When should I cut back a Japanese Maple?

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When should I cut back a Japanese Maple?

Post  Kiyalynn on Thu Apr 19, 2012 2:56 am

OK, I just bought a Japanese Maple tree from wal-mart. This tree has a 2in circumference trunk, and as I'm planning on a small bonsai that seams appropriate, tho perhaps on the small side (looking for about a 6in - 9in tall tree). I've decided to keep the tree in the nursery pot it came in for at least the next year. However, I'd like to start training it and have decided that I should cut it back to the bend in its trunk to keep the bend but remove a unsightly branch stub at the turn (this will cut the tree back to a 3in height). But, despite searching the web I cannot figure out when is the proper time to make such a drastic cut.
So my questions are; What time of year is the best time to drastically cut a Japanese Maple back? Is it OK to do so right away in this spring? or should I wait Until summer, fall... Or cut it back while its dormant before next springs growth? Also, Should I cut the root system back at this time too, or leave them?
Here's a picture of the tree in question, to help give a little more of a idea what I'm working with.


On the side note I read that Japanese Maples are 'nearly indestructible as long as you provide them with basic care' and that sounds very promising for someone looking to start bonsai.

Kiyalynn
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When Should I cut back a Japanese maple?

Post  bonsaisr on Thu Apr 19, 2012 3:51 am

Don't. You are a beginner. Keep the tree as it is for this year, until you know much more about bonsai. If you are in Pennsylvania, there is a bonsai club within reasonable distance. Take your tree to a meeting for advice.
First of all, don't try shohin bonsai (under 10 inches) until you are more experienced with larger ones (12 to 18"). The tiny ones are trickier. Also, it would be very difficult to reduce the leaf size on such a small specimen. If you want a shohin bonsai 6" to 9" tall, pick something with tiny leaves, like a cotoneaster.
Iris

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Re: When should I cut back a Japanese Maple?

Post  Poink88 on Thu Apr 19, 2012 4:26 am

Your tree could also be grafted. If you cut it back that low, you might get a totally different tree from what you see now. Verify first.

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Re: When should I cut back a Japanese Maple?

Post  Kiyalynn on Thu Apr 19, 2012 5:10 am

Poink88 wrote:Your tree could also be grafted. If you cut it back that low, you might get a totally different tree from what you see now. Verify first.
There are some very small branches below the 3in mark that show the same maple leaves as the top... so if it is grafted or not I think the 3 inches will still be OK.

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Re: When should I cut back a Japanese Maple?

Post  Gideon on Thu Apr 19, 2012 5:56 am

Air layer it! And if you still just want to cut it, I would def do it now. Its established in its pot so no reason not to.

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Re: When should I cut back a Japanese Maple?

Post  lordy on Thu Apr 19, 2012 12:05 pm

One thing about nursery trees is that you dont have a lot of time, and possibly not a lot of money invested in them yet. If you have decided to cut the tree, pay attention to what happens based on where you cut, when you cut, etc. You are presented with a learning experience that will provide a foundation for your future bonsai knowledge. Do your research, come up with a plan based on what the tree shows you, listen to advice of people here with tons of experience, and do it. It helps to keep a journal of what and when with photos for future reference. Have fun and good luck.

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Re: When should I cut back a Japanese Maple?

Post  fiona on Thu Apr 19, 2012 1:15 pm

lordy's advice is good. I'd add to it the following:

1. your tree has a trunk with 2inch circumference. That is not very much, even for a shohin. To give you an example, my shohin Acer which is about 9inches tall, has a trunk circumference of about 8 or 9inches. To get it to be that thick you would need to let it grow on in the ground or a large training pot for some time.
2. whether or not you cut it beforehand is up to you. I'd personally be doing what Gideon suggests and air-layering it so you have two trees to work with eventually. If you have horticultural experience that is an easier task. If you don't, then it could be a good learning curve for you.

But what would be very helpful is if you could post us a pic of the area you intend to cut down to. It also helps to put in some sort of "size comparator" and people use things like cigarette lighters or coffee mugs for that. A close-up would help us see if what you are proposing is do-able.

But above all, have fun with it and use it as a learning tool.

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Re: When should I cut back a Japanese Maple?

Post  Kiyalynn on Thu Apr 19, 2012 5:15 pm

I've decided I'm definitely going to air layer it, and plant the thinner top in the yard to grow a thicker trunk. I've never tried doing such a thing before but I've looked up several articles and watched a video showing how to air layer, it looks like a fairly basic thing for bonsai and a technique I should probably learn sooner rather than later. As for the cost of the tree, It cost me about 30$ witch I thought was really reasonable for a healthy looking and guaranteed to live for a year (even If I bonsai It) Japanese Maple; and I've owned it for a day lol. Also I'm most definitely taking photo's and documenting this one, They will probably be crappy cell phone photo's like the first one but I'll post them on Facebook because I have nothing better to talk about.





