Japanese Maple - planting in pot question

jalconAugust 1, 2014

Hey all, I just bought an Orange dream japanese maple. It is roughly 24" tall. You can see a picture below. I plan on planting it in a nicer pot, in Al's gritty mix.

My questions are,

1.) When I take it out of the container it is in, do I shake off all of the old soil before.putting it in its new gritty mix?

2.) How often do I water?

3.) In the winter, I plan on putting it the shed to protect it from wind ect. It'll still be freezing in there. Do I water it in the winter anyway?


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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

1.) Yes, at least mostly. If you are going to keep it in a pot and use Al's mix, you should remove at least 90% of the current medium. I would only leave what mix is attached after a decent shake. Do not remove the medium that they roots are "stuck to" (where probably finer root hairs are growing through the medium).

2.) That depends on many factors (size of container, size of plant, drainage properties of potting medium, temperature, relative humidity, etc, etc, etc). The only way to tell for sure is to check the medium for moisture levels. A finger works great for that. I will say that, with Al's mix, which is fairly well-draining, you probably will have to water very frequently. A large volume of mix compared to the size of the plant might help a little, but won't allow you to go for extended periods. Typically, around here in summer, I water most outside potted plants at least once per day.

3.) Yes, your plant will still need water! In zone 6, you really probably won't have to take it in. I could see some weird weather event, like we've been having lately (very late freezes after significant warm up in spring, etc), make taking it in a good idea.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 9:06PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

The pot it is in now is way too small, when you uncoil the roots you will find that it will need a much bigger pot. You will probably have to use a stick or something else to hold the roots open while you fill the new pot.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 10:43PM
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Thanks guys, I appreciate it. As for fertilizer, I plan on using Dyna-Gro Foliage Pro. Do I use it every time I water? Do I use it in the winter?


    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 11:43AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i hope you arent jamming it in that pot ... needs to be at least 4 times bigger...

and i would skip a clay pot.. i killed hundreds of plants in such.. the pot itself messes with proper watering ... use a plastic pot ... and set the plastic pot in a clay pot.. if you like the look ... its called 'pot in pot' ....

and it is stressed enough.. no fert until next spring.. IF you get it to live thru winter ... which is its own set of problems ...


    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 12:20PM
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You are making it seem impossible to do something hundreds have done, no?

The container in the photo is the one it came in.

A clay pot will kill plants? Can you elaborate? What makes a plastic pot inside a clay one sufficient?

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 1:10PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

FWIW, I saw an incredibly huge plastic pot at a big blue box store today for less than $10. About as round as my cart.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 1:37PM
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A clay pot is fine :-)) A glazed ceramic pot (frost proof) even better. I have some of my larger containered JM's in plastic pots.......just easier to move around when necessary than a heavy ceramic pot but not nearly as fetching :-))

I would use a CRF (like Osmocote) when I potted it up. That should get you through the rest of the season. It IS important to fertilize containered plants, even newly planted ones. There is minimal nutrient content in potting mix of any kind and every time you water, you leach what is there out. It has to be replaced somehow. I dose all my containered trees and other permanent plantings with Osmocote when they get potted up and again at the beginning of each planting season. I also supplement with a liquid Dyno Gro product periodically during the summer months.

In zone 6, I would definitely provide some winter protection. Japanese maple roots can be damaged at around 25F and without a mass of insulating soil around them, containered trees are especially vulnerable.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 2:16PM
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I agree that the container is too small. One missed watering on a day in the 90's and it'll respond fast enough. Also, with a large container, daily (and seasonal temps), will not fluctuate as dramatically. In a container large enough, the tree might not require winter protection.

P.S., I have maintained one cold hardy tree in a container outside yearround for a few years now.It's a weeping, Atlas Cedar and I use a half whiskey barrel (was cheap enough). Though in the Fall it goes into the ground.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 3:05PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

I'd protect the pot in zone 6 in winter at least due to what gardengal mentioned.

Couple things to do in winter with the tree (I'd do this around the time the leaves have all fallen):

1. Garage or shed - if you can be reasonably assured that it would be neither too cold (below about the 25F gardengal mentioned), or too warm (to cause it to try to break dormancy too early) - I'd say keep it between 28F and 45F.

