A few JM questions

Discussion in 'Maples' started by Dsm1gb, Oct 27, 2018.

  1. Dsm1gb

    Dsm1gb Member

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    Hi everyone, it’s fall here and I have a few questions regarding Japanese maples so that I am better prepared for next year.

    I’m having a difficult time identifying if my potted maples are getting too much water or not enough. A lot of my mail ordered maples came in the heat of the summer, and the leaves end up shriveling up, some push out the second set of leaves and they are doing good for a while, and then those leaves dry up leaving the tree leafless. For the maples leaves that fell off twice and are just waiting with no leaves in the end of summer/fall ; will they be coming back in the spring? Or is my tree done for? I ordered a few in the fall and haven’t really messed with them they are doing great. Could this be a soil problem?

    I only heavily soak them in the heat once every 3-4 days waiting until the water drains out of the bottom of the pot. When I notice they are shriveling sometimes I give them more water thinking I underwateree them, but they end up worse. If they like to be moist and it’s very dry and hot here how do I determine the perfect amount? Is underwatering really better? I’ve also noticed that sometimes the top of the soil looks very dry, but if I were to pull the tree out of its pot and look lower, it’s actually more damp. Does too much mulch also affect the trees breathing ability?

    Also I have a few maples which turned black. Ive tried to cut off below the black and it just keeps spreading down to the trunk... I’ve pretty much realized these are goners.

    How often should my leaves be shriveling up? Should I be using some kind of root stimulant when planting or transplanting?

    Thanks for any information
     
  2. Margot

    Margot Active Member

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    It would help to have little more information about your maples before trying to determine what you should do next.
    • were the trees in pots when you received them or where they bare-rooted?
    • how tall are they?
    • what size pots are they in now?
    • just how hot was it when you got them?
    • did the soil dry out between watering?
    • how many trees do you have?
    I think you could have watered those potted trees daily without overwatering them, so long as the drainage was good. They would probably have benefitted from misting the leaves as well. If they are still alive, they must surely be very stressed. It would be encouraging if new buds are swelling now, ready to open next spring. If you have doubts that they are still alive, you could scratch a short strip of bark - enough to see if the cambium layer below is green, which it should be. I would not give up hope until next spring to see if new leaves emerge.

    I have no suggestions regarding the maples that have turned black except to keep them away from the others in case the problem is contagious.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2018
  3. chimera

    chimera Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    They like acidic soil and cool roots.
     
  4. Dsm1gb

    Dsm1gb Member

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    Some of them came potted, some of them came wrapped in a bag (with soil)

    They are 3-5 year old trees, anywhere from 36-48” tall in 2-3 gallon pots

    Some I’ve put into 5 gallon pots, some I left in there original containers.

    It’s was anywhere from 90-103 degrees when I got a lot of them, it does cool down a lot at night here though. When it gets that hot I usually keep them in the shade.

    The soil on top dries out, if I put my finger further down they seemed damp, not wet underneath not sure how damp or dry it should be.

    I have about around 70 maples, but around 50 potted. Not all of them end up this way though.

    I want to work on the drainage for next year so I’m hoping to do some root pruning and repotting here in the next few months. Also was going to try a layer of rocks at the bottom of the pot.

    Here are some pictures for reference. Before and after, also most of my leaves are losing there leaves now anyway, but this was happening much earlier before fall.
     

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  5. Dsm1gb

    Dsm1gb Member

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    2BBC8C45-422B-4338-B60B-A576BF4F5C5A.jpeg

    This is the main soil I use, along mixing it up with wood chips, and pool filter sand.
     
  6. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    From what I see your maples are getting too dry. When the soil gets too dry it's ability to let water down into the roots is decreased dramatically. Water then runs off the surface and down the inside of the pot walls and very little goes into the top 1/3 where all the feeder roots are and where the moisture is most needed.

    This can be further complicated when soil is placed too deeply (more than 1/2") on the surface roots. Remember mulch and soil are two very different things. Soil should never be used in place of mulch. Mulch allows air and moisture through while keeping roots cool (as long as it's not shredded mulch as shredded tends to Matt together much like soil). Soil dries and becomes like a lid on the roots driving water away and down the pot walls.

