Many people enjoy the beauty of Japanese Maple trees, but some folks don’t have room for another tree in their landscape, or they may be apartment dwellers who don’t have a yard.
Fortunately for these folks, there are many dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties of Japanese Maples that can be grown quite well in containers.
Any Japanese Maple can be grown in a pot, but the smaller varieties have naturally smaller root systems and will reside more happily in a container. Larger varieties, such as Bloodgood, will quickly outgrow a pot and would need to be transplanted often to larger and larger pots.
If you want to grow a Japanese Maple in a pot, look for dwarf varieties such as Butterfly, Hoshi kuzu, Pixie, Red Elf or Waterfall. There are many more dwarf varieties that can be grown in a pot.
Next, choose an appropriate pot for your Japanese Maple. It should be large enough for the rootball to fit comfortably, with plenty of space between the pot and the rootball.
The pot you choose must provide good drainage. Plastic pots work well as they are lightweight and will not crack if frozen in the winter. Avoid terra cotta pots as they will crack when frozen.
If the pot is to be kept on a deck, it should be elevated slightly so water can drain from the pot without damaging the deck.
Here’s a good recipe for potting soil: http://freeplants.com/ingredients-for-potting-soil.htm
Plant your tree at the same depth it was at in the nursery pot and keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Fertilize the potted plant weekly with half-strength liquid fertilizer from spring through mid-summer, and stop fertilizing after the end of July.
Avoid keeping your potted Japanese Maple in a hot, sunny place or where it will get a lot of wind. They prefer morning or late afternoon sun, with shade during midday.
Japanese Maples should be overwintered outdoors so the trees can go dormant in the winter. Keep in mind that potted plants lose at least one, if not two zones of cold hardiness because
of the cold air circulating around the pot and the plant’s roots. Keep the plant outdoors, but in cold climates bury the pot in the ground over winter if you can.
Japanese Maple roots will be damaged if the temperature drops below 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dear Mike. Thank you again for all your knowledge. I know you prefer Japanese maples to be planted in the ground, and we have five planted in the ground but last year we got this little Orangeola for our porch and it had some trouble when we received it but I trimmed all the first leaves and second round of leaves were breathtaking. In the early spring it budded but then we had some surprise snow in late April. It has completely not sprung any leaves and now it’s starting to be yellow around parts of the branches where smaller branches grow.
I haven’t fertilized this one at all. At any point.
I have done the “scratch test” and removed the couple of tips of branches that were (seemed) plain dead.
I am wondering a couple things:
Does the plant maybe just need a new, slightly bigger pot with some fresh, new (more nutrient rich) soil (perhaps it’s used up the nutrients?).
Should I try to mix the slightest amount (like a spoon full) maple fertilizer in this new soil (if it’s a good idea at all).
Do you think the damage is frost-related?
Any other advice?
All the best and THANK YOU 🙂
PS We’re in zone 5 (upstate ny)
At this point I think it needs time to hopefully make new buds. But I would not fertilize a struggling Japanese maple.
Thank you, Mike.
Does it make sense to re-pot it? It’s been in a 3 gallon container for a year (and it was beauuuuutiful in the fall). But I am wondering if it needs more nutrients/a bigger pot/some new soil.
Or is it best to leave it in the rather small pot for now, you think? 🙂
Thanks so much for all your generous advice and help to all of us 🙂
A larger pot with good soil would help.
Mike. I live in zone 7a New Jersey.. this is my first winter. I have several japanese maples i acquired this year mostly 1 and 2 gallons. I keep them in containers. My soil mix is half pine bark and half 3 parts potting soil. It. Average Temps are usually in tge 30 degree range. It does get in the 20s. I placed 2 to 3 inches of much on top. Is that enough.? Do I need to do more?
Is it fatal if the dirt in the pot freezes or is that normal? Thanks in advance
Having the soil in the pots freeze is really not an issue. But allowing the soil to dry then freeze, that’s a huge problem. Most growers cover all of their plants in hoop houses with white plastic for the winter if they are in containers. I am not a huge fan of trying to keep plants in containers for very long. Especially over the winter, especially Japanese maples. But you never really know how they are going to fare.
Love your videos
Dale Chambers says
I live in Ft. Worth, Texas, where it can get really hot, 110-113 in the summer and sometimes, 13 degrees
in the winter but more often mid 20’s temp in the winter.
Im looking for a dwarf Japanese red maple tree for a 30″hi x22″wide pot. I would be in an area where it
would be exposed to the sun.
