The best fertilizer for Japanese maples

Discussion in 'Maples' started by JT1, May 11, 2017.

  1. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    A wise man (Mr Shep aka Jim) once told me that we tend to over fertilize our maples when they are young and then don't give them enough as they get older.

    This started my in-depth research into finding the best fertilizer for Japanese maples.

    For me, a great fertilizer must provide healthy roots and a dense healthy canopy. The growth must be true to form (proper leaf color, size, and a short length between leaf pairs). It should promote healthy growth all along the branch and not just at the tips. Promote back budding. The new growth needs to be of proper rate and length throughout the entire tree (not long and leggy randomly placed shoots). The growth needs to be dense (not long and thin) that can harden off by winter and not die back. The growth also needs to be sustainable, able to stand up to the heat of Summer. The tree must remain healthy and free of bacteria, pests, and disease. The spring and fall show needs to be long lasting with great color. Organic and slow release is important too. It must never burn or kill your tree if you make a mistake and apply too much.

    PHC ROOTS 7-7-7 fertilizer meets all of the above criteria. All organic, slow release with added beneficial bacteria and microbes that improves the health of your soil or pot mix and your tree. This is hands down the ONLY fertilizer that I will use on maples. I have been using for 4 years after a 10 year hands on research project on fertilizers. This fertilizer is available from AM Leonard.
    A.M. Leonard Tools for the Horticultural Industry since 1885.

    Just a quick note, they offer free shipping (a few times a year) as a promotion if you can't find it locally and are budget conscious.


    This is the only fertilizer that I can recommend for Japanese maples. You will get growth that is healthy and true to form. No long leggy shoots or reversion. You will have healthy sustainable growth, back budding and fullness. The tree will stand up to seasonal extremes by the third season of use limiting winter die back and sun burn during summer heat. Also by the third season you will be amazed by the health and beauty of your trees. You will have longer lasting shows of color that you only thought were possible in the pictures used in books and online to sell these varieties. Some of my oldest trees in my collection seemed to loose their spring color or it was very short lived, but now the color is back and sometimes it lasts for several days and even weeks. Many also get a great show with the second push of growth that used to be muted or non existent before using this fertilizer. The fall color lasts for weeks and the trees are not quick to loose their leaves.

    I use the PHC 7-7-7 for all container and landscape maples, shrubs, conifers, and perennials. I use it early spring, summer; in my area that's April 1st, end of June, and then September 1st I use:
    PHC® 3-4-4 Fertilizer for Acid-Loving Plants, 25 lb Bag

    A.M. Leonard Tools for the Horticultural Industry since 1885.

    As a winterizer. Its also great for evergreens and flowering shrubs. For all fertilizers I use half the recommend dose. It can be mixed in the soil for re-potting and planting.

    A note about bacterial infections and synthetic fertilizers.

    Synthetic fertilizers fuel bacterial outbreaks. Do not use them! When I get a new tree the first thing I do is rinse away the synthetic fertilizer and dispose of it. (those with lawns keep the synthetic lawn fertilizers away from the root zone of your maples. Better yet, don't use them on your lawn either.) The other problem with synthetic fertilizers is that the growth is usually not true to form and will destroy the structure and character of your tree. The growth tends to only be at the tips making the tree look more sparse over time. The long shoots of growth caused by synthetic fertilizers are very porous and less dense increasing the likely hood of winter snow damage and wind damage. The branches tend to be more likely to die back over winter and the foliage tends to burn easier in the Summer heat. I find all this to be true even with the most expensive slow release synthetic fertilizers that cost more than $90 for 25lb bags. Reversion along with loss of spring color also have been a problem with synthetic fertilizers in my experience. My advice is never use them on Japanese maples and other slow growing ornamental trees and shrubs.

    PHC roots are the only fertilizers that I will recommend. PHC stands for plant health care.

