Acer Rubrum That I Am Purchasing From Local Nursery

Nanookadenord

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I found a local nursery selling Acer rubrum on Ebay and so I purchased one. I am Northerner, a Yankee from Philly living in Florida, Zone 9b and my favorite tree is the maple. I know I cannot have a maple from Philly and have it survive down here, so I went with the next best thing, a maple from Florida.

It is 15 inches tall currently. What can I do with it to get it bonsai ready? Please keep in mind that I live in an apartment and cannot plant it in the ground. What would you do if you could not plant it in the ground?

s-l1600.jpg
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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I suggest thinking of it as a balcony or patio tree. I am assuming that where you took the photo is on your balcony?

How large a bonsai do you want to end up with? Acer rubrum is probably best in larger sizes, shoot for at least 24 to 40 inches tall. At larger sizes the proportion problems red maple has with overly long leaf petioles will be less obvious. It will be more than hardy enough to leave outside through winter. Do not protect it from cold, it needs every minute of near freezing and below freezing it can get to help meet dormancy requirements. Protect it from cold and it will slowly weaken and die.

For a tree that is 24 to 40 inches in diameter, you will want a trunk that is at least 4 inches in diameter, preferably 6 or more inches in diameter. When you set a beer can or soda can next to the trunk, it should be larger in diameter than the can. So for the time being you should be just letting it grow. You can let it grow tall, which might get unwanted attention from the land-lord or the homeowners association. Or you can force it to get bushy. Search this site, and read Walter Pall's blog about Hedge Pruning maples. What increases the diameter of the trunk is the total leaf surface area. The more leaves, the more surface area, the quicker the trunk will increase in diameter. So the more branches, the more leaves, the quicker the trunk will increase in diameter.

Also, this trunk is very straight, without movement or any interest. Here is what I'd do.
year one - Prune trunk off at roughly 4 to 6 inches tall. Seal the wound. It is okay to do this now. Use cut paste, or Elmer's wood glue, or Duct Seal, or any of the many sealants suggested. The tree should take 4 to 6 weeks, and will send out many back buds. You want to keep any back bud more than an inch above the roots. Remove any root suckers, or shoots growing from the point where the roots join the trunk.

Let these shoots grow wild all year. in the mean time, you can think about style you might want to shoot for. Informal upright? Broom?, Informal Broom? What ever style you like. I would avoid styles like literati, windswept, and slanting, as these have quirks that make them hard for a novice to pull off. Also the tree will resist being made into a cascade. I would forget that one too, though it could be done.

2020
Late winter, while leafless, look at the branches that grew the year previous. Prune off any obvious problems. Multiple branches from the same point should be reduced to a single branch. You are not styling the tree yet, so don't pick a front or back, don't worry about that. You need lots of growth and you probably will not keep any of the first sets of branches in the final design 10 years down the road. It can be styled the first time by about 5 years, but the second styling at about 10 to 15 years will be the one that makes it an exhibition tree. SO don't worry about front, back or style, not right away.
Late winter 2020 hedge prune - Remember how short you pruned the trunk? If you cut it to 4 inches, no branch should have a straight section longer than two thirds this 4 inch distance. Hence, 3 inches would be maximum visually acceptable straight segment of branch. Now cut every 2019 branch to roughly 3 inches in length. This will force branching, and it will force more back budding from the trunk.

2020 - repot to larger pot - work out the roots, arrange a radial root distribution, like spokes of a wheel. Do not expose the roots, nebari,, Instead bury the roots. You need to keep the nebari buried by at least half inch for the first 5 years or so.

Let it grow for 2020

late winter 2021 - repeat the branch selection as outlined above. Where branches branch, if there are 3, reduce it to 2. Awkward branches must go. Then prune to less than 3 inches. Actually, the 2020 segments of a branch should be pruned to be about two thirds the length of the 2019 segments, so if they were 3 inches, the next segment should be 2 inches. This pattern of shorter and shorter segments should repeat ''ad finitum'', but of course, we are really only doing this the first 5 to 10 years, it will work out.
Repot to larger pot if needed.

