The actually stately Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) from Japan can be cultivated in local areas thanks to miniature education in the tub. The prerequisite is that it is drawn in a certain way. The main difficulty with a bonsai lies in the maintenance, which relates in particular to the cutting / shaping. With the right instructions, it still works without any problems.
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Pull bonsai from cuttings
Bonsais are usually relatively expensive, so it can be worthwhile to rely on the propagation of an existing specimen from your own household or from friends / neighbors. The following details and procedures should be observed:
The best time to use cuttings from the mother plant for propagation is late spring to early summer at the latest between the end of May and the end of June. Here the new shoots have not yet matured and the cuttings, with their softness, offer optimal conditions. It is important to ensure that the cuttings have a maximum of slight lignification. Strongly lignified branches / shoots cannot be used as cuttings.
Preparation of the cutting
- Cut off soft, new shoots ten to 15 centimeters long
- The cut should run at an angle (serves as a larger area for moisture absorption)
- Leave two to three leaves on the shoot – remove the rest
- Shoots with very large leaves, cut the remaining ones in half (reduces moisture evaporation)
- Put the shoot with the cut side in rooting powder (has a root activator and promotes root growth)
Prepare the planter
- Fill the drainage layer made of gravel or quartz sand on the bottom of the vessel (drainage to avoid waterlogging)
- Fill the rest with special bonsai substrate
- Alternatively, lava granulate can also be used
- Insert the cuttings about two centimeters into the soil / granules
- Slightly moisten the soil / granules and do not over-wet under any circumstances
- Put translucent film over the planter (increases the humidity)
- Open the film briefly every day to allow air to be exchanged
- Keep the soil / granules evenly moist
- Location: bright and warm, but not in direct sun
- After about a week you should see slight growth
Growing bonsai from seeds
Anyone who decides to grow a Japanese maple as a bonsai for the seed method should know that a lot of patience is required because it takes at least three years for a sapling to develop from it.
In addition, there are no special bonsai seeds to buy. This is due to the fact that all bonsais come from their large mother trees and only become a bonsai through “education”. Nevertheless, the seeds of bonsai that have already been created are just as suitable. The seeds can be obtained from a tree / sapling or obtained from specialist retailers.
Sowing should be done in autumn if possible. It is important to know that the seeds can only germinate in winter. Theoretically, sowing is also possible at any other time of the year. However, winter conditions must then be created, which significantly increases the effort. In addition, the chances of success of germination are reduced because it is contrary to nature.
- A seed tray or a nursery pot is best for sowing
- The filling takes place in the same way as already described under “Cuttings – Planter preparation”
- Place seeds on the surface of the earth a little apart
- Cover the seeds with a one to two centimeter thick layer of soil (dark germinator)
- Press the earth lightly
- Water well and continuously
- Cover the seed tray / nursery pot with a translucent film (increases the moisture content and promotes germination)
- Location: bright with temperatures between 17 degrees Celsius and 23 degrees Celsius – no direct sunlight
- The first seedlings appear after four to ten weeks (the film must now be removed)
- Prick out: after around two months
Care in the bucket
When choosing a location, many hobby gardeners decide on “either – or” – “sunny or shady” when it comes to lighting conditions. This is why numerous bonsai trees do not thrive or even die properly. Basically, a Japanese maple bonsai should be treated differently than conventional plants due to its sensitivity. For this reason, the following location characteristics should be meticulously adhered to:
- Light conditions: sunny in spring and autumn without direct sunlight – partial shade in summer
- The Japanese maple is an outdoor plant and must be accordingly airy
- Protected from the wind, otherwise brown leaf tips will form
If a young bonsai is planted in the bucket or if it is an adult bonsai that should / has to be repotted, particular attention must be paid to the correct substrate. If you pay attention to the following criteria when buying substrate for a mini Japanese maple, the best conditions for healthy growth are created:
- Loose and permeable to water
- Containing clay or sand for better water storage
- pH between 4.5 and 7.0
Japanese maple bonsai have a high need for nutrients, so that the substrate “becomes outdated” relatively quickly. In addition, the substrate in buckets tends to compact quickly. This means that moisture and nutrients no longer get into the plant in sufficient quantities. Deficiency symptoms and death are usually the result. Repotting in fresh substrate is therefore unavoidable and, depending on the age of the plant, must be carried out as follows:
- Up to the age of ten: every one to two years
- From the age of ten: every five years
The bonsai is a shallow root. This means that its roots are spread out towards the sides near the surface of the earth. Accordingly, it should be poured over a wide area. There are a few rules to be followed when pouring:
- Water daily during the growth phase
- Avoid waterlogging by all means
- Always water evenly, as it does not tolerate changing dry and moist soil well
- Use low-lime irrigation water (stale tap water or rainwater)
- Keep leaves and shoots dry when watering, otherwise there is an increased risk of a fungal infection
Fertilizing Acer palmatum is only fertilized when it is a sapling. If the growing season begins in April, an organic fertilizer every two weeks will help it with sufficient nutrients. The last fertilization should take place at the end of August.