    I used to be of the option that Japanese maples don't need fertilizer. That was until a wise man (Mr Shep aka Jim) told me that we tend to over fertilize our maples when they are young and then don't give them enough as they get older. I noticed that this was the case with some of my oldest specimens, so his input really hit home with me.

    At the time organic fertilizers left a lot to be desired, but in the past several years they have come along way and the best, I have found is PHC roots.

    There was a time that I was not comfortable recommending a fertilizer, but now I can with confidence.

    Note that I have no relationship with phc roots or am Leonard, I do not benefit in any way by my recommendation. I recommend it from my research and great experiences. I want to see other people have great success with their maples. It makes me sad to see people lose their trees to stress and bacterial infections. I like to share my knowledge so that people can have healthy and happy maples! Japanese maples and their beauty bring me so much joy. I want others to experience that beauty, joy, and the fun that comes in growing them successfully.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2017
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  2. Atapi

    Atapi Active Member

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    Hi John,
    Thank you for taking time to research on this fertilizer and happily to share your insight with us.
    I will definitely give it a shot.
    steven
     
  3. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    Got an email that they are offering free shipping this weekend. Use code 5H17P expires May 29th 2017.

    It's possible restrictions apply.

    (I am not affiliated with either companies, so if it doesn't work out that you receive free shipping I don't want to be held responsible in any way. In the past I limited my order to 2-3 bags, any more required lift gate service that needs to be scheduled and I assumed that would not be free)
     
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  4. Atichoo

    Atichoo New Member

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    Hi!
    It is not easy to find reliable information on how to care for those beautiful trees so I will try and take advantage of your wisdom.
    I am trying to find a good soil mix for my potted maple trees. I live in Vancouver and I have a south-oriented large balcony.
    Also, when would you typically repot them and do you systematically prune the roots?
    I only have 3 Japanese maples but I am definitely addicted (Aka Ne, Chantilly Lace, Kuro Hime). My Aka Ne does not seem to like sun at all. Its leaves are gorgeous in Spring and then get scorched by the sun. I will be able to give it some shade in the future.
    Thank you very much for all the useful information on fertilizers :-)
     
  5. 0soyoung

    0soyoung Member

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    I grow acer palmatum and shirasawanum in a mix of roughtly equal parts small or medium bark and potting soil/compost. I also grow them for bonsai in which case I use nothing but calcined clay (Turface MVP). The key point is that the soil/substrate is very well drained = air (oxygen) supply to the roots.

    For fertilizer, I use Osmocote Plus at the rate of roughly 1/4th teaspoon per standard 'gallon' garden pot of soil (every 6 months) or I use a balanced 14-14-14 fert at roughly the same rate. Turface has a CEC of 35, which is typical of farm dirt. The CEC of bark and compost is probably higher; adding fertilizer isn't necessary after the first season or if you use composted bark instead of uncomposted 'fresh' bark right out of the bag. I usually repot/root prune every two years. I often simply cut around the perimeter (a few inches in from the pot wall) with a keyhole saw and dig out that ring, replacing it with fresh bark&compost (I'll presume that you are not working with bonsai). This method works better for me, the bigger the tree/pot. Conversely, simply knocking off the pot and removing the outer parts of the 'ball' works better, the smaller the tree/pot.
     
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  6. Kirkhutch

    Kirkhutch New Member

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    I mistakenly bought a bag of PHC roots with the 3-4-3 analysis and rhizophere bacteria instead of the 7-7-7. Has anyone used this as a spring fertilizer? Most of my maples have been in the ground for 2 years from 15g plants. Unfortunatly this stuff is like crack to my dog. I made a tea out of it hoping that would keep her from diging at the base of my trees although I'm quite certain it won't make a difference..
     
  7. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    We have used it in place of the 7-7-7 and have great results. I don't have a dog, but have no problems with animals of the wild kind digging.