1. Would be a suitable (doable) weather conditions?
2. Do you sale dwarf Japanese red maple or something comparable for bonsai type maple?
I would also be open to cuttings.
In your climate a Japanese maple would need at least 50% shade and a Laceleaf Weeping Variety with cut leaves would really struggle. See this; https://japanesemaplelovers.com/growing-japanese-maples-in-hot-climates/
Roxanne Villar says
I live in Southern California zone 9 and have an 8 month bloodgood japanese maple on a ceramic pot. How often do I water during the winter time and how much water? When do I start fertilizing?
The potting soil should be really well drained so you should be able to water more often. How often? When the soil starts to get dry. Use a slow release fertilizer like Osmocote in the spring. One tablespoon should last 3 to 4 months.
I live in Chicago and dont have a lot of space to plant a Red Maple, but would love to keep it on a pot. What’s the best way to keep it alive during the cold winter, besides planting the pot in the ground?
A very large pot placed in a protective area.
Mike, I would so appreciate a good online source for large resin pots for Japanese maples. I’m having a hard time finding any with an Asian aesthetic.
I really don’t know, maybe here https://potsplantersandmore.com/
I’d love to plant my Japanese maple in the ground but the only space I have to garden is a concrete terrace. I bought a large container, 22″ diameter for a young 3′ inaba shidare. I am hoping all of the extra soil will provide good insulation for the roots. Should I cover the tree in burlap during a freeze or just wrap the container? It is in a sheltered location next to my building. Last year we had some late frosts here in Austin. Thank you.
I really see no advantage to covering the tree with burlap. People do it, but I don’t think it helps anything at all. Your tree should be fine.
I’m so glad to stumble upon this site and hope you can help our plants. We digged out two Japanese maple from a friend’s yard, one about 2 feet, the other a baby size. We don’t have a yard so we’ve been trying to grow them in containers on our northwest facing covered deck. Both of them lost their leaves during this hot summer (Philadelphia). The small one was sprouting new leaves when suddenly over night, the new sprouts went droopy and lifeless. The stalk and branches start to look white and I’m afraid it’s dead. The large one is now sprouting new leaves, but I noticed some of the leaves are slightly curling downward instead of upward. I’m not sure if I’m overwatering it, and definitely don’t know how much water to give it. The soil is wet, and the pot might be on the bigger side. I really want this one to survive. Please let me know what you suspect this is. Thanks!
Water as needed but the soil in the containers need to drain well. I think they might have dried out at some point. This is how you test to see if a plant, or a branch on a plant has died. Just scratch the bark of your plants with your finger nail. If the tissue below the bark is green and firm your plants are fine. If the tissue is brown and mushy that part of the plant is dead.
We have a Yuri Hime, Murasaki Kyohime, and 2 Sharp’s Pygmies in pots. The Sharps and Yuri Hime are plastic pots and the Kyohime is in a concrete pot. Don’t have a lot of wind here. We’re in Northwest Arkansas on the border of 6a and 6b. Is it ok to leave them out over the winter or do we need to bring them in the garage?
I’m a big fan of plants in the ground when possible. Outside is probably better than the garage but the garage might work if you keep them watered.
Heath Allen says
I’d like to keep them outside so our rock garden doesn’t look empty. Bottom line is I’m concerned about their health in the winter. This will be their first winter with us.
I’m in northern Ohio and my Japanese maples do fine outside most winters. When it goes down to ten or twenty below? They get damaged, but most survive. It’s the chance you take as a Japanese maple lover. Sometimes when you over care for, over protect plants we do more harm than good. It’s your call.
Hi Mike. We have a Japanese Maple that’s been in the same large pot for 15+ years. For the past 8 it’s been in full sun, and always did fine except for light leave dropping in very hot summers.
We’ve had quite a bit of rain lately here in Virginia, but now we’re having a heat wave of 90-100. Martin’s leaves (yes we named him lol) have suddenly all browned and are dropping. There are a few red leaves left, and a healthy sprout coming up at his trunk base.
I was just considering putting him in the ground. Is he just reacting to the heat, or have we pushed him too far in the pot?
I’d say too long in the pot. Plants love to be in the ground. Plant it and hope for the best.
Afraid you’d say that. Should I wait until fall, or just try now assuming it won’t last another summer potted?
I’d plant it now, disturb the roots a little that are circling the container. Don’t plant it too deep, don’t put it in a wet area and don’t fertilize it.
