Tree Trimming: Japanese Maple Pruning

The Japanese Maple tree comes in many varieties and when pruning be sure and evaluate the tree before making any cuts.

Before any kind of pruning is done be sure you start with good clippers. They should be sterilized in a bleach solution. The bleach solution should be one part bleach and nine parts water. The Japanese Maple, or Acer Palmatum, has over three hundred cultivars. This wide variety of hybrid Maples are all very beautiful. They vary in leaf shape and size. Foliage color varies from gold to blood red. Some are low growing and others can reach a height of twenty feet. There is a weeping variety also. Most are very hardy and durable and also very insect resistant. Most varieties of Japanese Maples can be grown in zones 4-8. A well drained, moist and fertile soil is needed. In the warmer areas of zone 8 they should do well in partial shade. So, as you can see, it is certain that there is a variety out there to suit you.

Dwarf Japanese Maples are grown in containers and are perfect for bonsai. These trees adapt well to pruning. They can be easily thinned out or pruned into a sculptural form to accentuate their shape. Propagation from seed is easily done and they are also easily transplanted.

For bonsai pruning you will need to pinch out any unwanted shoots in spring. When the new shoots develop 3-5 nodes then you can prune them back. It is important to leave half inch for die back. Trim the leaves in late spring. Do this every other year to encourage smaller leaves for your bonsai. Do not leaf prune the same year that a tree is repotted. Study bonsai pruning from any good bonsai book that gives you good instructions on how to do it properly.

Any size Japanese Maple should be pruned when it is dormant to avoid loss of sap which could stress the tree. Take out any crossing or rubbing branches first. Take off straight, parallel or vertical branches. Always evaluate your tree before pruning. You want to end up with a good shape, a natural size for that variety and retain a good view from your home. If major pruning has to be done be sure and make a three year plan. Do the pruning gradually over that three year period so the tree won't be stressed too much. Anytime you prune, you will need to seal the wounds with a wound dressing. You can use a wax based paste for dressing wounds or even Elmer's glue in a pinch. Dressing the wound will keep disease from entering the tree and keep it from losing too much sap and over stressing the tree.

Some varieties are very unusual such as the Sangokaku variety. It has coral branches and twigs. During the winter the branches are bare and look very beautiful. Some Japanese Maples are pruned into a cloud effect. This is done after the tree has leafed out in late spring. Separate the foliage and prune into cloud shaped masses along the main trunks. This can produce a very unique look.

Choose the variety for whatever your needs and wants are and use sharp clippers. Find the perfect location for your Japanese Maple. Evaluate before making any cuts. Don't prune too much at one time. Seal all wounds with wound dressing. Enjoy your beautiful tree.

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