    You end up with a situation where the bottom roots are moist but the most important roots (top 1/3) are being starved of moisture and oxygen.

    With Japanese maples, the moment you see signs of drought stress, the tree is telling you it should have been watered 2 days ago. This stress is usually slow to show itself and its just the edge of the damage that is already done. So when you water the damage continues to reveal itself over the next few days to a week that most times confusing the person into thinking it's too much water. The key is to keep up with watering before the level of stress is reached that causes damage.

    I may get to the point of watering container grown maples every few days but that is usually October for me. When temperature is above mid 70's it's every day. When it's above 90 it can be twice a day with those that are near hard surfaces like brick, stone, or concrete.

    The key is to water just as the surface soil begins to look dry. If it looks dry beyond two days, that's when the surface soil becomes so dry that it will no longer let water through. At this point you need to slow water down your line of containers and then start over again once you hit the last one as by then the surface of the first one has become saturated enough to let the water start to penetrate into the roots below. So really when you go a day too long it actually takes twice as long to water or even longer as it takes time to re hydrate the surface soil so that it accepts water again.

    At this point you need to remove all the excess soil away from the surface roots. Then use a pencil tip to stick into the roots about 1" (half way between the pot wall and trunk at the 12,3,6,9 o'clock positions). Give them a slow watering with 30-45 second pauses to let water soak into the soil again (otherwise you are just waisting water as it rolls off the surface and along the pot walls.

    Then add 1.5" of mulch. I prefer pine bark mulch that is double ground into 1/4" thick chips that are about 1-1.5" wide and long. I have also used stone the size of pea gravel and pine straw as mulch. Always use aged mulch in my opinion. I do not care for the Scott's mulch as it's just ground up shipping pallets that are dyed. It tends to Matt together and cause fungus as it breaks down.

    A more involved process would be to re pot the maples. Remove all the surface soil till you hit the matt of fine roots below the surface. Take the root ball and submerge it into a 5 gallon bucket with the entire root ball under water and let all the air bubbles exit the root ball. Rough up the sides and bottom of the root ball. Then re pot rewatering the soil exery few inches to make sure the soil can settle as you add it between the root ball and pot walls. Once you reach the top of the root ball. Break up some very fine soil and cover any exposed surface roots about 1/4" water and cover only any exposed roots, again never more than 1/4" above the roots. Then mulch 1.5" and water again to ensure the mulch is completely moistened.

    Let me know if you have any questions.

    The trees with bark that is showing off color, grey and black probably will not make it through the winter. Do these last. Put your efforts into the healthy trees first if you decide to re pot.

    Poor attempt at showing the correctly potted maple and one poorly done with too much soil on top of the roots. Not my best work and not quite to scale.
     

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    Last edited: Oct 29, 2018
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  7. Margot

    Margot Active Member

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    Another way to ensure potted plants get thorough watering - especially when they have dried out too much - is to submerge the entire pot in a larger container of water, wait until all the bubbles stop rising to the top of the soil; then remove and drain thoroughly.
     
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  8. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    Absolutely! Those trug tubs or flex tubs sold for laundry work great for us as they tend to give the width you need. We do this with everything we plant too, works great with perennials and almost eliminates transplant shock. "Dunk method" of planting. It's amazing how many air bubbles come out of something that looks watered.
     

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  9. ROEBUK

    ROEBUK Well-Known Member Maple Society

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    If those were my trees i would re pot the vast majority of them dependent on the current health , the ones with the black and coloured branches " bye bye" or as we say in Yorkshire ( thee waint get noweer flogging't ded hoss )

    A good heavy root prune is required new growing medium with Mychorrhizal powder or granules liberaly placed on to the wet root ball, then placed into the new medium with heavy pine bark nuggets on the bottom to help with drainage (wouldn't use rocks) into a pot at least two sizes larger from the one it's just been removed from eg: 8ltr to 10ltr , 10 to 12 etc etc

    I have found over the years when i bring new trees into the garden from nurseries i never know how long they have been sitting in poly tunnels or how old the growing medium is, so at the earliest oppertunity without causing shock to the tree i change over the plant/tree, root prune and place in new medium and just water accordingly all of my potted trees are all in the same growing medium

