There’s a fun and inexpensive way to get Japanese maples for your yard. If you have kids, it could also be a great educational experience. (See end of article for link to science content standards and suggestions. )
I’ll never forget the day my black lab Maxine came up the driveway with a neighbor’s soon to be planted large Japanese maple in her teeth. Thankfully it was not damaged as I probably could not have afforded to replace it. This is definitely not the way to acquire a Japanese maple!
Get a Free Japanese Maple
The Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) is one of the most popular landscape trees. You can buy one for your yard from under $5 for a seedling to up to $200 or more for a good sized tree. You might consider growing one either from seed or from a cutting.
Ask neighbors or friends if you can take a couple of cuttings from their trees, or simply collect seeds from the ground in the Fall. Many plants can be cut and rooted. Some can simply be rooted in water. The Japanese maple should be rooted in soil. Here are instructions for growing Japanese maples for your yard from either cuttings or seeds.
Deciding Between Propagating Japanese Maples from Cuttings or Growing From Seed
If you root a cutting, it will look like the parent tree. However, if you grow from seed, the tree may be a little different. Some nurseries graft Japanese maples but this is a more complicated process than rooting. If you root a cutting, it will be important to either be very diligent in keeping the little tree misted throughout the day by hand, or use an automatic misting system.
Rooting the Japanese Maple Cutting
The process of rooting a cutting from a Japanese maple is very simple.
- Prepare a pot or flat by filling it with moist potting soil.
- Find new growth on the tree and cut that small branch.
- Remove the lower leaves from the branch and leave two or three leaves toward the top of the cutting.
- Place the branch into the soil being sure to bury at least one leaf node (be sure the leaf has been removed first). Before planting it, you can first dip the branch into water, then in rooting hormone as this may insure the branch will sprout roots. However, you might have good success without it.
- Place the pot inside a plastic bag, but leave the bag open for air. The purpose of this step is to keep the plant moist at all times.
- The pot should be in a warm place, but not direct light.
- Using a hand sprayer, mist the cutting several times a day and keep the soil moist. If you’re fortunate enough to have an automatic misting system, you won’t need to hand mist.
- When you begin to see vigorous new leaves growing, that means you have successfully grown roots!
Plant Your New Tree
Hopefully you plant the tree before it becomes root bound in the pot. A plant is root bound when the roots inside the pot begin to go around the pot. If this happens, take a pair of scissors and trim the roots before planting. If you are planting shortly after new leaves begin to grow, your plant will most likely not be root bound.
Dig a hole about the size of the pot your tree is in. Put a little pile of soil in the center of the hole. Gently remove the tree from the pot and shake some soil off of the roots. Spread the roots out over the pile of soil and gently add soil to fill in the hole. Tamp gently. Water. Small new trees need to be kept moist. Their root systems are still shallow and they can dry out and die quickly, so keep a good eye on your tree.
The Soil for Your Japanese Maple
Give your trees a head start by providing rich live soil. One way to do this is to add mychorrizal innoculant into the soil. Mychorrizae will continue to give for the life of the tree, and the cost is so minimal. Do this simple and inexpensive step and your tree will look fabulous in no time at all! Learn how and why it is such an effective soil amendment.
Growing Japanese Maples From Seed
Check back for a post on this topic.
Science Content Standards
You can use science content standards at home to enrich your child’s science education in a fun way. Here are simple instructions.
What are your experiences with rooting Japanese maples or any other type of tree?