Keeping a maple in a pot

viroAugust 14, 2005

I really want to get a Japanese Maple....unfortunately the specific species escapes me but it's very similar to the picture at the top of the 'maple' section (this section).

It has red leaves and an expected 'adult' growth of 4'x6'

So my question leaves me to this....I'd like to be able to plant it in a big pot and maybe cut part of the bottom of the pot to let some root growth through. I've been re-lanscaping the backyard of my house but I don't expect to live here say beyond 8-10 years and by that time I'd have a nice tree.....

So I would pull 'er out of the ground to take to the new house. I would expect to have my roots good and intact with the tree growing in the large pot (I would think of putting it in like a 48" pot or so....even if I made it out of some pine like a planter box).

Is is safe or really stupid to do something like that? I mean the trees aren't exactly cheap (they range where I'm at from 75 bucks to 300 bucks depending on the size) and I figure by time I do move to 'replace' the tree the wallet will be pretty darn dry.

If there is a good chance this isn't possible I probably won't bother and waste the money so someone else can enjoy the hard work I've put into my rock garden. If anything I would just grow some from seed and in 10 years I got a small one to work with, but it'd be nice to take the big one with me.

I think it's possible but not sure....

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That would be fine, but don't know of the need to cut out the bottom. Just use a planter or wood box. If in direct sun, you might want to insulate it, pot in pot or burry it partially in the ground. What you do not want to do is put a small root mass in a very large pot. The potting media will stay too wet and you will risk root rot. It is better to move up stepwise as the tree grows. A larger tree will accomodate more extra soil as the established roots will grow faster. Small potted maples up to 3gal can be slow to start so buy a 5-7gal or larger if you can afford and then use a planter up to 10-12gal with a very good draining mix. I think the plant will adapt to the larger container easily and you won't have to repot soon or worry about cutting out the bottom. Wider is better than tall.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2005 at 11:23PM
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ljrmiller(z7 NV)

I grow several "giant bonsai", and plan to add at least one more this Fall. By "giant bonsai" I mean Japanese Maples in the largest square cedar planters I could find. I haven't had any trouble with any of them except for the occasional drying-out/singeing of leaves. What happens is that one (never the same one) of the containers somehow ends up out of the watering pattern and then it dries out during the first hot spell in summer. I duly begin to water it more, and it re-leafs almost immediately.

I put anything 1-gal size or larger in the big cedar planters, and it seems to be okay. I also put bark chips on top of the soil so the cats won't poop in the boxes, but the cats think that bark chip mulch in a container is absolutely The Best Napping Spot in the Universe. Fortunately, THAT doesn't seem to hurt the maples any.

Probably in a wetter climate than mine (which is ANY place in the United States except maybe Eastern Nevada) you would have to make more accomodation for good drainage. I do elevate my containers on small cement paver bricks, and I do drill bit 1/2" drain holes in the bottom of my planters.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2005 at 1:48PM
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I plan to kinda permanently plant it in a planter into the I can remove it if I ever move and I really don't want to let it get crazy huge either, something neat and tidy

(it was a red dragon maple I bought)

so I planned to drill holes through the bottom and maybe a few on the sides of the bottom and then layer in an inch or two or rock and then have my soil mix and then set the whole pot into the ground

so I have mostly soil in the pot and for whatever reason if it does get too wet the water will be able to drain through the rocks and into the sandy soil my yard contains....extra drainage...

something along those lines....also kind of barracade it from the wind in the winter or can I just lift it out and bring it in the garage for the winter?

    Bookmark   August 17, 2005 at 10:00PM
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Hey Viro, I asked a similar question in another thread but didn't get nearly as much response. I was thinking about doing the same thing as you are suggesting, though for slightly different reasons. I hope it works out for you and let me know if you if you come up with any other ideas.

Here is a link that might be useful: My Thread

    Bookmark   August 26, 2005 at 12:02AM
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staceybeth(7 MA)

Hi, I have a little seedling about 5-8 inches high in a small pot. Recently we had about 3 days of straight rain. I noticed this am that there are teeny tiny little holes in some of the leaves.. does anyone know what that may be?

    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 9:53AM
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staceybeth(7 MA)

Hi, I have a little seedling about 5-8 inches high in a small pot. Recently we had about 3 days of straight rain. I noticed this am that there are teeny tiny little holes in some of the leaves.. does anyone know what that may be?

    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 10:23AM
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nobreyner(z9 Houston)

Maple roots are semi-shallow rooters. As mentioned a wider pot is more important than a deep pot as its roots may not grow that deeply. Even in a few years the tree's roots may not reach the cut out portion of the pot making a mess when it is moved.

Red Dragons are said to be very slow growers and grow into a pretty small tree. I don't think you'll have any problems with potting that one for the long haul.

The holes in 'some of the leaves' may be a bug that may be sampling your tree's leaves and not liking what it's finding, thus moving on. I have encountered a small inch long worm that was tearing into my Autumn Moon last year, but otherwise pest free.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 25, 2007 at 1:24PM
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I have been growing a bunch of Japanese maples in pots. They are easy to grow in containers if you use good potting soil, correctly size pots, and water them often (depending on weather). You don't want to put them in as much sun as they could take if planted in the ground, as the leaves will burn easier. Don't fertilize them in pots, or if you must, do it very sparingly. Don't remove the bottoms of your containers as the roots will seek out the ground and you'll have a problem when it comes time to move them. Containerized maples won't grow as fast as those in the ground unless you water often and fertilize, but it's actually a good thing having them grow slower because you won't have to repot as often.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2007 at 1:51PM
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staceybeth(7 MA)

Okay, so I am pretty new to this forum and have asked alot of questions.. however, I am getting all sorts of conflicting information..... Maples in a pot.. some say, dont water often, some say water often... some say store for winter in a cold garage, some say, wrap in burlap and put on the side of our house. Some say fertilize in a pot, some say dont...dont use systemic insect control, use it.. its all very confusing to me... can anyone set the record... straight????

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 2:48PM
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