In the care of a bonsai, cutting is one of the most difficult / costly factors and must be carried out carefully in order to optimally shape / maintain the extraordinary shape of the Japanese maple. The particular problem here is heavy bleeding, which increases the risk of a fungal infection immensely. Small cuts can be made throughout the year, so a more extensive cut should only be made in autumn. Then the pressure of the sap is less and the Japanese maple no longer bleeds as much. In principle, cuts should still be treated with a wound closure. Charcoal or resin, for example, are suitable for this.The following editing dates and techniques should be adhered to:
- Spring: remove diseased and dead shoots
- Spring to autumn: cut off diseased and dead smaller plant parts as well as leaf cut and pinching for more beautiful branches
- Pinching: Remove the end of the shoots from the first pair of leaves
- Leaf cut every two years, partial leaf cut annually
- Autumn: Topiary and pruning (cut long shoots back to a maximum of two pairs of leaves)
- Winter: do not cut, also do not cut off any frozen parts of the plant
In order to bring the Japanese maple into shape or to stabilize it in shape, wiring is done in June – ideally after a leaf cut. Wiring works particularly well on lignified, thinner branches. Thick branches are wired under tension and may need to be rewired. A thicker leather should be placed between the wire and the branch so that the tension does not press the wire into the bark and lead to bleeding.
Young plants hibernate in a bucket best at frost-free temperatures in a bright, sunny place. Older specimens are hardy up to minus ten degrees Celsius. It should be noted here that frost has a much stronger effect on potted plants than on bedding plants. It is advisable to protect the roots of a Japanese maple grown in a bucket by placing straw, leaves or pine needles on the substrate surface. Since it is a shallow root, an insulating soil underlay is only required if the bonsai is planted in a shallow bowl that also stands on the ground. Styrofoam or a wooden board are then the ideal substrates.
The Japanese maple is also one of the robust plant species as a bonsai. He is susceptible to fungal infections, which are usually the result of improper care. This often leads to Verticillium wilt, which is often caused by open cuts. It can be recognized in the first instance by the blackened interfaces. There is currently no promising fight. It is advisable to immediately remove the Japanese maple from neighboring plants and dispose of it in the household waste so that the fungus cannot spread any further.
Good care also includes pest control. From spring onwards, aphids in particular cause problems for the Acer palmatum. Insecticides, which are offered as sprays and sticks for the substrate, promise quick remedies. If the infestation is mild, a shower is usually sufficient to get rid of the aphids.
As a bonsai, the Japanese maple is a little demanding in terms of care and is not one of the easy-care specimens. Nevertheless, with the tips mentioned here and the professional care and growing instructions, a bonsai can bring joy for many years and even inexperienced hobby gardeners can immerse themselves in the world of bonsai.