Japanese Maples, commonly known as Acers, are instantly recognizable plants. As the name suggests, their leaves are maple shaped but come in amazing colors. They’re surprisingly easy to care for, making them a good choice for beginners.
Here’s everything you should know to grow and care for an Acer on your balcony.
Japanese Maple Requirements
As a general rule, Acers grow best in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-8. However, some varieties are more specific, so make sure you check the label before buying. They’re best suited to cooler climates but need protection from especially harsh weather.
The foliage comes in many colors, which also change throughout the year. You’ll find green, red, orange and even purple Acers. As such, there is plenty of flexibility for matching the plant to your overall style.
Standard Acers can grow taller than 25ft., which obviously isn’t great for a balcony. However, dwarf varieties peak at about 4ft. They grow slowly, making them perfect potted plants.
Important Things to Know
Sunlight: Indirect sunlight, although red and purple plants need slightly more to fully develop their colors
Grow in pots: Yes – double the size of the tree’s root ball
Grow indoors: No
Soil type: Well-draining
When to plant: Winter or spring
Growing Japanese Maple
The point above about pot size might sound confusing, but it’s fairly self-explanatory. If the tree’s root ball is 8” in diameter, your pot must be 16”. Don’t go larger than double the size, as it’ll increase the chances of waterlogging.
To pot up an Acer, you’ll need:
- Mix a few handfuls of sand into your potting soil. You don’t need to be exact; it’s just there to improve drainage.
- Add a few inches to the bottom of your pot.
- Remove the Acer from its nursery pot and knock off some of the soil.
- Put it in the new pot and backfill with soil. Rather than pressing down, tap the pot on the ground as you fill it.
- Consider adding some bark chips on top to prevent weeds. Put it in its new home, wait a few days to water, and you’re done.
Maintenance and Care
Acers need well-draining soil but also regular watering. You should average about once a week, but it could be as much as once a day in the height of summer.
Prune in the winter, but only if necessary. Cut off crossing or badly placed shoots to stop the tree from looking messy. You’ll need to pot up every few years once the roots reach the side of the pot. Again, choose a pot that’s double the size of the root ball.
Final Thoughts on Acers
You can’t go too wrong with Acers, which is a bonus because they look like they take effort to grow. Use an Acer to add color and interest to your balcony, and it’d obviously be perfect for a Zen garden!