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Re: When should I cut back a Japanese Maple?

Post  fiona on Thu Apr 19, 2012 5:33 pm

I love your optimism but NO tree is ever "guaranteed to live for a year" - I'd hate to think a salesperson told you that.

It would be good if you could post a close-up of that bottom section on here for us. Without it, we can't really advise you much further as we'd be dealing in generalisations rather than the reality presented by that particular tree. A cell phone can usually take a decent enough shot if you set it up properly. Can you place a large piece of white paper or cardboard or even a sheet behind it so the section really stands out? That would help enormously.

Thanks


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Re: When should I cut back a Japanese Maple?

Post  JimLewis on Thu Apr 19, 2012 6:32 pm

I love your optimism but NO tree is ever "guaranteed to live for a year" - I'd hate to think a salesperson told you that.

At least one of our big box stores puts that guarantee on all plants they sell. I've often thought of testing it out with some ridiculous claim, but never have done it.

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Re: When should I cut back a Japanese Maple?

Post  lordy on Thu Apr 19, 2012 6:45 pm

I left the tag on a landscape azalea that I got at 'big orange', and thought I was going to have to get a replacement, but darned if it didnt survive and actually looks good in bloom right now. Quite a marketing gimmick that evidently works pretty well. They sell a ton of plants.

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Re: When should I cut back a Japanese Maple?

Post  Poink88 on Thu Apr 19, 2012 6:52 pm

I believe it is a replacement warranty. As far as I know, you need the receipt and the plant need to be in the original pot to return but I may be mistaken. I would also think that if the plant is mutilated or chopped that it will void it.

I know for a fact that Walmart, Lowe's, and Home Depot offers this (at least until last year). I don't bother with it though since I believe plants that die under my care is due to my shortcomings. Claims (fraudulent or not) is passed to the poor supplier/grower by the way so please be mindful and be fair.

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Re: When should I cut back a Japanese Maple?

Post  Kiyalynn on Thu Apr 19, 2012 8:43 pm

OK heres a few more photo's;
This one is the tag that states the 1 year guarantee. The lady at the checkout assured me that chopping the tree down to make it into a bonsai would not be 'harming' the tree in a way that would kill a healthy tree and therefor if I saved the receipt and the tag I should be able to get it replaced or refunded I'm not sure witch. It is my hope that I manage to keep the tree alive and would of bought it regardless of any warranty. I bought it because it was a Japanese maple that was listed as one of the basic and easy tree's to bonsai in my bonsai book.

Here is a picture of the lower portion of the tree, showing the maple leaves.

This photo is the same spot but with the branch pulled out of the way to show the bend in the tree. This is where I planned to chop the tree down to. Just below that unsightly stub on the side, and then make a new lead going at approx the same angle. That would also allow for the trunk past that to narrow off for a gentler tip instead of having a thick trunk all the way though the tree. (that bend is almost exactly 3 in from the soil and there is a maple leaf branch barely above the soil in the back) Maybe this would be better if thickened the trunk more and cut the tree higher up, in witch case whats the best way to remove that stub? I don't want it there.

However, for air layering I plan to go much higher up the tree to do so. Midway up the tree is a interesting fork with a second fork higher up. I was thinking to air layer a from right below the first fork and then plant it in the yard for quite a while in order to thicken both trunks.

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Re: When should I cut back a Japanese Maple?

Post  Poink88 on Thu Apr 19, 2012 8:53 pm

Nurse that low branch growing from the ground DO NOT REMOVE IT! (or any of the lower branch) they will help your trunk to thicken.

That curve is perfect once you tilted the tree a bit. I would let it thicken more before you cut it higher (maybe 5" or 2" higher than your original plan) That stub is nothing, you can just nip it.

Re: you air layer, your plan to do it below the fork is good. Unless you want a twin trunk, you can use one as your sacrificial branch. Good luck!

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Re: When should I cut back a Japanese Maple?

Post  fiona on Thu Apr 19, 2012 9:28 pm

Can't say I've ever seen a "plant guarantee" over here but then again, at the risk of sounding snobby, I wouldn't look at plants in our equivalent of Home Depot or Wal-Mart. I wonder how many people do take them back after maltreating them and try to claim their money back.

Good luck with your tree. Let us know how you get on.

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Re: When should I cut back a Japanese Maple?

Post  dadshouse on Tue May 01, 2012 2:27 am

Good luck and look forward to hearing/ seeing your progress. Im going to air-layer our chinese elm this week too.

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Re: When should I cut back a Japanese Maple?

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