The Japanese maple variety is perhaps one of my favourite varieties of plant in which to bonsai. Having said that, to bonsai with Japanese maples takes patience as it is a slow growing deciduous plant. It is native of Japan, but also China and Korea and grows well in most climates. Through my experience I have noticed it is quite a robust and hardy tree which is difficult to kill. Over the years I have both grown Japanese maple as a tree in itself from seedlings, but also turned many into bonsai and at this very moment I have two seedlings about 5 cm tall which I am growing. No doubt this will be a very LONG work in progress. However if patience isn’t your game, then perhaps bonsai isn’t the best hobby.
One of the important things to note when you bonsai with Japanese maples is that you will need to have a solid trunk in which to work off, in order to do this it’s necessary to give the plant a large pot, plenty of good soil, fertilizer and sun. In essence what you want to do is put the plant on steroids so that you have a lovely thick trunk to work with. As the plant grows it is essential to re-pot into a larger container and root prune to stimulate growth in early spring before the tree starts to produce new growth. The hardy nature of the Japanese maple will allow heavy root pruning, but it’s important to add that this must be done while the tree is still dormant.
When it comes to pruning bonsai with Japanese maples you can be a little creative as the plant does respond well and re-growth will occur if you mess up initially. You can both train with wire or simply clip and cut as you see fit and develop the plant to the desired shape, though I suggest having a good look at other Japanese maple bonsai and try to emulate their design. Japanese maple branches tend to naturally align themselves horizontally and this is evident if you look at any tree in your local area, given this, try to use this to your advantage and clip the plant to encourage further this layering.
To bonsai with Japanese maples is truly enjoyable and the fruits of your labour will be long lasting. In addition each season will also follow a changing in the leaf’s colour. Enjoy.