    Some pics of a Peve chameleon i did last year and its progress this year , did over 12 different cultivars in the same way from 10 to 50 ltr containers also and all of these trees have shown tremendous new growth with super spring and fall colours, if you are growing large quantities of containerised trees you must get used to the fact that you have to go through this process at least every 3/4 years

    The last two pics are from today already starting with my winter maintenence pruning etc so that next year i will get more central growth without the long leaders which won't contribute any thing more to this tree now , need the energy in the middle now and not the top want to keep it with a nice bushy form and balance with the pot.
     

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  10. Margot

    Margot Active Member

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    Besides all the good information, I love that bit of wisdom - thee waint get noweer flogging't ded hoss - right out of All Creatures Great and Small.
     
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  11. Michigander

    Michigander Member

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    I have difficulty believing you have 70 maples alive in your climate without having a better understanding of Maples. This IS NOT a nasty swipe at you, it is bewilderment. And especially, amazement. How much shade do you have? How much can you possibly have? It seems to me that Bishop would be approximately Hell for JPM's, and they should almost never see direct sun where you are. In Detroit, my potted trees are watered every day in summer, ~late April through September/October, and are in indirect light, ~bright shade. Yard trees are also under-story trees and they need to have their trucks protected from too much direct south or west sun in early spring to avoid trunk bark splitting when sap freezes overnight after a warm day. Needless to say, there are only so many places in my yard that I can position a tree to obtain that kind of protection.

    Before I go much further, I concur with almost all of the above advice. Basically, if you have a proper soil in the pot, and the pot has holes, you can't over-water a maple. In your climate, which I bet is aggravated by dry Foehn winds characteristic of the west sides of mountains, watering every 3 or 4 days would normally be considered a death sentence for the delicate, very thin leaves of JPM. They should never wilt.

    I don't want to condemn commercially available mixes of "potting soil", but they leave a lot to be desired. It usually contains ground up paper from recycling, which I suppose is commendable, but it contains too big of a percentage of this paper which keeps the soil soggy, and it compacts, which is never good. Peat moss falls into the same category, but worse: it is either wet, or when it gets dry, it gets very, very hard to wet out. Water rolls off it, and you have add water several times before it begins to soak in. The commercial potting soils also contain some percentage of styrofoam beads which I suspect is also a clever way of recycling coffee cups. They grind it up, put it in your bag of potting soil as an aggregate that is lighter than gravel, and ipso presto, recycle coffee cups in everybody houseplants! Demonly clever. It serves no other purpose. There is very little, if any, actual mineral soil in the bag.

    I make my own formula, as do most serious gardeners. Most personal formulas work for the individuals who create them for their own purposes, so just because mine is different, ~even very different, doesn't mean that others offered in these forums aren't suitable, too. You kind of pick and choose based upon what's available locally and what appeal$ to you and ultimately what you have luck with. I call my mix Dark Forest because it is approximately the same as a typical forest floor, but with no mineral lacking. It is equal parts by weight, or one part top soil (~$2 for 40 lb bag from any big box store) and two times the volume of any composted pine bark soil conditioner (price varies from ~$9 for ~4 cu ft to ~$15 for same, only from a serious garden/landscaping store). I usually make two pails at a time on any concrete surface: 1 bag soil; 1/3 bag pine bark smithereens. Add 1/2 cup each of Menafee Humate and Jersey Green Sand, which are both ground up ancient seabed deposits from New Mexico and New Jersey, respectively containing many trace minerals. I add 2 cups of Bone Char which is charcoal made of ground up bones, high in Phosphorus, ~16%. I sprinkle the additives on the pine bark and mix that well, then add the soil . All of this is mixed thoroughly until the whole profile looks the same. This is about two buckets of potting soil. I do this to each hole I when I plant something in the yard, too. It has every trace mineral element necessary for any plant, forever. It has a rich supply of organic material in the bark. It has all the microorganisms necessary to process the mineral and organic components into compounds that plants can use as food. It contains substantial humus because the pine bark is partially composted. It has high available Phosphorus for root, bud and fruit growth. And lastly and best, it contains a high fraction of pure carbon which is available to bond with the mineral elements into a compound easily used by the microorganisms. Charcoal is a very long lasting available carbon and purifying agent and will sequester excess amounts of elements in the soil.

