Advice on Maple Seedlings

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Even though I am relatively new to bonsai, I managed to grow three Maple trees from seeds. Below are some pictures.
Bonsai 1.jpgBonsai 2.jpg
I am not sure what species these are exactly as I collected the seeds from local trees, but it is definitely some kind of Maple that is local to the Michigan area. That said, I need some answers to some questions.
First, winter is approaching Michigan, and I need to winterize my plants. Up to now, they have been entirely outdoor bonsai. But I doubt they could survive a snow storm, so I need to take them inside. When inside, do they need to be warm or cold? Will they still need lots of light? I ask because a local bonsai shop claims that Michigan doesn't get enough sun to grow bonsai from seed.
Second, when and how do I prune these trees? On the one hand, the one on the left is getting really out of control (I have no idea why that one grew so much fast that the others since they are all about two months old), but on the other hand, I don't want to damage the tree too much and kill it. My plan was to wait at least until next spring before I began pruning.
Any advice would be appreciated.


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Southeast Pennsylvania USA
I always thought growing from seed was fun.I do not know what kinda' maples they are,If they are anything other than amur or trident I would not use them.I dought they are trident.Perhaps suger,red maybe.I think I remember seeing red maple bonsai on this forum.It would probably be difficult from seed,unless you are making very small bonsai.The 'native' maple you have looks to have large leaves and course growth.Not to discourage you cause' I still grow from seed.For protection from winter,I would dig a whole 2.5 feet deep and put gravel in the bottom and line with plywood so it sticks a foot out of ground level.Put on flood-free site and an opening lid that seals tight.Put your cold-frame in the shade so it stays very cold.My cold-frame drops to 29 degrees in winter.They will die in house cause they need to have about a 1000 hours of temperature below about 40 degrees.It is called winter dormancy.They can be in total darkness when in the cold-frame and out of leaf.For seed growing I have alway's preferred zelkova and japanese black pine cause' I have articles on how to do so.Try Bonsai Today #71 or Stone Lanterns 'Pines' book.They promote growing from seed.If you have pines in a cold-frame it has to be below 36 degrees for them to be in darkness cause they are evergreen.Take a look at the thread 'A couple of red maples(acer rubrum)by Jay Wilson.He has had success with 'Native' maple.


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I originated in upstate New York, Lake Ontario region, much the same as upstate Mich. The next door farm to my fathers dairy farm was a Sugar Bush. That is a place where hard maples are grown for Maple Syrup. More than likely your maples are either hard sugar maples or Silver Maples (soft maples) They need frost and cold weather dormancy. The best way to handle this is by burying the pots in the ground or in mulch, so that the roots do not freeze. If you are going to attempt to bonsai them you will need to put them in bigger pots next year. Either growth boxes or colanders, as the gentleman above showed you in his pictures. Go for a larger sized bonsai.

Good luck.


Imperial Masterpiece
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Fairfax Va.
Red maple (Acer rubrum)...

What make you think they need to be inside for the winter your, given they are native to your area? If they're recently germinated then you've nfortunately uput yourself and the trees in a pickle.

They will not do very well inside and may die during the winter. Red maple requires a winter dormancy and outdoor conditions to thrive.

If the trees germinated earlier in the summer, they will do fine outdoors with a bit of protection this winter. After being exposed to the coming frosts and freezes in November, the trees' root masses (pots and all) should be placed under a covering of mulch about six inches deep in a sheltered area. The pots should be placed on bricks or something that allows them to drain off winter precipitation. The bricks or whatever should be put in place before you cover the pots with mulch.

Ideally, winter protection for hardy bonsai is not about keeping the plant "warm." It is about minimizing the extremes of cold. Frozen roots will not do much--if any--harm native species in your area. They've survived for thousands of years in those conditions without any help.

C.A. Young

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Ontario, Canada
Which Species?

To answer a question with a question, when were the seeds collected/when did they fall from the tree, and when did they germinate. I ask because only two species of maple send out keys in the spring--keys that germinate within two weeks or so: Silver Maple (sacharinum) and Red Maple (rubrum). So, if the keys came down in spring, and germinated that same spring, then they were one of those. Just by the look, I'd say they were one of those.


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Maples volunteer like champions. If you are buildiing your skill-set on growing from seed, its as good as any place to start.

I think if you are looking for styling material, these are a decade or more away from being the stuff of wiring or airlayering.

Oh, about 1995 I shared an apartment with a man with developmental disabilities. Part of our job(s) were the yard care. In that long ago yard was a large bloodgood Japan maple. It made pounds of seed each year.

Me being a tight a**ed (and fat headed) yankee, there was no way I could just mow several thousand volunteer seedlings.

I did just about what you did with your volunteers. I potted them up with peat based (promix) starter-mix and set about to grow tree babies.

Soon a sudden screeching sound will kick in, your peat based soil is way-way too wet. Trust me I killed four or more sets (of fifty) learning what I didn't know, and to switch over to soil that kept much more air. Reddish leaves are the first precursor of that anoxia.

The more I raised my twiggy-tree babies as though they were bonsai, the better they did.

The long ago growers at places like gardenweb advised me to also collect larger stumps. As well as to make my own soil.

Both were some of the most astute and kind peices of advice I ever got.

The only other advice I can offer is you may want plastic pots. They bounce and do not split with frost.

Your tree babies are hearty to your zone. In order for them to live, they are going to live outdoors.

I tried that one too.

You are starting off on a really fun venture. wallow in it.

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