Japanese Maple (Acer Palmatum + var)
The Royal Family of Bonsai,
(Acer Palmatum) + (Acer Dissectum)
The majestic Japanese Red Maple is considered the king of Bonsai trees. It's complicated and vigorous growth compiled with small, colourful ornamental leaves. Make this tree both easy to grow and impressive when mature.
For the most part, Japanese Maples are of the more accessible varieties to grow as Bonsai.
But that's just the beginning as there are hundreds of magnificent cultivars this variety has.
- Small flowers make way to red leaves, turning purple later in the summer and fall. When the leaves fall, they make visible the reddish-black trunk, having a very striking effect.
This purple leaf all-rounder that is both hardy and delicate is one of the most common and forgiving as a Bonsai.
- This green-leafed tree looks impressive and compact, with thicker textured leaves that have a little curl to them. Its slow growth makes it an ideal Bonsai material. Midsummer, the leaves develop an orange edge. Come fall is where the bright pumpkin-coloured leaves make this variety stand out.
Koto No Ito
- Meaning: Golden Old Harp, this variety has delicate lace-like leaves that emerge dark red, turning green during growth and then a golden yellow in the fall. Slow growing and a semi-dwarf Acer cultivar make this an excellent choice for Bonsai.
- Famously known as Coral Bark Maple, for its striking bright red bark colour. Leaves start pinkish yellow in the spring, turning to soft green in the summer before turning a golden yellow in the fall. The unique bark colour accentuates the delicate leaves. This slow-growing cultivar is a very desirable specimen for Bonsai. Trying to describe this majestic tree in only one picture is impossible, so we added another of its summer colours.
- The Lions Head Maple, one of if not the most desirable of the Japanese Maples for Bonsai. Tight leaf bunches that curl and are arranged in a cloud-like shape. Slow growing with a mesmerizing green bark. This cultivar is famous for attracting attention from anyone that happens to see it. When most other maples are losing their leaves and getting ready for the winter, the Shishigashira is still going strong, slowly changes its colouring to golden, crimson and rose hues. Once again, standing in a class of its own.
Dwarf Japanese Maple
- This exciting cultivar is highly sought after for Bonsai as it naturally slow-growing. In addition, Dwarf Japanese Maples* also have naturally small leaves, short internodes and abundant branching. Using this material for Bonsai is wonderful given the proportionate nature of the art. With small leaves, short internodes and low branching, your Dwarf Japanese Maple Bonsai will look like a large weathered maple in nature very quickly.
*Important - The Dwarf Japanese Maples unlike our standard Young Japanese Maples, do not come in 1-gallon pots, rather smaller shallow pots. Being a dwarf cultivar they grow slower than other Japanese Maple cultivars and as such seem younger than they are.
Baby Japanese Maples are 6-18 months old and just beginning their journey. These are the perfect age trees to start training trunk movement.
Young Japanese Maples (all cultivars) are 4-6 years old and come in 1-gallon nursery pots. These trees (Pre-Bonsai) are at the perfect age to repot and train as a Bonsai.
These are not seeds - But Actual Bonsai Tree
Please see our Choosing a Bonsai page, for the age and dimensions regarding the different stages of our Bonsai (Baby, Young, & Mature).
It is important for the soil have good water retention while also draining well, along with very good aeration. The quality of the soil directly affects the health, size and growth of your tree. One of the worst things you can do to your tree is plant it in regular garden soil. Garden soil hardens when it drys and can often lead to a disadvantage when growing a Bonsai.
Soil mixtures can be purchased here, but given their weight and cost of shipping, you can also easily make your own.
Depending on the type of Bonsai you're growing, here are the general formulas for successful mixtures.
Deciduous Tree (Leafy and looses leafs in the fall)
10% Potting Compost
Coniferous Tree (Evergreen like Juniper, Cedar)
If you are not able to check on your Bonsai's moisture levels daily, add more Akadama to the mix.
Given how these soils erode over time, repotting every 2-3 years is required.
Here are some suitable replacements if you cannot find the recommended types of soil.
- Akadama - fine fired or baked clays, some even recommend cat litter as a substitute.
- Pumice - fine crushed aggregates, expanded shale and vermiculite.
- Lava Rock - This can be replaced with fine gravel or you can also look into purchasing a larger lava rock at a hardware or gardening centre and crushing it.
One of the best and easiest ways to fertilize your Bonsai, is to add a liquid fertilizer mix when water your Bonsai's once a month during the spring/summer. If your Bonsai looses leaves in the winter there is no need to fertilize it then. If you have a coniferous tree, fertilizing the tree once in the beginning of winter and once in the middle of winter should be sufficient.