How to prune Japanese maple’s to ‘avoid disease’ – ‘use caution’

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Japanese maples are easy to grow in containers or in the ground, reacting well to a sheltered, shady spot in the garden. Small and slow growing, they are a popular choice for many gardeners looking for something easy to maintain. Usually planted between October and March, when are gardeners supposed to prune their trees?

Dobbies’ Horticulture Director, Marcus Eyles, told “With a sunset palette of yellows through to reds, acers make for an elegant addition to lightly shaded areas in your garden.

“It will also happily grow in large patio containers suitable for a terrace, where you can admire its radiant spectrum of autumn colours up close.”

According to the expert, Japanese maple’s are known for their slow-growing rate, making them perfect for gardeners with smaller outdoor spaces.

Marcus added: “Use it to add some vibrancy to corners or to create a striking focal point.”

If your acer does get slightly out of hand, it can be pruned. However, they should only be pruned to control the size and shape, but often grow best when left unpruned to form their natural shape.

According to the gardening expert, between December and February is the best time to give an acer a haircut.

Marcus said: “Japanese maples should be pruned lightly over the winter when dormant to remove any wood.

“If you need to reduce its size, you can cut carefully into the older wood but use caution.

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“Ensure that you cut just above the bud to avoid disease spreading through excess wood.”

If planting an acer, the expert recommended using slightly acidic ericaceous topsoil and compost. 

Marcus added: “Complement your Japanese maple with Japanese azaleas, bamboo, ferns and hosts which all grow well in the same cool, moist semi-shaded conditions.”

Gardeners should also keep their plants away from full sunlight and harsh winds as they cause the leaves to scorch.

Tristan Sissons from Homebase told “Make sure in winter they don’t get caught in a frost pocket.

“If their roots are kept moist, and the pots have great drainage and aeration, an acer will flourish in a container.

“If the hot weather continues into autumn, be sure to water them twice a day.”

When it comes to pruning, Tristan referred to an acer as the “anti-pruning plant”. 

He said: “Pruning should only be done to improve an acer’s overall shape and to encourage healthy growth, they don’t like to be pruned.”

If you have a smaller tree, sometimes the branches may get congested towards the middle of the tree, meaning pruning is necessary.

Gardeners can also enhance the appearance of maples with brightly-coloured new shoots by pruning to a short trunk before mid-winter.

This will create a shrubby growth, ideal for smaller gardens as well as large.

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