Start a new thread

1 to 20 of 38 replies

I am interested in purchasing an Acer which I intend to grow in a pot. Could anyone please recommend an attractive red one that does not grow too big? Also, could you advise on the best position, soil and feed for it? 


There are so many gorgeous acers out there - we have several in pots where they seem to be very happy - some of them have been in pots for nearly 17 years.  They need a good sized pot, out of the wind (which they all dislike),  good drainage but otherwise are not difficult to care for.  As with all potted plants you must do for it all the things it cannot do for itself in a controlled space.  Water during growth, with some decent feed - I use organic pelleted chicken manure in April.    They stay put all winter with no special protection, they've frozen, been covered in snow, and lots of sunshine and they thrive well.  We have a few reds and a pale green, plus a gorgeous snake bark - don't rush into a decision - you'll have to live with it for a long time. 

Maybe have a look in a good garden book for some that appeal to you?  If you get a chance to go to a larger garden show you will see lots of red and beautiful acers - hard to choose just one!




Bookertoo has given great advise - good drainage but keep watered in summer in a sheltered position out of the wind is key. I like Acer palmatum dissectum dissectum atropurpureum. Any Acer 'atropurpureum' will be red and some green ones will turn red in autumn before leaf fall.

Thankyou for your replies, could you please clarify what it meant by 'good drainage', I have never really understood this term.   


Have a look at the Hippopottering website I've bought a couple of trees from them at flower shows.

Good drainage means soil that doesn't become waterlogged such as clay soils. I grow my acers in pots in John Innes ericaceous compost with some grit mixed in.


Good drainage is many things to many gardeners. A pot should dry out at much the same rate as a flower bed would. A 5 cns layer of gravel covered by porous landscape fabric would be good for a long term Acer pot. The growing medium should be beefed up with some topsoil and well-rotted compost. Whichever Acer you decide on the most important seasonal task is to gently scrape away the top 5 cms of soil each Spring and replace with fresh soil compost mix, plus some pelleted chicken manure or similar. I have an Acer atropurpureum var. dissectum which has been 18 years in the same pot.It is 4' high, 4' wide and seems happy to grow slowly with fine foliage every year.

Thanks for replying Fleurisa and Smflyman, so to clariify S. are you saying I have to put the gravel and fabric at the bottom of the pot?  Should I start off in small pot (as some suggest) or just put it straight into a large one where it can stay long term?

Like Bookertoo, I have had a couple of different acers in large pots for many years now. The only advice I'd add is that every Spring I take out the top couple of inches of soil (which also gets rid of any weeds), and replace it with new compost mixed with some fish blood and bone meal. Mine too have been through a couple of very tough recent Winters here in Lancashire, with no protection whatsoever, and survived. My pots are about 16" diameter so by 'big' we are not talking enormous pots.

If you want to do any shaping of the plants, do it when the plant is dormant - I have a snip about February. Acers in pots don't grow as big as in the garden so drastic pruning is not necessary.

They are a very worth while plant, so choose carefully and good luck with it!

Jim Macd

Put simply good draining means it has a good proportion of air. Plants that don't need good drainage have specially adapted roots to take up what they need in the absence of a good amount of air. So, raise up your pots so any water can run out, add in grit so take  up room that water-holding compost would otherwise occupy. Gravel at the bottom won't improve drainainge, what you need is to provent the holes at the bottom from blocking up, most people but some crocks over the holes but don't block them. I would put it in a large container now and let it grow.

Jim Macd

I just realised how contradictory my explanation was, too much water can make plants wilt, because they can't take up water if their roots get waterlogged, the roots die back and the plant wilts, the gardener adds more water and the plants dies back more.

Thanks everyone, just a couple of questions if I may, I have now purchased an Acer.P. Shaina, and was wondering what was the best site for it. Also I have two pots available terracotta verses plastic, which would be the better choice for this please. Many thanks


On siting - make sure it is not in a windy spot - they hate it!  

Not sure about the best pot - but my gut feel would say terracotta - more stable, looks better, stops the roots cooking in the summer.  Good luck with it, they are lovely little trees !  I have a couple of big ones, and a whole set i am nurturing from baby plants from an offer a few years ago.  I was advised (nursery lady at hampton court flower show) to only pot them on a pot size at a time, as they try to put on enough root growth every year to fill their pot - and if the new pot is much bigger than the old, they sometimes wear themselves out with the effort


Chicky's right about the wind! They prefer a bit of shade though they'll take more sun if they're in the ground as long as it's moisture retentive. Try to avoid a site where they'll get early morning sun if you get a lot of frosts. The leaves can get burned at the edges when it melts.

Terracotta will always look better than plastic, although some of the new resin pots are very impressive. A glazed pot will also set off an Acer well.  If it's a specimen and you want it to look right, spend money on the container as well as the plant. It's the whole package that matters.  

Thanks for replying Chicky and Fairygirl.

Chicky, I always thought it was the terracotta pots that 'baked' in the heat and that plastic (I do have a nice alnate resin one) kept plants cooler, now I am confused  

You are right, terracotta pots do dry out quicker than other pots. They are also more susceptible to frost damage unless you pay the earth for a frost proof type.

My two acers have been in strong plastic pots for over 10 years now. As has already been said by Fairygirl, there are some beautiful resin pots around now that look the part until you go close up and touch them! Whatever you decide, make sure the pot is frost proof because you don't want to be heaving a large pot into a frost free place each winter!

As to siting, acers have a reputation for disliking strong winds, but mine have sat exposed on a south facing patio and not suffered at all for some reason. Better not chance it with a new specimen though, which you should keep sheltered and next to the walls of your house if possible, where they will derive extra warmth through winter, and be a bit more sheltered. My experience with them in general though is that they are tougher than folk make out.

Someone may correct me on this, but there are a lot of acers in nearby gardens, and our soil is acidic. I'm not sure if they are happy in alkaline soil? In a pot that isn't a problem as you can plant them in ericaceous compost.



That's right Lancashire Lass, all acers will grow in acid soil, but many won't tolerate alkaline (limey/chalky) soil.  If anyone wants to grow them in a pot, add say 25% ericaceous compost to a loam-based compost like John Innes No.3 and you can't really go wrong.  Good advice from Fairygirl about siting - keeping them out of the wind and away from early morning sun is best, so avoid East-facing exposed sites if possible.  

Hello and thanks for this thread particularly about Acers.

Due to garden redesign my potted acer is now placed in a sheltered corner but east facing. I have to admit to not tending to it much over ten years - apart from talking to it! So feel a bit anxious about the position. However, I have noted your compost advice BtG and will top up existing soil this month.

Thanks to

you all. 


I have a couple of acers in containers that I have had for several years. Can anyone tell me what is best to feed them with please? Is there anything specific that I should use?

Thanks everyone for your input on this topic, I must say it has proved very interesting. Spot on Bob with the soil recommendations, that's excatly what the guy at the G.C said, only he mentioned adding grit for drainge. He said he fed his on Growmore, but he also agreed with smflyman that c.m pellets are fine.  

Thanks Meomye-thank the Lord for Growmore!!