This cycle of grow out, prune back needs to be repeated for about 5 years. You should have a dense ball of branches and foliage, maybe 36 inches in diameter. When you to your first styling somewhere around year 5 to year 7 you should have dozens, maybe as many as 30 to 50 branches to choose from to create your lines. You will remove 90% of the tree at that point. But you should have lots of good choices. wiggly branches because they were repeatedly pruned to prevent long straight runs. It will work out nice.
 
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Nanookadenord

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I suggest thinking of it as a balcony or patio tree. I am assuming that where you took the photo is on your balcony?

How large a bonsai do you want to end up with? Acer rubrum is probably best in larger sizes, shoot for at least 24 to 40 inches tall. At larger sizes the proportion problems red maple has with overly long leaf petioles will be less obvious. It will be more than hardy enough to leave outside through winter. Do not protect it from cold, it needs every minute of near freezing and below freezing it can get to help meet dormancy requirements. Protect it from cold and it will slowly weaken and die.

For a tree that is 24 to 40 inches in diameter, you will want a trunk that is at least 4 inches in diameter, preferably 6 or more inches in diameter. When you set a beer can or soda can next to the trunk, it should be larger in diameter than the can. So for the time being you should be just letting it grow. You can let it grow tall, which might get unwanted attention from the land-lord or the homeowners association. Or you can force it to get bushy. Search this site, and read Walter Pall's blog about Hedge Pruning maples. What increases the diameter of the trunk is the total leaf surface area. The more leaves, the more surface area, the quicker the trunk will increase in diameter. So the more branches, the more leaves, the quicker the trunk will increase in diameter.

Also, this trunk is very straight, without movement or any interest. Here is what I'd do.
year one - Prune trunk off at roughly 4 to 6 inches tall. Seal the wound. It is okay to do this now. Use cut paste, or Elmer's wood glue, or Duct Seal, or any of the many sealants suggested. The tree should take 4 to 6 weeks, and will send out many back buds. You want to keep any back bud more than an inch above the roots. Remove any root suckers, or shoots growing from the point where the roots join the trunk.

Let these shoots grow wild all year. in the mean time, you can think about style you might want to shoot for. Informal upright? Broom?, Informal Broom? What ever style you like. I would avoid styles like literati, windswept, and slanting, as these have quirks that make them hard for a novice to pull off. Also the tree will resist being made into a cascade. I would forget that one too, though it could be done.

2020
Late winter, while leafless, look at the branches that grew the year previous. Prune off any obvious problems. Multiple branches from the same point should be reduced to a single branch. You are not styling the tree yet, so don't pick a front or back, don't worry about that. You need lots of growth and you probably will not keep any of the first sets of branches in the final design 10 years down the road. It can be styled the first time by about 5 years, but the second styling at about 10 to 15 years will be the one that makes it an exhibition tree. SO don't worry about front, back or style, not right away.
Late winter 2020 hedge prune - Remember how short you pruned the trunk? If you cut it to 4 inches, no branch should have a straight section longer than two thirds this 4 inch distance. Hence, 3 inches would be maximum visually acceptable straight segment of branch. Now cut every 2019 branch to roughly 3 inches in length. This will force branching, and it will force more back budding from the trunk.

2020 - repot to larger pot - work out the roots, arrange a radial root distribution, like spokes of a wheel. Do not expose the roots, nebari,, Instead bury the roots. You need to keep the nebari buried by at least half inch for the first 5 years or so.