I just bought a dwarf Japanese Maple and it looks really weak, skinny and quite tiny. The lady at the garden centre where I bought it said it was healthy but just a baby and that’s why it looks like that. I want to plant it in my front yard that gets lots of sun for most of the day but because it is so tiny and skinny, I am afraid it will die in the winter and with the neighbours’ kids running around. Can I keep it in the plastic pot it came in and put it on the backyard steps for a couple of years before planting it in my front yard to give it a chance to fill up and strengthen up a bit? Or what do you suggest to ensure it’s growth and survival?
I wouldn’t put in full sun yet, but I’d rather see it in the ground in a partly shady area. Caring for plants in pots is not easy. After two years in the ground move to it’s final place. Move it only after Thanksgiving or in very early spring before it leafs out. Moving it during the growing season will kill it.
I bought 2 beautiful japanese maples a few months ago and potted them. They get sunlight most of the day, – lots of sun late afternoon. I live in La Mesa California ( San Diego). I noticed when we had a very hot spell here many of the leaves dried up. I was watering once a week. I see the the leaves are still drying out on the edges. What is wrong? Do I need more water?
Oh I forgot to add they were in their original pots but I finally planted them in new soil and bigger pots. Leaves still turning.
Please let me know what you think. How can I tell when to water? Do I fertilize?
Potted plants are typically watered really well at least once a day. The potting soil must drain well. Do not fertilize plants that are under stress.
Ted Williams says
How close to the house can I plant a bloodgood maple tree plus I want to keep it 10 feet max in height and about 5 feet in width. Thanks
I’d say 8′ but 10 to 12 feet would be better.
Coral Lescke says
I received a Bloodgood Japanese Maple from someone who had just recently dug it up out of their yard. They had purchased it but then decided it did not go with their yard. I live in San Jose, California, it has recently been cold, down to 35 at night. Should I repot this in a pot until summer or should I get it in the ground as soon as possible. The is not much dirt around the root ball. Any tips to help me insure it survives is appreciated. Thank you.
I’d plant it right away. Do not plant it in a wet area, do not plant it too deep, top of the roots at ground level, no deeper and do not fertilize it.
H. Le says
I bought a Viridis JM last summer and transfered it to a pot in the fall.
In the winter I kept it in the unheated garage and everything seems going good. I watered moderatey only 2 times in the winter. Early April it starting to leaf out and still going good until a week ago I decided to give it a little water again and now it looks like the leaves are wilting and dying. Not only the leaves but also the flower seeds. Also noted some of the branches getting browness color and the new grow branches getting soft and wilting.
Is this a sign of my VIRIDIS JM is dying?
Just so you know, I brought it outside last night May 11/2017 (the tempetature was about +6-8 degree Celcius), left it in front of the porch. I live in Toronto, Canada.
I also have a Crimson Queen JM in a pot and still keeping it in the garage but it is thriving, leafing out so good but not my VIRIDIS JM.
Do you have any idea why my VIRIDIS is like this Mike? Any advises would be greatly appreciates Mike.
I don’t want it to die. Love its color in the fall.
My other Red Dragon & Orangeola JM in the ground at the front & backyard are doing well.
It’s possible that it dried out in the garage over the winter. Often times winter damage doesn’t show up until the tree starts growing in the spring. It’s possible it was too wet in the pot if the soil did not drain well enough. I’m not a big fan of storing plants inside. All of my Japanese maples, even really small ones, spend the winter outside planted in the ground and they do fine unless of course it just gets way too cold for Japanese maples but I’ve only seen that happen twice in 30 years. At this point I’d plant it and hope for the best. No fertilizer, just give it time to recoup.
Mike, I’ve got one very large Japanese Maple in front of my house and each year the seeds fall and germinate. Hundreds of them. I’ve thought of moving the seedlings to pots or a large planter box or area out back since I’ve got a little over an acre. Every year the same thing happens and all I see when I look at the seedling or the seeds covering the driveway pathways and flower beds is money. Do you have any suggestions how I could take advantage of this opportunity staring me in the face?
Just collect those seedlings and plant them in a bed and grow them for one season then you can sell them. We have members, http://backyardgrowers.com/join, looking for them all the time. You could also collect seeds and grow them in flats etc. See our Japanese maple site, http://japanesemaplelovers.com/
Cheryl S says
I just purchased a beautiful Bloodgood Japanese maple for my office. It has been doing very well, but I recently noticed the leaves are starting to turn from red to green. Is that normal?