2. Dig a hole just as deep as the pot in the ground, and sink it in - right to as deep as the lip of the pot. The TOP of the tree can handle zone 6 winters, it's the roots you want to protect. Sinking it into the ground will simulate the effect of the roots being in the ground.

3. Mulch around the pots with leaves, bark, etc.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 2:39PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I agree with Ken. The clay pot in the picture is way to small, will not make it though freezing temperatures in winter, and will wick moisture away, unnecessarily. The advantage of a plastic pot inside a clay pot is for aesthetics. If you really prefer the look of a clay pot, you can hide the plastic pot inside a slightly larger clay pot.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 9:42PM
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Lol, the "pot" in the picture is a $0.20 plastic one it was shipped in. It's going in a much larger pot.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 10:38PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

The round pot sure looks like a clay pot. I can't imagine that you repotted into the square black plastic one. That doesn't make sense to me.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 11:02PM
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Lol....ahh sorry for the confusion. I just sat the black plastic pot in that clay pot for the day because it was windy and it helped it not blow over. Lol. I can see why you thought that. I forgot that clay pot was even in the picture.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 8:55AM
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Finally potted her up today.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 11:52PM
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Soooo......yeah basically ever since I planted this thing in the new "gritty mix", it has gone downhill. ..and fast. It appears to be drying out. Some leaves are actually getting curling and getting crispy. I water every day. .the water goes from the top of the pot and is already draining out the bottom in mere seconds. I watered it around 10 today.it looked bad., I thought..ok..I need to water this even more. So I gave it another drink around 6. Just looked at it again and now it looks like it's straight up dying. I don't get it. Followed the gritty mix directions to a T. It was doing great in the "tiny" black container it was in when i had it for the first two weeks. Now that its in a "proper" mediym, and a large pot..it's dying. It's in shade, outside on my patio. What could possibly be wrong? Someone help! Al?

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 11:33PM
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    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 8:42AM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

I see a few problems.
The tree has a lot of narrow crotches and a lot of foliage for the size of the rootball. Al's mix is draining too fast and the rootball is drying out, even in the shade.
I would cut it back to just below the top of the stake and go from there. That would reduce the amount of transpiration so the rootball can keep up with the water lost through the leaves.
Another problem I see is that the top of the pot curves in. That could make it difficult to remove the rootball when you want to pot it up to a larger pot. Been there, done that.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 1:39PM
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Thanks for the response. I wish I could take a picture of it as it is now but I'm at work.

I will say this. The leaves that are REALLY drying out and curling and almost becoming "crispy" are the bottom half of the leaves from the soil line to around 8 inches up. Don't get me wrong, none of the leaves look good..but those are the worst. Also...the rootball, is not much of a rootball. It's fairly small compared to the tree IMO. I can surely try what you said though.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 2:07PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Cutting it back at planting (although generally not a good idea) or partially defoliating (although often unnecessary, but much better than pruning), might have made a difference. After the damage has been done and leaves have been abandoned, pruning is highly unlikely to help. At this point, I would NOT try pruning it (or even further defoliating it). I would keep watering and hope that the plant overcomes the shock. I have seen that happen many times and had plants that looked hopeless come back to life. If it were me, at this point, I'd just continue to water it frequently and see what happens.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 10:07PM
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Honestly, everytime I water it, it looks even worse than before I did. Maybe I'm over watering it?

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 10:38PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I doubt it, UNLESS you left the original rootball largely intact. IF that's the case, you MIGHT have a perched water table situation going on.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 11:04PM
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Do you have a moisture meter?
Go to any big box store, even Walmart, after work one night, and buy a moisture meter and Quick Start.
Quick start will help withthe transplant shock.
The moisture meter is essential to see what is going on at the root level.
To be honest, watering it twice a day sounds not too good.
Put the end of the moisture meter down right into the root ball, and see what it tells you.
Follow directions on the container for the Quick Start, it will definately help.
Sorry about the tree drying out, don't give up, it will be ok.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 11:45PM
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