Let it grow for 2020

late winter 2021 - repeat the branch selection as outlined above. Where branches branch, if there are 3, reduce it to 2. Awkward branches must go. Then prune to less than 3 inches. Actually, the 2020 segments of a branch should be pruned to be about two thirds the length of the 2019 segments, so if they were 3 inches, the next segment should be 2 inches. This pattern of shorter and shorter segments should repeat ''ad finitum'', but of course, we are really only doing this the first 5 to 10 years, it will work out.
Repot to larger pot if needed.

This cycle of grow out, prune back needs to be repeated for about 5 years. You should have a dense ball of branches and foliage, maybe 36 inches in diameter. When you to your first styling somewhere around year 5 to year 7 you should have dozens, maybe as many as 30 to 50 branches to choose from to create your lines. You will remove 90% of the tree at that point. But you should have lots of good choices. wiggly branches because they were repeatedly pruned to prevent long straight runs. It will work out nice.
Thank you for the detailed information!

I never realized that I could cut a tree that far down (talking about the first year) and it would survive.
 

Nanookadenord

Sapling
Messages
42
Reaction score
19
Location
Central Florida
USDA Zone
9b
I suggest thinking of it as a balcony or patio tree. I am assuming that where you took the photo is on your balcony?

How large a bonsai do you want to end up with? Acer rubrum is probably best in larger sizes, shoot for at least 24 to 40 inches tall. At larger sizes the proportion problems red maple has with overly long leaf petioles will be less obvious. It will be more than hardy enough to leave outside through winter. Do not protect it from cold, it needs every minute of near freezing and below freezing it can get to help meet dormancy requirements. Protect it from cold and it will slowly weaken and die.

For a tree that is 24 to 40 inches in diameter, you will want a trunk that is at least 4 inches in diameter, preferably 6 or more inches in diameter. When you set a beer can or soda can next to the trunk, it should be larger in diameter than the can. So for the time being you should be just letting it grow. You can let it grow tall, which might get unwanted attention from the land-lord or the homeowners association. Or you can force it to get bushy. Search this site, and read Walter Pall's blog about Hedge Pruning maples. What increases the diameter of the trunk is the total leaf surface area. The more leaves, the more surface area, the quicker the trunk will increase in diameter. So the more branches, the more leaves, the quicker the trunk will increase in diameter.

Also, this trunk is very straight, without movement or any interest. Here is what I'd do.
year one - Prune trunk off at roughly 4 to 6 inches tall. Seal the wound. It is okay to do this now. Use cut paste, or Elmer's wood glue, or Duct Seal, or any of the many sealants suggested. The tree should take 4 to 6 weeks, and will send out many back buds. You want to keep any back bud more than an inch above the roots. Remove any root suckers, or shoots growing from the point where the roots join the trunk.

Let these shoots grow wild all year. in the mean time, you can think about style you might want to shoot for. Informal upright? Broom?, Informal Broom? What ever style you like. I would avoid styles like literati, windswept, and slanting, as these have quirks that make them hard for a novice to pull off. Also the tree will resist being made into a cascade. I would forget that one too, though it could be done.

2020
Late winter, while leafless, look at the branches that grew the year previous. Prune off any obvious problems. Multiple branches from the same point should be reduced to a single branch. You are not styling the tree yet, so don't pick a front or back, don't worry about that. You need lots of growth and you probably will not keep any of the first sets of branches in the final design 10 years down the road. It can be styled the first time by about 5 years, but the second styling at about 10 to 15 years will be the one that makes it an exhibition tree. SO don't worry about front, back or style, not right away.
Late winter 2020 hedge prune - Remember how short you pruned the trunk? If you cut it to 4 inches, no branch should have a straight section longer than two thirds this 4 inch distance. Hence, 3 inches would be maximum visually acceptable straight segment of branch. Now cut every 2019 branch to roughly 3 inches in length. This will force branching, and it will force more back budding from the trunk.

2020 - repot to larger pot - work out the roots, arrange a radial root distribution, like spokes of a wheel. Do not expose the roots, nebari,, Instead bury the roots. You need to keep the nebari buried by at least half inch for the first 5 years or so.

