The trident maple is a native of China and Japan. It is one of the most suitable trees for bonsai art. The tree has green foliage which turns red in autumn. Its three-lobed leaves can resist scorching in hot conditions other maples would find unbearable.
For bonsai purposes, trident maples are to be treated as mini trees and not house plants. They should be located outside even in winter but have to be protected from frost. This can be done by burying the pot up to its rim and adding mulch up to the lowest branch. The alternative is to put it in the garage without heating. The point is to expose the tree to the winter cold without the frost.
When placed in the garage, lighting is not necessary as the tree goes into a 3-month long dormancy period. There is very little to no physical change during this time.
From spring to summer and fall, the tree should be placed in a position that allows it to receive morning sunlight but shaded during the afternoon sun.
You must water trident maple bonsai in such a way that the soil is never completely dry in between watering sessions. During times of full exposure to sunshine, it may be necessary to water the plant once every day.
The actual schedule, however, depends on the age of the tree, the size of the pot, and the nature of the soil. A good way to determine if the water is enough is to see if it starts draining out through the holes at the bottom of the pot.
Since the tree is in such a small amount of soil, periodic fertilization is necessary to maintain a sufficient supply of nutrients and keep the plant healthy. Ordinary general–purpose fertilizers will suffice so long the potency is reduced by half. Fertilizers can be added once a month throughout the year, taking a break only during winter since the tree goes dormant.
Pruning is important for the bonsai to maintain its small size and a styled appearance. Trim new growth as much as is safe for the tree’s health. This is generally back to the first pair of leaves. Always leave a little new growth to sustain the tree’s health and to balance the crown and root systems.
To discourage the tree from growing too tall and encourage lateral branching, strong prune the top of the crown.
Defoliation of trident maple bonsai is best performed in spring. To do this, simply use a pair of scissors to cut the leaves, leaving the leaf petioles intact. The remaining petioles allow the plant to receive some necessary nutrients. For this reason, even fully defoliated bonsai trees need lighting. However, they can do with very little watering since there is reduced transpiration.
You should get rid of 30 percent of the tree’s big leaves every two years.
Trident maple bonsai trees are best transplanted in early spring just before the plant begins to bud. Before performing the first transplant, it is important to give the tree up to three years to allow it to establish its root system. You can cut back 50 to 60 percent of the tree’s roots before placing it in a new pot. When pruning the roots, go for old feeder roots as opposed to younger ones. Always cut away any dead roots to avoid root rot.