Root cuttings from a Japanese Maple

mzkristaMarch 18, 2007


Has anyone had any success starting a new Maple plant from a root cutting? I took a root cutting from near the parent root and hoping it will root. If it is not possible how do you start a new japanese maple? Seed? I would like to start off small because I would like a small plant for interest using this for a bonsai. It is very hard to find a Japanese red maple very small around in nurserys. Does anyone know where I can order safely online Japanese Red Maple seeds, if it is not possible to start from a root cutting? Thank you! Mzkrista

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First of all...some acer species root very well. However, most of the japanese maples (palmatum, japonicum etc) do not do as well as grafted varieties. Some cultivars do better such as the common bloodgoods and other vigorous uprights. However, many of the smaller cultivars must be grafted as the root systems cannot support the tree.

In general, jap. maple propagation is done by first growing a small seedling japanese maple from seed (it will most likely be a green non-outstanding tree). Then, a scion (a cutting) from a cultivar with outstanding features is grafted onto this seedling (the rootstock). The graft will heal and the new scion will grow into a full sized tree with the roots being supported by the seedling tree.

However, cuttings are often used for bonsai because the graft wound is less visible. The success rate (particular for dwarfs) is usually low but it can be done. A rooting hormone should be used to increase the probability for success.

There are some nurseries that offer small grafted trees and cutting trees online. One example is eastforknursery:

There are others as well.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2007 at 1:10PM
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Hi Matt,
Thanks for the answer, I guess my root cutting wont make it then, darn, I thought it would be easier than it is then. Should I just keep it is the soil and see if it roots, or is it impossible? I checked out the eastforknursery sit but they are sold out. I'll keep checking around. Thank you for your expert advise. Mzkrista

    Bookmark   March 18, 2007 at 3:51PM
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myersphcf(z6a IL)

There is quite a bit of disagreement on cuttings as far as long term viability...but I have become convinced most of that is "old geezers tales". A tree on it's own roots should be more viable and vigerous if rooted properly. But as matt says rooting is a iffy proposition...In my own experience even with rooting compound and green acer palmatum generic root stock such cuttings yielded for me maybe 10%-20% NOT GOOD ...Now maybe if I were a rooting sevant and had a climate controlled enviorment built to NASA specifications it would be more worth while venture...David

    Bookmark   March 18, 2007 at 4:30PM
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LOL David...a NASA specification setup would be nice.

The nursery I work at does cuttings on some of the more vigorous trees fairly successfully (Bloodgood, Seiryu, maybe even Sango kaku). But like David said the yield is much worse than grafting where you can get 90 percent or better with most cultivars. You may get lucky and the one you tried might take. I guess it couldn't hurt to see what happens.

Just don't get discourage if it doesn't take, there are many other options if you are willing to be patient.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2007 at 4:42PM
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I forgot to mention that air-layering is probably the best method of bonsai propagation if you have an existing tree.

Basically, you select a limb on the existing tree that you would like remove for bonsai. You then cut two rings (about an inch apart) around the limb down to the hard wood under the bark. You then remove the bark between the two rings. Then, place a handfull of moist (but not soaking wet) sphagnum moss around this ring, followed by a sheet of water/air proof plastic. Finally, seal off the two sides of the bag with ties or something to keep the moss and the ring air/water sealed.

After a few months roots should emerge through the moss. The limb can then be carefully removed with a small tender root system and bonsaied.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2007 at 4:52PM
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Wow guys thanks for the suggestions. I will leave the root cutting in the soil and see what happens, just in case it works to my advantage. Matt, I like the idea about air-layering, sounds like something I will try. When is a good time to try air-layering because I live here in cold Ohio, and dont know if its ok to do this while its so cold. In about 12 days they say it will be about 60 to 65degrees. Also what kind of plastic would I use for this and what is the best kind of tie would I use? When and if it roots this way, where would I cut so I dont injure the limb below, would I take it all the way down to just above the branch collar so it wont look unsightly? By the way the tree that I'm talking about is a Acer Palmatum Matsumurae. Mzkrista

    Bookmark   March 18, 2007 at 7:19PM
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You may have better luck using something like sponge rock or perlite mixed with some coarse sand for your rooting medium. Dormant cuttings can be tented or kept in some sort of high-humidity environment like a cold frame or the like. Softwood cuttings will need to be misted and have the majority of the leaf surface removed. With cuttings, you will have to solve the problem that they will not root if root zone temps are too low.

With your layer, you should start in mid-late spring when the leaves of the branch you are layering have mostly of fully expanded.


    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 10:30AM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

I'm confused Mzkrista.
You said, "Hi
Has anyone had any success starting a new Maple plant from a root cutting? I took a root cutting from near the parent root and hoping it will root. If it is not possible how do you start a new japanese maple?".
Did you try to start it from a root, or from a stem? Starting a maple from a root won't work at all as far as I know. From a branch, all of the advice above applies. I start them from seed and then cull to the best. Good Luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Japanese Maples started from seed.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 2:22PM
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Oh wow...I didn't even think about it being an actual root as I've never heard of that before. If that is the case I seriously doubt it would work.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 6:23PM
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I took four softwood cuttings of a Japanese maples last August or September and rooted them as described below. By the time winter came, I thought they were gonners, but I didn't get around to tossing the container. This spring I have leaves on 3 of the four (and roots, of course.)

Thoroughly clean and sterilize a 2 liter pop bottle. Cut it horizontally 5" up from the bottom. Drill 5 drainage holes in the bottom. Fill it with well moistened pro potting mix. Poke a hole in the middle of the potting mix with a pencil. Take softwood cutting made at an angle. I don't remember using rooting hormone, but you could. Stick the cutting into the pencil hole then firm the soil around it.

Here's the key: You must keep it warm and moist, but definitely not hot or wet. Tape the top half of the bottle back onto the bottom. Keep bottle lid in place, but remove once a week to let new air in. I have since read that some put ventilation holes in the tops of their bottles, but I didn't.

I put my bottles on the SE corner of the house in dappled shade; morning sun. Voila. 6 months later I had rooted cuttings.

Good luck! And remember...You can't win if you don't enter.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 12:50AM
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Thank you so much for all your suggestions, I will try the air layering and the Pop btl advise and see which works for me. Thanks again its so wonderful that knowledgeable people help out a novice in need! Garden stores never give out advice like this. Mzkrista

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 10:54AM
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