How to Grow a Japanese Bonsai Maple Tree


The Japanese maple is a fine-textured tree with a low drought tolerance. This deciduous tree, also known as the Acer palmatum, has a slow to moderate growth rate and grows as a small tree or shrub in its natural environment. It produces green foliage that turns to hues of orange, yellow and red during the fall. This hardy tree adapts easily to pruning and requires little care for vigorous growth. The Japanese maple's characteristics make it a good choice for bonsai.

Step 1

Place the Japanese maple bonsai in a warm, sunny location that receives at least six hours of partially shaded sunlight. Keep this bonsai away from direct sunlight to prevent sunburn of the foliage and avoid locations with direct temperature variations, such as heating vents and air conditioners.

Step 2

Irrigate the Japanese maple regularly to maintain an evenly moist soil without overwatering. Check the soil's moisture daily to ensure that the soil is not dry. Feel the soil and irrigate the bonsai when it feels somewhat dry. Do not allow the Japanese maple tree to dry out completely.

Step 3

Irrigate the bonsai thoroughly to ensure that the water reaches the roots of the Japanese maple. Water the bonsai until it flows from the container's drainage system. Use the sink method of watering if you are unsure if you are irrigating properly, as recommended by the Organic Bouquet.

Step 4

Feed the Japanese maple bonsai with a well-balanced, water-soluble fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 or 8-8-8 combination. Feed the tree twice monthly during its growing season. Apply the fertilizer, as instructed by Celestial Bonsai, at 1/2 strength to avoid burning the roots of the Japanese maple.

Step 5

Prune the Japanese maple tree at various times throughout the year, according to the type of pruning needed. Remove dead, dying or unwanted branches in the late summer for rapid healing. Thin out clustering interior branches to promote improved air circulation and sunlight penetration throughout the bonsai. Use sharp, sterile pruning shears.

Step 6

Pinch back the foliage of the bonsai in the spring to promote smaller, proportionately-sized foliage. Use the method as recommended by Bonsai4me. Use small tweezers to complete the thinning process and remove the central shoots.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never fertilize a dry Japanese maple bonsai.

Things You'll Need

  • Fertilizer
  • Pruning shears
  • Tweezers


  • Organic Bouquet: Japanese Maple Bonsai Care Instructions
  • Celestial Bonsai: Basic Care of Bonsai
  • Bonsai Gardener: Japanese Maple Bonsai
  • University of Connecticut Extension: Acer Palmatum
  • Bonsai4me: Acer Palmatum Varieties/Japanese Maples
Keywords: Japanese maple bonsai, maple bonsai care, Acer palmatum care

About this Author

Charmayne Smith is a business professional and freelance writer. She has worked in management for successful organizations since 1994. Smith draws on her business background to write articles, and her work has appeared in a variety of online outlets. She holds a degree in business from Cleveland State University.