    I call this Dark Forest also in deference to the Amazon Terra Preta, which see. It has everything needed to grow stuff, but because of the high pine bark fraction, it is slightly low on N. This is perfect for bonsai because we want to avoid aggressive growth. (This is not "bonsai soil" used by anyone except me.) You can add N, P an K anytime you want more growth, in a growth season. The charcoal content makes it like terra preta.

    This is not a good time of the year to repot plants, especially if they are on the edge. Slip-pot or bury the pot now, and repot in spring when the buds swell, or later.
     
  12. Dsm1gb

    Dsm1gb Member

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    I appreciate the information although this kind of feels like an attack but I’ll take your word for it. Maybe I’m over sensitive ;) I do have 70 maples and counting, do I lose some? Yes. Do I like loosing them? No, but it’s a hands on approach and I’ve learned from it. I post here with any question I have wether I know anything at all is irrelevant, everyone here has been very valuable to me.

    My backyard is almost complete shade, I have a HUGE tree that coveres my entire backyard.. More of a dappled light in the morning if any. I have very natural acidic moist soil ( for the trees that are planted in the ground in which I don’t have problems with) Also the hot west afternoon sun is on the other side of my house. It’s not as bad as you’d expect, it cools off in the evenings and mornings are pretty cool.

    I do have some issues with my potted maples. No I don’t have the perfect climate for them, but should I just throw in the towel with this obsession?

    I also have maples that are on the west side with afternoon sun but shaded with retractable sunshades that do just fine.

    As with the wind, sometimes I have very strong winds, this is in the winter though. I’m pretty well protected from it anyway.

    I guess some maples work for others while some won’t.

    Some pics for reference

    5921C043-B78F-4227-82A6-8A64E9E271BD.jpeg ADE4BB77-3222-4A6B-843F-A674F4FC8FDB.jpeg 4CF3C74B-4EFA-4651-8437-87C2D69EBE00.jpeg 873E69F2-4403-4F7C-AECC-D17C9F13292B.jpeg
     
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  13. Michigander

    Michigander Member

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    Well, you have the necessary shade, and the necessary verve. Your quest will be rewarded if you maintain the attitude you have right now. Press on, regardless. As to losing trees, you will lose more. We like to think that we are learning and that someday we will know it all, or at least enough to stop losing trees, but Mother Nature, misfortune, our own sloppiness, and a thousand variables will continue to keep all of us modest. I've been a serious gardener for 40 years and I still lose trees, regularly, so please note that I've lost more trees than you and won't be looking down on anyone who finds themselves in need of advice, or a good conversation about our mutual passion. I ask questions and opinions, too. I'm still learning, continuously, and love it when I stumble onto new wisdom on these forums, from friends, and even from people I don't like. Good Luck, and Godspeed...
     
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  14. Michigander

    Michigander Member

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    Just to prove that I have been there, done that, when it comes to trees that I have loved and lost, I hereby challenge the world to show why I shouldn't be awarded the John Dillinger Murder, Inc. Trophy for Serial Tree Destruction, Landscaping Division. To wit: a photo of a Camperdown Elm in my yard in full bloom in 2016. It was ~ten years old when I bought it in 2007, planted in 2008 under power lines that are ~18 or 20 ft high. THE perfect tree for such a place. As pictured it is about 10 ft tall and the light green blooms were absolutely beautiful in 2016, but the tree looked a little ordinary in 2017. It leafed out ver-r-y slowly in 2018, was severely attacked by Japanese Beetles and dead by mid-June. I carefully examined the roots when I dug it up and about 75% of the crown-to-trunk transition area appeared to have a strangle line that looked suspiciously like a wire line. It was easy to see that the roots below that line were punky and the tree was being supported only on one side by about 25% of the roots. It would have eventually killed the tree and the beetles only hastened the process.

