zone w.o. any problems.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 1:17PM
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Yes, what Al said... :)

Al is wise and well respected for his good advice so I would do what he suggested. I believe Al is the one that started the "Trees in Containers" thread.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 1:21PM
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Great info guys and thank you. I will most likely keep it in the shed over winter. I just want to make sure the soil is right. Is mixing pine bark and top soil sufficient? Or the orchid mix?

Also, the shade is not the only factor, I would just like to keep this one pot grown for awhile. Maybe someday plant it in the yard when it gets bigger.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 1:51PM
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For the soil I would do a search here on GW for Al's "gritty mix ". You will find many references to it. It's basically a blend of 3 different materials (pine or fir bark, Turface or DE, and granite) . The mixed product looks much like bonsai soil and it's perfect for growing trees in containers.

The gritty mix soil will last for several years at least. The bagged soil from the big box stores will break down very quickly.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 2:25PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Bark and topsoil is extremely difficult to grow in, in many cases under conventional container culture, a death sentence, unless you are set up so your 'pot' is actually a small raised bed, from a hydrologic perspective.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 8:21PM
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Maybe this is a complete newb question, (actually it is), but don't plants need nutrients from actual soil to survive? I don't need ANYTHING other than pine bark, chicken grit, and turface?


    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 10:50PM
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Jalcon : In addition to the bark, Turface, and granite you will need some form of fertilizer to provide nutrition to the tree. Any soil you use would need fertilizer of some type . The "Trees in Container" threads cover this in detail but you can buy fertilizer in liquid, water soluble, or control release forms.

As a reference you can find many images of the gritty mix by doing an internet search.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 7:32AM
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I thought I read that JM's don't like fertilizer much?

Would Foliage Pro 9:3:6 be sufficient? How often? Every time I water?


    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 9:01AM
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Yes Foliage Pro is probably the best fertilizer you can use. It is recommended by many over in the Container Gardening forum. There is also a thread in that forum discussing the use of FP (how much and how often) .


    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 9:16AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Jalcon - if you focus on your soil's structure instead of its ability to "feed" your plants, and shoulder the responsibility for your plants' nutritive needs, you'll be better off. If you get the soil right, watering and fertilizing plants in pots is monkey easy.

FWIW - I probably have 100-125 different species of trees in pots, many of them Acers, and I use the same fertilizer for ALL of them.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 1:15PM
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I certainly can not refute what happens in njoasis' yard, but in my zone 7b climate, Orange Dream burns very bad with the ~1-2 hours of noon sun it gets. It needs full shade at my house IMO, but, like you, I don't have any of that (yet)

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 2:59PM
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Just to add to Al's always excellent advice - I too grow a great number of trees in containers, most of which are JM's - I use a controlled release fertilizer (CRF) - Osmocote - when I first pot up and again at the beginning of each new growing season. I then supplement during the summer with a liquid now and again. For that I also use a Dyna Gro product (Liquid Grow rather than Foliage Pro) as it addresses the needs of ALL my plants, including the flowering and fruiting ones as well as the trees and shrubs. I may use only 3-4 times a season on the permanent tree plantings to supplement trace minerals - the Osmocote takes care of the primary nutrient needs for the entire season.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 3:23PM
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