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It’s quite straightforward to plant an acer tree in the ground. I give you instructions for how to do this plus advice on when and where to plant these Japanese maple trees.
When to plant an acer tree
The best time to plant an acer tree (Japanese maple) is in the early autumn through the winter time. This translates generally from October to March, at least a month before the ground freezes. You can also plant these trees in spring and pay special attention to them. If you purchase them bare root then they can only be planted when the tree is dormant and has lost all of its leaves. Acers purchased in pots can also be planted at any wany time of the year if needed as long as the ground is not frozen.
Where to plant a Japanese maple tree
Although some varieties of acer tree can grow to 8m tall, they’re generally slow-growing trees. They’re usually sold in pots so you need to acclimate them to their new location in your garden slowly. Gradually introduce them to their new home by moving the container around to slowly increase the amount of sunlight they receive, establish a watering schedule and plan when to fertilise them. This avoids environment shock.
Although they’re hardy trees, acers prefer specific growing conditions which include:
Sheltered partial shady spots
Choose a location away from strong winds. Don’t plant acer trees in an exposed place that’s in a wind tunnel. Most Japanese maples, especially the ones with variegated leaves, need partial shade in the afternoon hours. This prevents their leaves from being scorched. Those with dark coloured leaves (red and purple leaves) need more sun to produce their colours. Green leaved trees can tolerate full sun but do best with shady spaces.
Slightly acidic soil
Acer trees grow well in most soils. However, they’re at their best in slightly acidic soils, especially the varieties with more reddish leaves. Whatever the soil, though, you should ensure that it’s well drained. Don’t let your Japanese maple tree stand in water-logged ground as this can lead to root rot and other problems.
You can always improve the soil by digging in some organic and well-rotted compost. Use your own or buy bags from the garden centre.
Lots of room
Acer trees like a lot of room around them. Don’t crowd them in with lots of other plants, bushes or trees. They shouldn’t have to compete with other plants for water and nutrients from the soil.
How to plant your acer tree
Prepare the site
After carefully selecting just the right site for your acer tree, loosen the soil over a wide area and to the depth of the root ball. Add organic compost to increase the acidity of the soil and to improve drainage.
Unpack and prepare the tree
You’ll probably buy your acer tree in a pot. Water the tree in the pot well then remove the tree carefully from the container. Trim the roots that are bound up in the pot and spread them out. Soak the roots for about 30 minutes before planting.
Dig the planting hole
Dig the hole so that it’s no deeper than the acer tree roots. But make it two to three times the diameter of the root ball with the roots spread out. If you compact the sides of the hole as you’re digging, loosen up the soil there a bit.
Plant the acer tree
Place the tree in the planting hole. Position the roots so that the top ones are level with the soil surface when you’ve finished planting. Acer trees like to have a shallow root system as planting them deeply prevents air getting down to the roots. Never plant an acer any deeper than it was in its original pot.
If necessary – that is, the tree is large or top heavy – prop it up with a stake.
Refill the hole with the soil you took out and you can also mix in a little compost or bone meal. Carefully place the soil around and between the roots. Gently push down the soil to a hard mass.
Did you know you can also grow acers in pots? Its great for smaller gardes and you can learn more about growing acers in containers here
Water the tree in to give it a good start in its new life in your garden. Newly planted trees will need water regularly whilst they establish, this usually takes up to around 12 months. This is especially important for acers grown in pots as they dry out quickly.