Newbie asks, "Bonsai from Sugar Maple?"


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Coralville, IA USA
As a caveat, I'm relatively new to bonsai, and this in my first posting to this forum.

In a neglected area of my yard I noticed a small sugar maple, maybe 2 years old. It is about 1.5 to 2 feet tall with a trunk about 0.25 inch in diameter, so it has a lot of growing to do, but I was wondering how sugar maples do as bonsai. Do the leaves reduce as seen with trident maples? I've dug it up and placed it another part of the yard in a LARGE dirt ball to avoid disturbing the roots. If it can be used as bonsai material, should I start trimming it and doing some rudimentary shaping to make it easier to use as bonsai in say 5 years? I know trees always grow better in the ground, but would there be any advantage to placing it into a large pot?

Dan Sprague
Hi Dan,
Welcome to BNut!

To the best of my knowledge Sugar Maples aren't the best subjects. The leaves reduce fractionally so if you try it better be a uber bonsai. My caveat to this is that this has been my experience and that of a few friends that have tried, someone else's experiences might be different. :)
That is what I thought. The pictures I've seen of sugar maples are not bonsai go. But I also heard you can get significant reduction of leaves temporarily by leaf pruning. This could make a sugar maple bonsai more appealing to show, if you could get the leaf pruning and reduction before-hand. But I've never done this and do not know what to expect in terms of the degree of temporary reduction.

I would be interested to see the results. Sugar maples are some of my favorite trees in real life. I would imagine that a mid-season defoliation would yield results similar to other maples.
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