The maple tree is a sturdy and colorful tree with more than 200 species. This deciduous tree is relatively easy to cultivate and can thrive for more than 100 years. While not every maple variation is ideal for bonsai, several variations work well such as the Japanese, trident and amur maple trees. The dense, fibrous root system of these variations can quickly adapt to the stunting and pruning it takes to create a bonsai.
Purchase a small sapling maple tree. Choose a newly sprouted tree that is no more than 2 feet tall. Avoid selecting larger trees in smaller containers as there will be a high chance that the tree is root bound. Inspect each plant carefully looking for healthy foliage, trunk and base.
Select a container for the maple tree. Choose a container that has a diameter that is at least one third the height of the tree and has a depth that is at least equal to the diameter of the trunk. Select a plastic container over a clay one since clay container dry out much quicker. If a wood container is selected, choose an untreated, rot resistant selection. Ensure that the selected container provides an ample drainage system to allow the quick release of excess water.
Plant the maple tree in nutrient rich soil. Promote a good drainage system by incorporating an equal amount of peat compost to the soil. Gently comb out the roots of the maple tree, trimming away any long runners, and place the tree in the center of the container. Fill the container with the remaining soil while pressing firmly but lightly to secure the tree’s upright position.
Pinch away newly developing shoots that appear in the early spring to promote smaller shoots--this forms the bonsai. Complete all major pruning procedures during the late fall, after the maple bonsai tree’s growing season has ended. Use sharp sterile pruning shears to complete the process. Prune the tree’s branches and stems to develop the desired framework and shape of the bonsai.
Place the sapling in a location that provides at least six to eight hours of sunlight each day. Choose a location that provides good air circulation and moderate humidity levels. Avoid placing the maple tree near sources of direct heat.
Water the maple thoroughly but infrequently and allow the tree to dry out between waterings.