    We started to use it with planting, then gave it a try on my old dwarf Japanese maples because they needed to slow down given my small yard. I still get true to form growth and am happy with both. Last season and the start of this season we used only the PHC roots 3-4-3 healthy start on everything because it was on hand. Works great with landscape, container, and bonsai. If I had a large yard I would probably stick with the 7-7-7. But since our yard is small and it can be used with planting the 3-4-3 healthy start works great. All the foliage on the trees are healthy and dense. The spring colors are better than ever too.

    Back to the dog digging. I wonder if you vertical mulch with it. Mix fertilizer with pine fines, drive a 1/3" to 1/2" shaft into the roots down to 6" and fill with the mix. Water in and cover with mulch. Maybe it will curve your dogs enthusiasm.
     
  8. mike1osu

    mike1osu New Member Maple Society

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    I have several JM in 1 and 3 gallon pots. How much PHC 7-7-7 should I use and how soon should I use it on new grafts?
     
  9. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    @mike1osu
    1 gallon containers I use about 3/8 of a cup.
    3 gallon I use a slightly mounded cup, full scoop not leveled off.

    I don't have experience in brand new grafts, but I know someone great that I will see next week. I can ask him. He's been grafting Japanese maples for over 30 years and is one of the best propagators in the Lake country wholesale nursery biz.

    If you are getting an idea how far a bag will go, it's 3 cups per pound.

    If you do any Summer grafting you are welcome to come and take scion wood from my collection of landscape specimens. Graft on site if needed. Unfortunately I don't allow it in Winter because any winter pruning in my area always results in black tips and disease because of the wet and cold springs. We stopped winter pruning about 13 years ago and have no problems ever since. We have about 60 different cultivars.
     
  10. mike1osu

    mike1osu New Member Maple Society

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    Thank you so much for the quick response. Wow 3/8 cup sounds like a lot! Is that because it is organic? I would love to do some summer grafting! Last year I tried summer grafting and only had a 5% success. This winter I did 250 and had about 50%
    take. My email is mike1osu@aol.com. I am in NW Ohio, looking forward to hearing from you.
     
  11. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    It's because it's organic. With smaller 1 gallon you could probably cut it in half. With my bonsai I mix up vertical mulching mix with it and top dress so it's probably closer to a little over half the recommended amount. The recommended amount feels more reasonable with larger containers and landscape maples.

    I'm about 20 minutes east of downtown Cleveland.
     
  12. Alex Le

    Alex Le New Member

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    brand new to japanese maples here.

    i purchased a 3-4 year old japanese maple (murasaki kiyohime) and it was delivered last week. I immediately repotted it from the 1 gallon container it came in to a 3 gallon pot i purchased.
    I read online that we shouldn't fertilize it after spring time but wondering if you can provide any expert advise.

    Do I need to apply any root growth or fertilizer? if so, when how much and what brand should you suggest? thank you!!
     
  13. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Effective fertilization of all kinds of plants needs to be based on what the mineral content of the irrigation water, potting medium used or natural soil being planted in is. In addition to the particular needs of the kind of plant being grown. Good results from a product for one grower do not automatically translate to good outcomes for another party who has different soil or water conditions.
     
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  14. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    You can still fertilize in the month of June. For example if you use a 7-7-7 slow release organic fertilizer now it will wear off by September. This gives time for the tree to harden off in time for winter. My other advice is to never use miracle grow or any blue/green water soluble fertilizer. Maples can be given a 0-10-10 in late September to promote root growth and harden off new growth for winter. It also seems to act like an antifreeze in marginal zones where winter's can be harsh. A few reasons I don't like chemical forms of nitrogen is it forces growth that may not be sustainable for the roots to support during Summer heat (especially in TX) and it's more prone to die back over Winter, it acts as a food source for harmful bacteria to spread, and it can cause salts to build up in the soil especially in container grown maples.

    Given you just repotted make sure you make a slow transition to sun over two weeks, avoid afternoon sun, and areas of drying concrete.

    I hope this helps and enjoy your new maple!
     

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