Japanese Maples for zone 5--some confusion

ezochiJune 28, 2006

I started out a couple of years ago putting in a Crimson Queen in my Japanese garden, and now it is doing great up in northern Illinois--north of Chicago. It is on the eastside of the yard and gets about three and half hours of afternoon sun, and an hour of dappled sun through a tree.

I took a break from tree planting last year due to a prolonged drought. This year I've been on a budget so I've planted a number of JM's that I got off ebay. The problem is some of the auctions label some as zone 5 and some label the same tree as zone 6. I am trying for at least two year old trees as I read on this forum about trying to get more established trees.

Specifically, Bloodgood is good to zone 5 on most sites but what about Red Dragon? I see it as zone 5 and sometimes zone 6. Chishio Improved I see as good to zone 5b on one website, but some as zone 6. Does anyone know of reliable zone info for a number of the lesser known types?


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myersphcf(z6a IL)

There is NO reliable info on this subject but many seelers put zone 6 on there site to CYA they don't want to replace stuff ...but many probably will grow in 5...but red dragon emporer 1, fireglow and many others will do ok in zone 5 unless you get a 30 below period with no snow cover for an extended time ..highly unlikly ...You actually are in zone 5a which is a little colder than my "b" and you are at the northern edge of palmatum country IMHO although sonme folks do grow certain ones in zone 4.... mulching and putting JM's in protected places will help..If you got ebay minatures you may be well served to pot 'em out and grow 'em up a few years I WOULD!!!! ...I am a firm believer that the more established the root system the better chance it has ...AND as i said you are at the northern edge for most palmatum JM's so you best mulch the heck out of them and hope for normal to warmer than normal winters ( there are other pseudo Jm's that will grow there No problem!!!)...The same goes for summers an extended 100 degree period like we got back in the late 80's would probably stress those pigmy ebayers out pretty badly... As i said if they are the usual one year grafts i'd pot 'em if i were you ..David

    Bookmark   June 28, 2006 at 11:05PM
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Thanks David. Interestingly, I didn't even mulch or anything the Crimson Queen, but it is well protected from wind by a Norway Spruce on the southwest side and in front by a Pom Pom Juniper. I think it helps that the yard has a solid fence facing north, and another N.Spruce on the northeast corner.

I just planted a three year old Red Dragon near the Norway Spruce just outside a rock garden/pond a week ago. This location is exposed to the wind a bit more. A bit risky but a perfect location on the "opposite shore" from the CQ.

My local nursery stopped carrying JM's due to risk, but I was told by my saleswoman there that she has heard of other local gardeners who have raised JM's no problem by putting a protective burlap around the trunk of the tree during the winter. I have not tried this and as I said earlier haven't had to with the CQ, but will probably do so for the more exposed JM's.

As for ebay I got great deals--much better than local places. Also since I'm not in the PNW I don't get much JM selection. Ebay has a lot of selection. A bit more expensive, but three to four years old is what I will try to bid on to avoid having to wait before I put them in the ground.

I'll update the list on successes and failiures in this regard--which JM's live or die.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 2:09AM
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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

A burlap screen is an excellent and often necessary protection from wind for Japanese maples, especially when they are small. Direct contact of the burlap with the trunk or branches, however, is an invitation for fungal infection and actually reduces the degree of protection.
Ebay often has great prices, but it is important to know if the maples have been inspected by state agriculture agencies. Uninspected plants shipped across the country is a recipe for disaster and negates all of the work of state agencies trying to prevent the spread of disease and pests.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 6:46AM
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myersphcf(z6a IL)

Good someone else posted ...one problem with this site is you can't ( or I haven't figured out) how to do a direct followup..if I leave something out IT won't let ya wants you to start another thread...

Anyway your additional info on protection I think is very apropros...The more screening you have the better I have white pines ...Big "ums" on the north and west of my 1&1/2 acre back yard and my large two story brick on the south...the only semi exposed side is the east and as we all know it is not often storms and wind come from that direction (here)...( Boston YES)... I do NOT plant Jm's in my front yard cause of strong south winds winter and summer and the farmers field just accross the road who sprays herbicides whenever the jerk pleases...and even in non windy conditions roundup and other stuff can jump from field to field.
The idea of burlap wrap seems logical ... I enclose all my jms ( younger ones ) in 4 ft 3/8" rebar sorounded by 2 ft chicken wire to keep the rabbits/ mice out and my jerk young dog who will eat anything it also provides a good enclosure for a heavey the mulching ( I use cedar mulch ...less bug problems )...it would be a very easy step to attach burlap to that...( you might want to use 3 or 4 ft chicken wire if they are bigger trees and keep the burlap higher)...you'd be killing two problems with one stone that way. Once you get the hang of it ( buy a cheap pair of tin snips for cutting the chicken wire)it takes about 2-3 minites a tree and requires NO tying of the wire...just wrapping ( you would have to tie the burlap on some how)...

