Keeping acer small in pot

Discussion in 'Maples' started by Ninthofmarch, Oct 31, 2020.

  1. Ninthofmarch

    Ninthofmarch New Member

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    Hi!

    I'm dreaming of growing an acer (or two) on my balcony. The balcony is northfacing and shady. I'd like a cultivar with fresh green leaves for that zen forest atmosphere, that has a beautiful upright form, and gets up to 2-2.5m in height (similar width is fine).

    After much research, the cultivars I'd most like to try are Seiryu, Koto No Ito, and Kamagata, in that order. Seiryu is almost my dream cultivar, but I worry it will get too big (Baumschule Nielsen says 4-5m for "very old" plants).

    I'm looking for advice on growing an acer in a container - do they ever reach the maximum height, or might I expect that growing it in a container will keep it small?

    Thank you!
     
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Dwarf the top by pruning the roots as is done with bonsai.
     
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  3. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    @Ninthofmarch good evening and welcome to the maples forum. Keeping maples in pots is perfectly acceptable for areas like yours. I agree with your choice in Seiryu, it is a wonderful cultivar.
    A potted tree will always grow slower than in the ground, but there will be work required every two to three years with lifting, root pruning and replacing spent compost. This is not as difficult as it sounds. The idea is that by reducing the root size will help the upper branches to stay fairly controlled. But you will need some shaping to keep Seiryu under control for your space. I do a 'little' if this in July and if required a harder pruning in February before the buds break into leaf. Never prune in Spring.
    As your climate is similar to mine the above dates should be ideal for you to follow.
    I have attached a close up photo of my Seiryu taken yesterday to tempt you to go for this tree. Bit blurred due to the wind, but you get the idea how lovely this is especially in Autumn.
    Hope thats of help
     

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  4. Ninthofmarch

    Ninthofmarch New Member

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    Great, thank you RonB and Acerholic!

    I had read about root pruning and you've helped me feel more confident it could work (:
     
  5. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    Glad it was of help, please do update the forum with your choice, with photos preferably. Good luck, but I'm sure you will not need it.
     
  6. AlainK

    AlainK Renowned Contributor Forums Moderator Maple Society 10 Years

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    Right. You can prune the top every year, but if you don't prune the roots every 2 or 3 years, you will have elongated shoots, and this is not what you want. When done just before budbreak, you can prune the roots quite drastically, and remove up to half the roots or even more. Even roots as big as my, thumb will produce new feeder roots, provided that some smaller ones are left of course.
     
  7. Ninthofmarch

    Ninthofmarch New Member

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    My Seiryu arrived today, and it is beautiful. I'm so excited. It is about 80-90cm tall.

    Could you give me any advice to make sure it has the best start? I've just given it a soak. Should I repot it now, or wait till Spring? I did some research on this forum, and plan to repot it into a mixture of 50% compost 50% pine bark, with some Seramis granulate (I think it works like perlite) mixed in.

    Also, I may be thinking of running before I can walk, but I noticed an odd branch that from the back of the tree all the way to the front (see blue arrows, in the second photo), that rubs against the other branches. Should I be thinking of pruning this off, or just trying to bend it to the side?

    Acer 11.jpg
    InkedAcer 2_LI.jpg
     
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  8. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    @Ninthofmarch good afternoon and what a lovley Seiryu you have received. Regarding repotting, how are the roots? Can you see them coming out of tbe bottom of the pot? If the answer is no then I would leave it until March at the earliest. I repot when I see the roots coming out of the bottom. Maples like to be snug, hence the reason for only going to the next size up in pots. Your mixture sounds good, nice and loose to aid good drainage.
    Do remember at this time of the year you do not need to water very often at all. The tree is gradually going to sleep until next Spring so does not need much water at all.
    Looking at that branch at the back, if it were me I would remove it. You do not want branches rubbing and tbh it is not very attractive anyway.
    Hope thats of help.
     
  9. Ninthofmarch

    Ninthofmarch New Member

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    Thanks @Acerholic!

    No roots coming out of the pot - so March it is. I actually wonder if it was growing in the ground, and the nursery potted it up when I purchased the plant, as the mix was nice and loose when it arrived.

    I'm going to put it out where it will have rain (it rains a lot here in winter in Belgium), and will not plan to water much till Spring. And will have a go at snipping off that branch come Feb.
     
