The Q&A Archives: Planting Japanese Maple

Question: I am about to purchase my third Japanese maple. They don't last long once I plant them. What do I need to do to give them the best start? How do I prepare the soil?

Answer: Japanese Maples are especially well suited to Pacific Northwest gardens, making your lack of success in getting one to thrive even more of a disappointment. Japanese Maple will tolerate full sun but prefer shelter from hot afternoon sunshine, and they like moist but not waterlogged soil. They will adapt to most soils but grow especially well in acidic and organic soils. The trees are prone to Verticillium wilt, so if you've had disease problems with your previously planted Japanese Maples, find another location to plant your new tree.

After choosing just the right planting spot, dig the soil and amend it with peatmoss or aged-compost. Be sure to amend a large area. If you just put peat or compost into the planting hole you'll encourage the tree roots to remain in the rich soil instead of venturing out into the native soil. This will make the roots grow around in a circle, eventually girdling the tree. After incorporating the organic matter, place a mound of soil in the planting hole and drape the roots of the tree over it, so they fall in a natural way. Then position the tree so it will be growing at the same level it was growing before and backfill the hole with soil. Water well after planting and be sure to water thoroughly once each week. Most landscape trees and shrubs require one-inch of water per week during the growing season. After some initial transplant stress your Japanese Maple should grow into a beautiful 15'-20' tree with a rounded canopy.

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