When it comes to Bonsai trees, few species come close to the spectacular results obtained from maple bonsai. The seasonally changing colors of the maple’s foliage make for stunning views. Even when not in leaf, a these bonsai are an eye catcher. One of the best characteristics of these trees which make them suitable for bonsai is the ability of the bark to heal and seal its wounds fast. This is an important trait since bonsai involves a lot of cutting, piercing, and pruning. There are different species of maple trees and most of them make good bonsai art. Among the best species for bonsai are the Chinese, the silver, the field, the Canadian, the deshojo, the vine, and the Norway maples.
Chinese red maples, whose botanical name is Acer Palmatum, are native to China. This tree’s leaves have five lobes, making them resemble a human palm hence the name Acer Palmatum. Old Chinese reds have brown or light gray barks which start out as green and sometimes red when they are young.
The most important thing to consider when deciding where to put your Acer Palmatum bonsai tree is the amount of sunlight. These trees have delicate foliage which tends to ‘burn’ in hot sunshine. Position the maple in such a way that it receives morning and evening sunlight, but stays in the shade during the hottest hours of the day.
Wrong watering methods kill more bonsai than any other cause. Chinese red maple bonsai does best in moist to wet soils so long there is ample drainage to avoid root rot. It would be a good idea to invest in a moisture meter to add some precision to the process.
Chinese maple bonsai trees need the right type and amount of fertilizer at the right time. One rule to follow is not to fertilize them within two months of repotting. During hot summers, avoid fertilizing the plant for two months. If possible, go for natural fertilizers but if you have to use the chemical type, make sure you use a balanced combination then dilute it to reduce its potency by half.
Chinese maple bonsai trees have to be repotted every two to three years for older trees, and every year for young trees. With each re-pot, you should cut the roots short by half. Get rid of dead roots to avoid root rot.
The trees are prone to aphids, mildews, and root rot. The aphids can be overcome by spraying while root rot can be prevented by adequate drainage.
The silver maple tree is native to Eastern USA and Canada. It is one of the most common trees in the region. The tree is usually found in wetlands hence the name water maple. These trees are known to be fast growing. At 10 years of age, the tree can stand at 8 meters, reaching up to 25 meters in full adulthood. In rare cases, the tree can go up to 35 meters tall. Adult trees have dark gray shaggy barks while younger branches are silver gray with a smooth texture.
Any tree can be used for bonsai but the silver maple is among the hardest to grow. Its internodes are too far apart and the leaves tend to be hard to reduce in size. Their coarser branching and longer leaf petioles do not help their case.
Wiring is necessary to train and style your bonsai. The process is however a little harder for silver maples as their branches are too brittle. Wiring the branches should be done very gently.
Naturally, field maples grow 10-15 meters tall. They have lush foliage graced by 9 cm leaves which each have 3 lobes. The dark green leaves with green-blue undersides turn yellow and orange in autumn. New leaves typically have a reddish hue to them. When grown as bonsai, the leaves can be reduced to about 3 centimeters in size.
This type of bonsai can be positioned in direct sunshine or partial shade, but the summer sun is too harsh for its survival. The tree can perfectly handle frost so long the temperatures do not drop below -10 degrees Celsius. In such cases, appropriate protection, like bringing them indoors, should be applied.
The trees need moderately wet soils. They can tolerate dry conditions for short periods of time but for best results, they need abundant watering with sufficient drainage. Watering should be significantly reduced in winter to just keep the soil uniformly moist.
Field maple bonsai is easy to style with diligent pruning and wiring when the branches are young and trainable. They tend to become too hard and stiff once matured. For best results, wiring should be done just after defoliation in June every year. Leaf sizes of less than half an inch can be achieved by consistently defoliating the tree.
Canadian maples are thoroughly spread along the east coast from the north down to the south of Canada. They are fast growing trees, maturing within 80 years with trunks reaching up to 25 centimeters in girth. They can reach astounding heights of 20 meters. The foliage is generally red with patches of green while the bark is gray and thin. As the tree ages, the trunk develops long narrow furrows with rough ridges.