Let it grow for 2020

late winter 2021 - repeat the branch selection as outlined above. Where branches branch, if there are 3, reduce it to 2. Awkward branches must go. Then prune to less than 3 inches. Actually, the 2020 segments of a branch should be pruned to be about two thirds the length of the 2019 segments, so if they were 3 inches, the next segment should be 2 inches. This pattern of shorter and shorter segments should repeat ''ad finitum'', but of course, we are really only doing this the first 5 to 10 years, it will work out.
Repot to larger pot if needed.

This cycle of grow out, prune back needs to be repeated for about 5 years. You should have a dense ball of branches and foliage, maybe 36 inches in diameter. When you to your first styling somewhere around year 5 to year 7 you should have dozens, maybe as many as 30 to 50 branches to choose from to create your lines. You will remove 90% of the tree at that point. But you should have lots of good choices. wiggly branches because they were repeatedly pruned to prevent long straight runs. It will work out nice.

I just received the maple tree today.

Would you repot it first before cutting it? Also, do I use regular potting soil?

I hvae also given alot of thought in the last few years as to what6 I would like it to look like and the picture below is it.

Acer-rubrum-3.jpg
 
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Leo in N E Illinois

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I would not use potting soil. I would use bonsai soil. In Florida there are a fair number of Bonsai related businesses, such as Weigert's near Fort Meyers. and there are quite a number of bonsai clubs. I'm sure there is a bonsai club less than one hour from you. There are also quite a number of BNut members here that are from Florida, maybe one of them will chime in on where you can find ready mixed bonsai soil that would be a good mix for a maple. They can also give you input as to best timing for maple work in Florida. I'm in Illinois and Michigan, my timing for different techniques is months off from when you should do the same tasks. I do know that you are past the ideal window of time for repotting. Use the time between now and winter 2019-2020 to find good bonsai soil, and read up on bonsai techniques.

I would not cut now, I would let it grow until it was getting close to too tall for your balcony. We have 2 goals, thicken up the diameter of the trunk, and add movement, to the trunk. Letting it to continue to get taller, will increase the diameter of the trunk. And it will give the tree time to recover from any mistreatment at the nursery, if there was any. And time for you to get familiar with the pattern of how quickly it can go from wet to dry. Get your watering pattern down. Inconsistent watering is a major cause of death for trees growing in pots.

The drastic pruning, will add the movement. There is a real good time to prune, it is shortly before or right at the summer solstice, which will be a month from now or you can put off the drastic pruning until June of 2020. THis will give you time to ''spin up'' on growing maples as bonsai. There is a lot to read and get familiar with.

Let it settle in to its new environment. The best time to repot is late winter, just before new growth starts, We have missed the ideal time to repot. So I would wait at least a month. I'm going to tag a few Florida members and ask them to help you find sources of bonsai soil, and bonsai clubs within an hour or so drive of your location.
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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The "Articles and Tutorials" sub forum section of Bonsai Nut has quite a number of articles that will help you with bonsai soil, the whys and hows, and repotting and maples.

There is also a Maple sub-forum, which is worth paging through to find posts relevant to your questions.
 

Nanookadenord

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Thank you again for your detailed replies!

I will read all that I can regarding maple bonsai and I look forward to anyone who may be willing to help!
 

Nanookadenord

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The "Articles and Tutorials" sub forum section of Bonsai Nut has quite a number of articles that will help you with bonsai soil, the whys and hows, and repotting and maples.

There is also a Maple sub-forum, which is worth paging through to find posts relevant to your questions.
This may sound like a dumb question, but I thought we were in the maple sub-forum? Is there another and could you point me towards it?
 

Traken

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This may sound like a dumb question, but I thought we were in the maple sub-forum? Is there another and could you point me towards it?
Your thread is in that section. He just means it's a good section to just read through, as a lot of information has been posted over the years.
 
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