Green leaves on a red Japanese maple are usually a sign of not enough sunlight, especially on a true Bloodgood Japanese maple. It’s fairly common for some seed grown Japanese maples to have red leaves in the early spring then losing that color as time goes on. That’s why bloodgood is such a big hit. It shouldn’t do that.
Cheryl S says
Thank you so much for your help! Just found and LOVE your website
Nancy Fleck says
I live in Illinois and would want to grow the japanese maples in pots. I don’t have much room to put them in my unheated garage during the winter, but have a huge basement area. Would I be able to put my potted plants in the basement and would it be cold enough in the winter to keep them dormant?
The answer is no, they are much better off outside than inside. Just bury the pots in the ground for the winter, that should be fine. Me? I truly like to see them planted in the ground.
Nancy Fleck says
Thank you for your informative post. I read somewhere that critters can eat on the plants outside, so thought that if they were in the basement in winter they would be better protected from animals. How would you protect the plants from animals outside in the winter?
Chicken wire fenceing is a good way to protect plants outside. Plants outside are still far better off than a plant in the basement. In the basement the plants will break dormancy then all kinds of bad things will happen to them.
Nancy Fleck says
Do you mean by putting a fence around the plants with chicken wire?
Thank you for your help.
Either putting up a fence or wrapping the chicken wire about the plant itself to keep things from eating it.
Hi…I have a few seedlings that are growing under the Japanese Maple. Is there any way to protect them through the winter? Every year there are a few that are growing but by the next spring they have died. I live in central Illinois. I would love to have a few to transplant into other areas of the yard. Thanks for your help:) patti
Once those seedlings are dormant, any time now, you can dig them out and plant them in a more protected area, or in your garden. They should be fine outside as long as they are planted in the ground. The problem is that seedling such as these often germinate late in the growing season and never have a chance to get any size to them or to harden off for the winter. If you grew them from seed in a controlled situation which dictates an earlier germination date them do much better.
joann kroes says
I would like to know how to winter over rooted cuttings I planted in your $5.97 size pots. I am in Racine,wi. so is snow cover enough in watered pots, or do I have to do more.? I The roots are established well, they are in a protected shady spot that gets rain, or snowI have over 200 or more, also what do I do with the fall cuttings in sand for winter keep? do I just leave them out also? thanks
This is always the million dollar question. Especially in your cold zone. All my plants, and my rooted cuttings stay outside uncovered. My container areas are slightly below grade so the pots don’t catch a lot of wind. The ideal thing is a mini hoop house, https://mikesbackyardnursery.com/2013/11/over-wintering-protecting-plants-for-the-winter/. Leaving them uncovered is really a calculated risk. And of course it depends on what you are growing. If it’s plenty hardy in your zone and it stay moist but not wet it’s probably okay they way you have them.
So I’ve got a bunch of seedlings all different. Some red and some green. Most are 18 to 24″” tall. A couple closer to 36″”. What do I do with them now?
Put them in a sheltered place, outside for the winter, don’t let them dry out. You can sell them in the spring, or you can graft to them. We constantly have people in our members area looking for seedlings that they can grow and sell and green ones that they can graft onto. http://backyardgrowers.com/join
Mike, what can I do for my Japanese Maples that have sun burned leaves? Will they die or just be ugly?
They’ll be fine, not much you can do now, just water, but only if the roots are dry. Next spring when the new leaves come out they’ll look great.
Thanks Mike, I really like your videos, etc. I have learned much from you.
Wade Webster says
Very educational. I’m an enthusiast and am glad I found. this site.
Thanks and I will be utilsing you for advice.
Hi my name is Eric. I work in Long Island, New York at a school district we recently installed a greenhouse and I thought it would be great to grow bloodgood Japanese maples I now have 7 that are doing very well. but my question is do they need a cold cycle like winter. I know that oak trees wood hardens in winter for stability I would hate to grow these beautiful trees for the kids just to have them fall over when planted? as you can tell I’m a novice at this and any information would be greatly appreciated
thank you for your time
Yes, Bloodgood Japanese maple trees do need a cold period, they do need to go dormant for the winter to rest. Ideally they are best outside in a protected area. If you move them out now they will harden off slowly to prepare themselves for the coming freezing weather. When you move them out a little shade might be order at first. When small they are a tad sun sensitive.
so would you recommend a cold frame or just out in the open in part shade?
Shade is always beneficial for small Japanese maple trees.
Mike thank you for your time and expertise I really appreciate it.