I need help with Japanese Maple seedlings

stevation(z5a Utah)July 17, 2008

Hey guys, I need some help! I tried posting about this in the maples forum, but they haven't been helpful yet. Just some copying of an earlier post about stratification of seeds, which is the part I already figured out fine. So, I'm turning to my friends here who are much more helpful on all things gardening!

Here's my problem: last year I sprouted nine Japanese maple seedlings from seed. It was not easy to do! I was so proud of getting those little trees to sprout! But then they didn't grow much at all that summer, and some died along the way. Then, I left them outside too long at the beginning of winter, and I think it froze too hard for their little roots in small pots. Anyway, I had a few surviving this spring, and I added a few seedlings I found in the garden, and I've been trying to grow them on my back covered deck in mostly shade. Now, all are dead but one lonely seedling. And it's struggling along with almost no growth.

What am I doing wrong? What do these little trees need? They're only getting maybe 3 hours of morning sun and then open shade after that. I water them every two days, although sometimes when it's really hot, they've gotten it every day. Once in a while I give them some half-strength Miracle Gro.

Have you ever grown Japanese maple seedlings? How do you ensure their survival? How much water do they like? What do they need in terms of fertilizer? Any other clues on how to make them grow and survive? Thanks!


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david52 Zone 6

What kind of potting soil are you using, and what size pots? How big are the seedlings?

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 5:37PM
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stevation(z5a Utah)

The ones I sprouted from seeds were in a fine seed mix, and then after sprouting and growing a little, they were potted up into 4" square pots with some standard potting soil (not sure, but it might have been the Miracle-Gro brand or the Supersoil brand).

Here's what they looked like when they sprouted:

They were only 2" or so when I put them in the bigger pots and put them on the shaded deck.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 7:25PM
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david52 Zone 6

I dunno much about japanese maples specifically, but generally, tree seedlings want to send down a tap root asap - most of the weed-tree seedlings, ash, silver maple, elm, cottonwood, and what ever else blows / floats in here, I see have maybe 3" above ground, and 12" below ground that first year. Same sort of principle with those Soil Conservancy pine trees; narrow (2"), deep (12") styrofoam growing containers. Thats one thought.....

And maybe try a different potting soil? That makes so much difference - I tried that Sun-something that Skybird uses this year, but couldn't get the right nutrient mix to add to it, and stuff suffered. That Black Gold organic stuff seems to be the ticket for me.....

Maybe there's a reason they cost so much.....

Probably not much help. But if you can get them to germinate, that's half the problem.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 8:48PM
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Steve, I was given some maple seeds a while back but never did plant them. I did bookmark some sites with info though ...one I'll link to. Towards the bottom of the page, there is info on what size pots, at what heights the trees should be planted in. There is also soil mix information. Don't know if it will help with your problem.

The first thing I thought of (after maybe they were receiving too much sun, which you answered), was maybe the heat. Of course you know that even in shade there is more heat in pots than if they were planted in the much cooler ground. I have a 'Harry Lauder's Walking Stick' that I had hoped to get into the ground by now but, since it is taking me so long to plan the garden it is a feature in, it is still in the large pot it came in. It wasn't putting on growth as it should and was looking a bit weak and pale. I took the pot with the plant and just set it right down into a larger pot.. double potting it. That sort of added insulation I suppose, because I have allot of new growth and it has greened up, even though the pot itself never had direct sun on it. Adding some loose type of soil or mulch between the 2 pots would stabilize the temps even more but, 'Harry' doesn't seem to need it.

Secondly ...the soil. Young seedlings can sometimes be picky about the drainage, texture, pH, or whatever, even when older plants may not be. Don't know how your soil compares to a nursery that grow maple seedlings, but I would check up on that aspect a bit. I wouldn't worry too much about the tap root, unless you allow it to become pot-bound. If so, just transplant up.

Hope it makes it. It is a fun thing to have things growing that you had a bit of a hand in.


Here is a link that might be useful: Japanese Maple Tree Care, Facts and Growing Tips

    Bookmark   July 18, 2008 at 8:18PM
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stevation(z5a Utah)

I did get a useful reply on the maples forum saying the seedlings need very porous soil and recommending using crushed bark mixed in the soil. She also said Miracle-Gro is probably too alkaline for them and has caused problems for her.

Anyway, it's a little moot right now, because my last JM seedling died on the weekend! Bummer. But I will try again one of these days!

Thanks for the input.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 7:01PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

RIP for your poor little seedlings, Steve. Next time it will work for you!

David, As Digit pointed out to me last year when I brought up Sunshine Mix, it and Black Gold are made by the same company! I had no idea. I use Sunshine Mix because I can get it in bales, and because itÂs what everything was planted in at PaulinoÂsÂall the perennials and bedding plants and veggies. Everything except the water plantsÂwhich are planted in clay! They used Sunshine #1, which is what I use to put swap stuff in and any other outdoor plants IÂm starting or putting in pots for any reason, and I use Sunshine #5 for house plants just because it has finer perlite, and I donÂt like big chunks of perlite in my houseplants! But the primary ingredient in all the Sunshine mixes is Canadian peat. Ball Mix was what the first garden center I worked at used, and what my brother in Illinois usesÂbut I donÂt know of anywhere in Colorado where itÂs available retail in any size, small or bales. But the Ball mixes, from my experience, are virtually the same as the Sunshine mixes. IÂm sorry you didnÂt like it.

And when Digit posted about the Sunshine and Black Gold coming from the same place, I got curious and tried to look up Miracle Gro, and couldnÂt find anywhere on their site where they listed the ingredients! And that may very well explain why some people seem very happy with it and others kill everything when they use it. IÂve never used it, but as IÂve heard from other folks who have, apparently if varies widely from batch to batch, and IÂve even heard, at times, that it seems to contain a high volume of sedge peatÂwhich I believe is the primary ingredient in Hyponex. I canÂt imagine trying to grow anything in sedge peat, a/k/a muck, so I strongly recommend staying away from Miracle Gro. Or, to put it in other words, itÂs a Miracle if your stuff GroÂs in Miracle Gro!

So maybe you just got a bad batch of potting mix, Steve, and IÂm glad somebody on the other forum had some helpful info for you.

Happy trees to you........

Here is a link that might be useful: Sun Gro Horticultural Products

    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 11:55PM
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