As a bonsai tree, the Canadian red maple can be positioned outside with full exposure to sunlight. However, during hot summers, the tree should be partially shielded to avoid burning the foliage.
The tree should be watered every day during the growing season. Watering the leaves should be avoided as it results in a scorched crown. For grafted stock, extra care should be taken to prevent the tree from drying out.
New growth must be trimmed down to two or one pair of leaves during spring to shape the tree and create open spaces in the crown. Remove large leaves throughout the growing season, leaving only small ones for the perfect bonsai look.
Autumn is the best time to do some root pruning and repotting on Canadian maples. This should be done every two to three years for young trees, and 5 years for mature trees.
When repotting young trees, all earth must be removed from the roots but for older trees, an earth ball should be transferred along with the tree.
Deshojo maple is a species of Japanese maple with a well-branched form, and foliage which goes through dramatic color changes throughout the seasons. In spring, the leaves are salmon red, changing to green in mid-summer. In autumn, the deshojo changes color to a brilliant orange. No matter the season, all new growths come out red, complementing the older foliage beautifully.
The trees are a slow growing species due to their lack of chlorophyll. They are generally a small tree even naturally.
Deshojo bonsai can be located outside. However, exposing the trees to too much sun during spring before the leaves harden damages them. On the other hand, keeping the tree in the shade for even just a few days will cause the foliage to lose is color.
To avoid stressing the plant, do not prune more than one fifth of the crown in less than a year. Spread the pruning evenly throughout the plant to avoid biased bulking and clutter. For aesthetics, cut away all branches that touch the ground and any dead ones preferably with a keyhole saw for clean cuts. For large branches, pruning should be performed mid-summer for fast healing and callus formation.
A thin canopy is essential for easy penetration of light. To achieve this, get rid of growth close to the trunk, large leaves, and those below their branch.
As long as the deshojo bonsai is healthy and strong, defoliation can be performed mid-summer every year. This results in more budding and therefore high leaf and twig density. Defoliating weak trees results in quite the opposite – few large leaves with internodes that are too far apart.
Deshojo maple bonsai can be watered daily so long as there is ample drainage.
Known by its botanical name as acer circinatum, the vine maple is a native of British Columbia and Northern California. It grows with multiple stems with the classic tiered branches of Japanese maples. Its foliage ranges from colored soft yellow when in the shade, and bright orange when exposed to the sun.
When grown as bonsai, the vine maple must be positioned in direct sunlight so long it is shielded from the scorching summer sun. Since the tree is an understory type, it can do equally well in complete shade.
The vine maple should be watered regularly to maintain moderately wet soils. In hot summers, it may be necessary to water the plant twice a day, especially after the tree has established many feeder roots.
Before making any attempt to style it with pruning, be sure to give the plant at least a year to establish itself. The stalks of these trees are thin and tend to lean. If that be the case, support the stalk with a stake until it is strong enough to maintain an upright position.
Avoid sup bleeding by pruning between late fall and mid-summer.
Norway maple is a native of much of Europe and Western Asia, covering Russia and going as far as Iran. It grows as tall as 30 meters with it trunk reaching up to 1.5 meters in diameter.
As bonsai, the Norway maple can be grown outside where it will be exposed to direct sunshine in the morning and evening but not during the hot midday sun, especially in summer.
Maintain moist soils but avoid keeping them wet for a long time. Ample drainage is important as this particular species is susceptible to root rot. In summer, avoid watering the bonsai during the hottest parts of the day. Water the plant in the morning and evening.
Apply a low yield balanced fertilizer twice a week from early spring to late summer. Fertilizers with low nitrogen levels are suitable during autumn, and spring demands slow release fertilizer as new growths push out.
Once the bonsai tree is established, apex nodes can be pruned to encourage lateral nodes and more aesthetic branching. Serious branch pruning should be done before new growths pop up in spring.
For young bonsai Norway maples, repotting should be performed every year in spring and as the tree matures, lengthen the intervals to up to once every three years. With every repot for older trees, the roots should be cut by up to a third, and all dead root removed to avoid root rot.
Wiring of tender branches should be one in spring, gently. For the stiffer mature branches, a gradual approach should be taken where you pull the branches into position bit by bit.