    I replaced it with a Acer ginnala 'Amur Flame' which will also stay out of the wires and will look best in autumn rather than spring. The nursery where I bought it has a stipulation that you can't remove the wire basket, or the ~1 year guarantee will be voided. (The Camperdown didn't come in a basket. I planted it and wouldn't have left a wire anywhere because I have a lot of experience with repotting and roots that strangle others or even the trunk if not excised early in the life of a tree.) I read this as the kind of policy created by jerk accountants who run companies in place of someone with actual experience in the business. If the tree fails to survive the first year, they can send one man with a boom truck out, grab the basket with a chain and jerk it out of the ground, install the new tree, and be off to whatever is next at minimum cost. Of course when the tree is strangled 5 or 10 or 15 years later, they have no liability. Dumb, a very bad policy that a real nurseryman would see for what it is. My Camperdown must have come to the (different) nursery in a wire basket, where a greenghorn cut MOST of the wire away, put it in a ~10 to 12 gal pot and sold it to me. Alas.

    I hereby claim the Trophy for landscape tree loss. I challenge the world to show me a greater/dumber/more pitiful loss.
     

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  15. Michigander

    Michigander Member

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    No takers? I got more and worse. I'm also claiming the trophy for Bonsai Division. Trees come and go. Some you invest heavily in over some years and they never really fulfill your expectations. Some you get too early in your learning process and you screw them up before you get wise enough to own them. Others evolve to something pretty nice but they aren't photogenic, ~of these I have many that look good in person, but pictures just don't do them justice. The Seiju Elm in the picture was a pencil thick stick when I bought it ~2002, or so. It grew poorly in a pot and one day I was at a friend's home sitting on the patio and I saw a tree ~4 ft tall with tiny leaves close by in his landscape and asked what it was, I said it looked like a Seiju and he said it was. I was surprised because I got mine from a San Diego seller and I thought it was a tropical. He said it had been there many years.

    I went home and took my puny twerp out of the pot and put it in the landscape. It grew robustly for 3 years then went into the pot you see which is 14 x 10, it was maybe 30" off the table. It went to sleep in 2015 and didn't wake up in 2016. No beetle holes, roots looked just fine, plenty of room to grow, no symptoms, just dead. Never won any recognition, but one of my favorite trees. Heartbreaker...
     

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  16. AlainK

    AlainK Well-Known Member Forums Moderator Maple Society 10 Years

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    Landscape trees, potted trees, and bonsai have of course different requirements.

    Japanese maples are very hardy, but when in a shallow pot, several days of temperatures below zero (degrees Celsius, = below 32F) is a way to kill them. Another way to kill outdoor bonsai is to leave the soil dry out. It's not because they are not active that they don't need water. A combo of dry soil and low temps is one of the best way to lose them.

    Repotting time is important too: although summer repotting works well, contrary to what can be read on too many "bonsai sites", it needs more care than repotting a maple just before budbreak. In early spring, you can drastically trim the roots of an Acer palmatum, with no problem at all. If there's any, blame it on the soil mix you're using.

    About Chinese elms (Ulmus parviflora and ssp): they do thrive in semi-tropical places, where they were grown before being imported for most of those sold as bonsai. They can easily adapt to a temperate climate provided that they are protected from hard frosts in the first year or two.

    They need a litlle time to adapt to their new environment (light, temperature, soil, roots that have been pruned, etc.).

    Anyway, whatever the species, a grow box is better than putting them in the soil if you plan to use either a maple or an elm to style it as a bonsai, for several reasons that I won't develop in this message because it's already quite long ;-)

    But don't give up on Chinese elms, like other trees, when you "do bonsai", it's a matter of trial and error...

    AK
     
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  17. SLR2009

    SLR2009 Active Member

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    For 1 year now I've switched my Japanese Maples over to a fast draining potting mix. I bare rooted them. Most weren't happy in the Miracle Grow Moisture Control Potting Soil which I used to use.

    My Japanese maples are happy in the new potting mix. The Potting mix I make consists of 5 parts of bark, 1 part Spagnum Peat Moss, and 1 part of perlite. I found that you shouldn't let the potting mix fully dry out. Also Japanese Maple don't do well in potting soil that has moisture crystals. Just my 2 cents.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2018
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