  10. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    All a good idea, yes you are probably right about it being potted up by the nursery. The medium looks very fresh with no sign of moss or weeds etc.
    Look forward to seeing how your lovely Seiryu looks in the Spring. Do post some photos when it leafs out and throughout 2021.
     
  11. Ninthofmarch

    Ninthofmarch New Member

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    Hello,

    Just wanted to share an update with my maple leafed out. I followed all instructions, and after reading through all the helpful advice on this forum, also dug down to expose the root flare while repotting. This meant exposing a few surface roots. I hope that’s okay.
     

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  12. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    Looking good, and those surface roots will die off in a few weeks. I remove them straight away, but I know others wait to let them die first.
    Either way, they are surplus to the needs of the tree.
     
  13. Ninthofmarch

    Ninthofmarch New Member

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    Thank you @Acerholic and for all the kind advice. I'm really enjoying watching it grow.

    I'm amused that the lacy leaves sometimes mean branches get tangled up with each other, and I have to gently tease them apart. Perhaps not something that would happen with a species acer.

    I do have one question about how much to remove of the tips of branches that had died back (that were already on the acer when it arrived) - I'll post a photo later.
     
  14. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    You are welcome. Regarding any dead wood, this can be removed at any time of the year. But I will await your photos to see what you are talking about.
     
  15. Ninthofmarch

    Ninthofmarch New Member

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    Thank you! My question is, how much of these brown tips should I cut away? Should I cut back to live wood?

    I’ve noticed that in some places where the tree was pruned, I now have twin branches (an example attached).

    image.jpg image.jpg image.jpg
     
  16. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    OK, the grey/ brown dead wood cut back to the live. Regarding the two branches next to each other, I would remove the one you don't want at the end of June, leaving the other as your leader. I carry out all aesthetic pruning at this time. I think your weather in Belgium is the same as mine here in England, so you will be quite safe to do it then with no bleeding.
     
  17. Ninthofmarch

    Ninthofmarch New Member

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    Great, thank you. I have a few cases of twin branching, and will perform the sacrificial rites.

    In case it helps on pruning time experience - I accidentally snapped a couple of small branches off at their base recently while moving the maple. Reassuringly, I didn't notice any bleeding.
     
  18. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    Some don't from now on tbh. But as a rule of thumb, I prefer June to ensure you don't stress the tree.
     
  19. Ninthofmarch

    Ninthofmarch New Member

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    Hello again!

    My Seiryu grew beautifully last year (I think by as much at 10cm) and I feel so lucky to have it. It has a beautiful form.

    Unfortunately, I am in need of fresh advice.

    The tree leafed out this year as normal, but the foliage has remained in the juvenile stage (e.g. with red edges) and it has not put on fresh growth. I have not seen any new buds develop and open. It's also attracted more aphids and other bugs than usual, which suggests it's quite stressed. I'm positive it's been attacked by vine weevils but have not wanted to disturb the roots to check. I've treated it with nematodes, and will probably do this every autumn and spring for the future.

    Is there anything else I can do to help it out while it's in intensive care? I've read that a top mulch of grit (at least 1 inch) also deter vine weevils from laying eggs, so might be replacing my pine bark mulch with that.

    Thank you.
     
  20. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    Good morning, now tne trouble with vine weevle is that they keep on munching until they hatch, so hopefully the nematodes will help. But they will be quite strong now and its harder for the nematodes to get all of them.
    Now if the leaves are small then it's a root problem IMO, not getting the nutrients, water and oxygen they need to produce good upper growth.
    So here's the quandary, lift it out of the pot carefully, wash the roots throughly then re pot in good free draining compost. Or do nothing !! I think I would be very tempted to do the former as vine weevil is suspected.
    Regarding grit to use as a deterrent for Vine Weevil next season, I would not do this. I like Pine bark as it's very loose and allows air to flow without weighing down the delicate surface roots with heavy grit.
    Definatly apply Nematodes in September whilst still warm and the egg laying begins. I agree a second application in late March each year is helpful, but not essential if you have applied them in Autumn.
    So if you go down the re pot route now, be sure to place it in shade for the next 4 to 6 weeks to recover. It will show signs of stress, but you are working on a tree to be healthy for next year and beyond. Remove the aphids ASAP as they only weaken it more and more.
    Hope thats of help.
     
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  21. Ninthofmarch

    Ninthofmarch New Member

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    Thanks for the advice! I've been a bit squeamish about seeing the grubs, but will get to it (:
     
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