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Acers in pots


by Adam Pasco

You can't beat the autumn colour of acers, especially Japanese maples. Their bright, burning colours defy the cooling temperatures that have put a chill in the air over recent weeks.


You can't beat the autumn colour of acers, especially Japanese maples. Their bright, burning colours defy the cooling temperatures that have put a chill in the air over recent weeks. But their ephemeral beauty won't last long; a few sharp frosts will send the leaves tumbling to the ground.

Slow-growing Japanese maples, particularly those with dissected leaves, make perfect small trees for patio pots. I've grown acers in pots on my patio for about six years now, using large, heavy terracotta pots and John Innes No.3 loam-based compost. All this weight provides extra stability to prevent the trees catching the wind and toppling over. These acers are no more demanding than any plants in pots, and just need regular watering and feeding.

The foliage of acers can be damaged by cold and drying winds, but I've kept mine looking great by keeping them out of 'wind tunnels'. At the height of summer the sun can scorch broadleaf maples, too, but these trees enjoy dappled shade, so find them a spot out of the midday sun. And that's the good thing about growing trees in pots: they can be moved around through the year as weather conditions change. They can be moved to a sheltered spot for winter to protect their roots from cold, but brought back on display in spring to enjoy buds bursting to reveal their unfurling foliage.

But it's autumn when the fireworks really start, and over the coming weeks they'll steal the show. It won't be long before a cold wind blows away my display, but until then they'll be the stars of my autumn garden.



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Talkback: Acers in pots
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Gardeners' World Web User 08/11/2008 at 21:37

Yes, they are beautiful, aren't they? And sensitive. I have two of my own, a dissectum and an osakazuki. Granted, they are young and small; but the dissectum lost all its leaves suddenly by mid-September. The Osakasuki bore it valiantly till mid-October. And the colours weren't what the glossies promise - but then I was told that the trees would need sunshine to turn their palette on and there has not been much of that luxury in Edinburgh this year. I am also a bit nervous about hardiness. Roots are protected in the earth - but then, there is a relatively small quantity of soil in a pot, not much protection there.

Gardeners' World Web User 10/11/2008 at 11:33

I have 5 acers in pots dotted around my garden and I do not give them any special attention apart from moving them out of the hot(???) midday sun.They looked stunning during the middle of October with leaves of various shades red orange and yellow.These trees are a worthwhile investment as the bare stems come in a range of russets too! enjoy....!

Gardeners' World Web User 10/11/2008 at 14:29

I have in my very tiny back yard aAcer Obtusifolium which i bought from westernburt arbruitum in 2005 as one year whip i potted it in smal blue pot and since it has grown into a bonzi style tree it is evergreen so it never changes leaf colour though it does change leaf sadly to say it realy dosen't do alot for me.

Gardeners' World Web User 11/11/2008 at 20:11

I hate it when experts talk of growing plants I struggle with as "no more demanding than other plants in pots", particularly when I adore acers. We have bought several, from very small, all of which we have lost, to fairly large plants, both green and red, though only one dissected. In Bucks, we lost leaves very early I thought this year, but none seem to thrive, though we have only started growing them 3 years ago max. I have some in pots, some in the ground, all at the back of the house, sheltered as much as possible, but facing north. I take the younger ones in pots in the garage wrapped when a bad frost is forecast, and mulch deeply around the larger ones and ones in soil in late autumn. I haven't used the No.3 compost as I thought they were un demanding soil-wise. Any advice?

Gardeners' World Web User 26/11/2008 at 12:49

I know how people feel. I have an acer doing brillianlty in a pit on shingle in my south facing garden! More the pity the same cant be said for the one I planted in the ground at the front of the house North faceing!

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