Maple Bonsai Trees: Colorful Specimens

Maple bonsai trees can be used in both the classical and less formal bonsai styles but are more often used for informal styles. Maple trees require some care to create a successful outcome but if done well, they can be exquisite on the eye. There are two principal types of maple suitable as bonsai trees.

Types of Maple Bonsai Tree

The Japanese maple tree or acer palmatum is particularly attractive to bonsai practitioners as a full-bodied, lush tree with distinctive leaves that varies its color through yellow and orange in some instances resulting in a bright red foliage during the autumn, causing some specimens to be termed Japanese red maple bonsai.

The trident maple or acer buergerianum has many of the same characteristics as the more popular Japanese maple but has thicker roots which must be protected from frost. Watering the trident maple in winter, especially if it is kept outside, requires some care as it is also less hardy than the Japanese maple. The trident maple is used by some aficionados because it has a distinctive reddish color to its bark beneath the outer surface.

Maple Bonsai Care

The Japanese maple is hardy against all but very severe frost but needs protection from wind throughout the year. The tree, especially its soil and hence the roots, must be kept moist to prevent them drying out. This is something of a balancing act in winter with a bonsai specimen because the roots are best kept frost-free.

For bonsai purposes, maple trees require skill in order to avoid breaking brittle branches or splitting the trunk. Cord and thick or multiple string, with care, are sometimes preferred rather than wiring the bonsai tree, again requiring skill and patience. One advantage of the maple tree for bonsai is that they are naturally lush so that there is tremendous scope to shape and prune an individual specimen to good effect, though it is important to have an initial concept of how the tree is required to grow in its miniature form.

Repotting every two years for the first ten years, pinching back during the peak growing period and pruning in winter when the tree has lost its leaves are sensible general rules for maintaining a maple bonsai tree, though specific objectives may cause the bonsai expert to vary these slightly. Watering daily or even twice daily in hot spells, plus a mist spraying in the evening are also advisable practices.