Maple in coastal Southern California?

Gina_W(CA-10)July 20, 2010

I recently moved in to a new home and have been re-landscaping my neglected front and back yards. I set aside a spotlighted place next to the house entrance for a Japanese Maple, as I had seen beautiful specimens at my local nurseries.

HOWEVER! Now the landscaper I hired to do my back slope let me know that it would be futile to try to grow a Maple here due to soil conditions. :-( Bummed. He suggested a dwarf ornamental plum but the nursery only had one scrawny one left and said they wouldn't be available again until January.

I'm minutes from the ocean with cool breezes and good humidity - the front yard is facing south but the spot I selected is shaded until later in the afternoon by the beams of the house. I have a shadier area available as well, although it's not the "spotlight" spot I prefer.

Are any of you Maple growers in my area? Any thoughts?

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Gina, I live in Manhattan Beach,minutes from the ocean and facing south.
I thought I was in zone 11 or so because I don't believe it ever gets below 40 even in winter. I have a red Japanese Maple and a white/green multi color. They look pathetic. However, I went on a home tour to Hermosa beach once and they had red maples but they were in pots. If you insist on growing these maples (I did) at least don't put them by the front door.
A purpleleaf plum will give you the same color, don't forget it goes dormant in the winter. I have lovely magnolias that bloom like crazy and are green all year around. Kumquats look great by the front door. I have lemons, which really produce. I have a fig out front that goes dormant but looks good and produces lots of figs.
Drive around your neighborhood and see what looks good on the same side of the street; tree azaleas are doing well here.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 8:03PM
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Thanks for the tips Marge. I guess I'll forget about Maples for now. I will check Armstrong's for the dwarf plum - they are the most expensive around though. Landscaper also suggested Camellia Sasanqua, so I will try to find those as well as Kumquats. I have another spot in front I want a Meyer lemon in - I love lemon trees too.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 5:26PM
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I suspect that our soil near the beach is too alkaline. We have used so much soil amendments, gromulch, acidic soil mix but a few things don't grow well. Any camellia would look great--get the doubles if you can. Did you know Costco sells plants that are good size and inexpensive, but they sell when the plant is in bloom. Camellia would be sold around Jan-Feb, then you can see what the flower looks like. I have some lovely camellias and also roses out front. We can grow a lot in our climate--orchids, etc., but not everything.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 8:37PM
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The bulk of coastal SoCal is USDA zone 11 is reserved for more tropical areas like Hawaii and parts of Mexico. This rating system is based on average minimum winter temperatures, so at some point, temps below 40F in your area have been recorded.

Japanese maples can be grown in SoCal, especially the coastal regions. My sister in Dana Point (across the street from the beach) has several lovely specimens. There is a valid concern about soil conditions and irrigation water which tends also to be alkaline. If these factors can be accommodated and the tree is properly sited (early morning sun only - the rest of the time in shade) it should do perfectly well. In fact, if you can grow camellias successfully, you should also be able to grow Japanese maples, as they share similar growing requirements -- well-draining acidic soils, even moisture and afternoon shade.

It's a matter of personal taste, but the plum is a very dull, ordinary plant and outside of a limited bloom season, has little to say for itself. If the maple will not work in that spot but you like that dark purple coloring, consider one of the Chinese fringe flowers, Loropetalum chinenis, that has that foliar attribute. They are evergreen and offer interesting hot pink flowers as well.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 10:32AM
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Thank you, the Loropetalum looks interesting.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 5:32PM
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