Japanese Maple Container Gardening Guide
There are several smaller cultivars of Japanese maple that do very well in containers. By planting your maple in a container you are then given the opportunity to be much more creative with where you place your tree. They can go on your deck, patio, courtyard, near an arbor, or even into your screen room or entryway. You also have the added advantage of being able to move them around when you want or take with you if you move.
Container vs. Growing In Soil
Having success growing a Japanese maple in a container requires a lot more work than when they are in the soil. There is a little more care and maintenance needed, but in the end your efforts will be greatly rewarded with a great looking tree.
Check for Hardiness
Japanese maples are rated for growing in zone 5b. As a general rule of thumb, when you grow something inside a container you lose one zone. If you are going to grow your maple in a zone 5, then you need to protect it from the colder weather. Bury the container in the ground, or you can cover the pot and roots with leaves. You can also grow Japanese maples in a container in other areas if you have a storage area that does not get below 20 F.
Select Right Pot
The pots must have adequate drainage holes. If you are not sure, then it will not hurt to drill a few more in the bottom. The best pots to use are fired ceramic pots. They will last for several years and are not affected by any temperature fluctuations. The right pot should also be one that is easy to move. While ceramic is a great pot for a Japanese maple, it can be heavy. Plastic pots are also durable in the weather, and they are lightweight. One of the problems though is that it they can be cheap looking.
Choose the Right Potting Mix
Store bought potting mixes are good for flowers and other plants that are going to be transplanted, or moved. However, for long term planting, you are better off using a customized soil. Make your own potting mix with topsoil, organic mulch and compost, and sand. Mix these together to form your own mix. You should always use an inch or two of crushed rock on the bottom of the pot before you place in your soil.
Water and Fertilize Often
Japanese maple do not like dry conditions. You will need to keep the tree watered frequently when you see that the soil is not moist or wet anymore. Fertilize with a water soluble fertilizer with a 20-20-20 formula. Fertilization should only be done from spring through the summer. You are not trying to promote growth, but health. Use half the recommended amount of fertilizer.