I also agree on ebay and tree diseases ...although many sellers like herter, lace leaf, cal maple,nishiman are also nurseries and buying from them pretty much insures at least occasional inspections ...My complaint is size and often down right mis-representation...most one year grafts are actually only "first year grafts not more than 4-6 months old at most!!! and many one gals are not two years old but actually just ONE!!! david

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 10:04AM
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Thanks for the info David and mainegrower. I will definitely put the burlap protection in place this winter for my exposed JM's. I didn't know the burlap does NOT go on the trunk but on the perimeter of the tree! I'm pretty new at this so any info is most appreciated. Up to now I've been a plant it, water it and leave it alone type of gardener. :)

As for Ebay thanks for the advice. I've seen some of this firsthand myself, but like all things selling there it is a matter of finding a dealer that you can trust. You might be burned a couple times in the process! But it is still worth it because a lot of the JM's, at least around here, I can't find locally.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 7:29PM
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fatlard(Z5 CHICAGO)

So to protect japanese maples in the winter.. do you put a windscreen using burlap? or wrap burlap around the trunk...

I seen where some people fill the burlap windscreen protection all the way up to the top with leaves... is this advisable?

Does anyone have any pictures on the correct way of putting up a windscreen.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2006 at 7:32PM
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myersphcf(z6a IL)

It is probably NOT advisable to wrap anything around the trunk of a jm save a plastic tree guard ( that is loosely around and ventalated ) to keep rodents and rabbits away. As far as how to and how far to "fill it up" ...I am not sure it would be advisable to have anything like leaves or straw or mulch hugging your tree but others may have other ideas...a good 2-4" of cedar mulch a few inches away from trunk should be sufficient ...but I am not a tree wrap 'expert" David

    Bookmark   July 3, 2006 at 12:18AM
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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

Some probably do fill protective enclosures with leaves, straw, etc., but it is definitely not a good idea. If the filling gets wet, it has no insulation value whatever. It is also an invitation to bark gnawing rodents as well as fungal diseases. In general, there are two things you can do to increase hardiness. First, add a good layer of mulch over the roots. This protects the roots from excessive cold in snowless winters. Second, drive 3 or 4 stakes into the ground around the JM, but well away from the trunk and branches. You can then staple something like chicken wire to the stakes and then attach burlap to the wire with clothespins or staple the burlap directly to the stakes. This barrier has less to do with modifying temperature than it does with protection from wind. Japanese maples tend to have rather thin and tender bark which can be easily damaged by dessication when low temperatures are combined with drying winds.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2006 at 6:22AM
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Hi, I have some Japanese maples to protect and I am wondering once you put the stakes in the ground with the chicken wire and burlap, do you close the top the same way? If so, is it better to use a pyramid shaped top so the snow slides off easier? I'm sorry if it sounds like a dumb question, but I am doing this for the first time and would like to make sure my Japanese maples survive.


    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 5:38PM
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myersphcf(z6a IL)

I don't think you would want to enclose period just wrap around the wire so the cold winds are kept away and it should naturally keep in more heat and if it snows that will insulate it too ...completly enclosing i think would be an open invitation to bugs during hot spells, mold, disease and varias other unfriendly things and is not necessary or advisable IMHO!!! David

    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 7:32PM
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Where are you planting? That is critical as I have learned. Since last year I revisit this post again! Since then I've planted a dozen more different cultivars, none of which I have had to protect using burlap. All of them survived, even little ebay sticks through a snow laden winter with temps in the 0 degree range for two weeks at a time.

In my case, I have a yard with a wooden fence blocking both the north and east sides. Then my house blocks the wind from the west. I placed a bamboo stick fence on the south side that blocks the main garden area where most of my trees are grown. But even on the exposed front strip facing north, a neighbor's house blocks most wind from there but not all. I put a patio block to block the side wind for trees exposed there--but the Acer palmatum palmatum (parent) and the Bloodgood have not needed any other protection.

The garden area also has protection from two Norway Spruces as detailed above. But that one Crimson Queen has gone through four winters fine without extra protection. Of course I just went through one winter as an avid collector so my experience is limited, but it seems that as long as the garden area as a whole is protected from the winter winds other protection is not necessary. One thing I will do this late Fall is to put a wire barrier around smaller JMs to protect them from rabbits. As I've said in other posts that's what got me--a couple of small ones were literally reduced to nothing.

I think burlap is necessary in open areas or larger yards that have more wind exposure in my (limited) experience.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 10:40PM
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myersphcf(z6a IL)

I also do mot burlap mine cause i'm just too lazy and putting up the cages is a major ordeal in itself i have found deer seem to stay away from the chicken wire cages for some reason so I use it on my larger ones as well but not burlap although it may add some extra layer of protection!! david

    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 11:26PM
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Hi ezochi,
The maples are behind my house and the wind can be quite strong. I'm in Montreal Canada which is rated as 5 or 5A depending who you ask.

I will take the advice of just wrapping around the chicken wire and I will leave the top open. It's the first time I'm doing this (new trees) so I'm somewhat nervous. I just don't want to do something like closing the top up if it will compromise the trees.


    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 5:23PM
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