How to protect an acer tree over winter?

How to protect an acer tree over winter?

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Acer trees (aka Japanese maples) are hardy trees and easy to look after. However, protecting an acer tree over winter helps them to survive to yet another growing season. I cover advice for both acer trees planted in the ground and those grown in pots.

For all acer trees, wherever they are planted

Overall Health

The healthier your acer tree is, the stronger it is to survive the winter weather. Look after it well all year long, attending to its sun and water needs. Quickly identify and solve any acer plant problems to keep disease and illness to a minimum. Regular inspection of the tree lets you catch anything that’s amiss as soon as it occurs.


No matter where your acer tree is, wrapping it in several layers of horticultural fleece is essential if frost is forecast. These trees don’t tolerate frost well and need protection from it. Even trees in sheltered areas may need some extra protection from wrapping. This is only really possible for small acers, rather than large trees but small acer trees grown in pots I would certainly wrap in fleece.

Acer trees in the ground

Acer tree planted in sheltered position to protect it from cold winds


Continuing to ensure that the soil has a layer of organic mulch throughout the winter serves more to keep moisture in and stop soil erosion than to feed nutrients to the tree. It also stops the soil from compacting down after a heavy rain. The tree is in its dormant period now so doesn’t need feeding. But mulching keeps nutrients in the soil ready for the burst of growth in the spring time.

Wind break

If your winter climate is such that it includes dry, cold, winds, you should build a wind break for your acer tree. Keeping the tree out of winds by stretching wind-reduction netting between poles helps keep moisture within the tree. Its also a good idea to plant acers in more sheltered positions so you don’t need to do this.

Acer palmatum with mulch around the base to add protection in the in the winter


Check the ground around the base of the Japanese maple tree to ensure that it doesn’t become waterlogged in the winter. As well as being a health hazard to the tree, this quality of soil can make young or small trees susceptible to being uprooted or toppled due to their shallow roots.

Acer trees in pots

Acer palmatum or Japanese maple shrub growing in a container


Move the acer tree container to a warm and sheltered spot for the winter. The base of a south-facing wall or the corner of your patio will do. Keep it out of the wind at all times.

Raise the container

Use bricks or something similar at the bottom edge of the container to raise the tree above the ground. This stops the cold from seeping upwards into the soil and the tree roots from the ground.


Ensure that there’s a thick layer of mulch (inorganic or organic) on the top of the soil to keep moisture in. This also prevents winter storms from blowing any soil away.

Finally, wrap your acer in horticultural fleece to give them a little extra protection, I really only do this when very cold weather is forecasted. I also like to wrap the pot in some sort of ragging over winter, you can also use bubble wrap, just don’t use it to wrap around the tree itself, only the pot.

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