What soil conditions do I need?

Discussion in 'Maples' started by Ed Stanley, May 21, 2004.

  1. We are interested in planting a Japanese Maple but we are uncertain if it will thrive in the spot we have picked for it.

    For over 30 years the location contained a beautiful bluish type spruce tree. It contracted a mite that destroyed one side of it and we had it taken down. The spruce stump was ground to a depth of 18-20 inches. In a 10 x 10 area I tilled in 40 lbs of granulated lime to sweeten the soil from the spruce needle residue. That has set fallow for approximately 8 months.

    The question is will this soil condition work for a Japanese Maple? We are located in northern Illinois, the soil is considered to be "heavy" with a clay layer down about 1 to 2 feet. The site in at the top of an east facing hill with partial shade from a large tulip tree. It would be partially shielded from the west by the house. It is near the driveway so we are interested in a tree that will remain on the small side.

    Our daughter in Columbus, OH has a beautiful Japanese Maple. It is about 30 years old and doing great. There is also a tree down the block from us that is about 20 years old and doing fine.

    I am not sure of the variety of either of these trees. My daughter's tree has bright red leaves in the spring. The neighborhood tree has redish orange leaves. Both are beautiful.

    We are mainly concerned about the likely acid condition of the rather heavy soil and how it would affect a Japanese Maple. Is there anything more I could do to prepare the soil for a Japanese Maple? Or should I give up and pick another type tree?
  2. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

    Likes Received:
    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Hi Ed:

    Heavy clay soils are not a problem for most Japanese Maples. Most
    of the balled and burlap nurseries in Oregon grow their plants in a
    very heavy clay soil. The key is to add organic matter into the soil,
    either through tilling in some humus in the area in which you intend
    to plant the Maple or apply humus generously in and around your
    Maple during planting. One thing to be careful of with heavy soils
    do not ever place a lot of sand in the bottom of the hole if you can
    help it.

    After you dig the hole for the Maple place original soil back in the
    bottom of the hole. Then you can mix about 2/3 soil with 1/3 humus
    to fill in the rest of the hole and then apply humus on top and around
    the hole. You will want to plant your Maple raised off the ground, in
    other words do not set your tree's roots deep in the hole and make
    sure the graft is at least 4-6 inches above the top portion of the mound.
    Mold the hole so that you have a moat for watering about 1 1/2' - 2'
    from the trees base.

    Acid soils for Japanese Maples work best. I am a little concerned
    as top why you tilled in Lime (I am not referring to Gypsum. Here
    we use Lime on acid soils and Gypsum on alkaline soils to correct
    the soil pH) but I guess you figured your soil was too acid for the
    prospective Maple. Now add in some humus such as pine and/or
    fir bark with no nutrient additives such as Nitrogen and you should
    be okay.

    The tough part will be how large a tree you will want to have in
    the next 15 years or so. Then, do you have a reputable nursery
    in which to buy the plant from and make sure you see the plant
    leafed out. For a first time buyer do not ever buy a tree that
    is dormant with no leaves. You have to like the shape of the
    tree, know what the trees growth habit is and then pick the
    tree that you fancy the most. Buying just one tree is almost
    too tough a limitation to place on you but I suggest you buy
    a tree no smaller than a 15 gallon size. Spend the money,
    buy from a full service nursery that has a guarantee that the
    plant can be replaced during a years growth, just in case you
    lose it for whatever reasons.


Share This Page