How to Plant & Grow


Acers are gorgeous trees that add interest and excitement throughout the year, with some even changing colour as the seasons change. Depending on the variety you grow, they’re excellent for gardens of any size, and some can even be grown in containers!  

If you’re new to growing Acers, then follow these handy tips to keep it thriving throughout the year.   

What We've Included

Which Acer Should You Choose?  |  When to Plant  |  How to Plant  |  Where to Plant  |  When to Water  |  How to Feed Acers  |  Overwintering  |  Pruning  |  How to Propagate  |  Common Issues  |  Acer FAQs  |  Inspiration

Which Acer Should You Choose?

Wondering which Acer to pick for your garden? There are plenty of varieties to choose from, but this may differ based on the size of your outdoor space.   
Japanese maples are slow growers and rarely reach heights more than 1-2 metres - perfect for a container or small garden. Varieties like Acer palmatum and Acer japonicum are your best bet for a smaller display.  

When to Plant Acers

Acers can be planted from Autumn through to the Spring, if the ground is not frozen. 

How to Plant an Acer

• Remove the plant from its container, trimming pot-bound roots if necessary to help them spread.   
• Dig a hole that’s the same size as the roots, but roughly three times wider than them.   
• Bare-rooted shrubs and trees can be soaked for 30 minutes before planting to help them soak up as much as possible before planting.   
• Place the tree in the planting hole, so its roots are level with the soil surface.   
• Add a stake if necessary - small varieties won’t need this, but top-heavy ones might.  
• Refill the hole with the soil, making sure the soil goes in between all the roots so there aren’t any air pockets.   
• Firm the soil down gently with your foot.   
• Water it in well, as this helps settle the soil, and water often - especially in dry weather throughout summer.   
• Add a mulch of organic matter like compost or bark, so the soil doesn’t dry out so quickly.  

Where to Plant Acers

Depending on the type of acer you’re looking to grow, this process may differ. For example, smaller varieties can be grown in most locations in the garden, even in a container. However, some can grow quite tall, and they love to have plenty of space for their roots. They won’t like having to compete with other plants for space either, so plant them somewhere roomy. These trees like slightly acidic soil that is well-drained, but this can be improved by adding well-rotted organic matter into the area.  

When to Water Acers

Water Acers regularly in their first 18 months, and regularly throughout their growing season too. To check if their soil needs watering, dig down about a trowel length (10cm) and check if the soil is dry there too. If it is, give the soil a good drink.   
Varieties grown in containers will need regular watering throughout the season, as they’ll drain faster.     

How to Feed Acers

Acers don’t necessarily need to be fed, but if you prefer, you can add a liquid fertiliser in late February to encourage further growth. Follow the instructions on your bottle for the volume needed per square metre.

Overwintering Acers

These trees are fully hardy, with just one exception - container-grown trees. These can be placed on feet or bricks to allow water to flow through easily. You can also wrap the pots in bubble wrap for extra insulation.   

  Pruning Acers

Japanese maple trees can be pruned if you like, but they naturally have an impressive shape. If young trees produce overgrown shoots, these can be cut back to side branches in autumn.   
If you prefer to prune your Acer, you can do this when they’re fully dormant - typically from November to January. However, we highly recommend simply pruning crossed shoots or badly placed shoots to encourage a better framework. Follow branches to a side branch and prune the branch here. If you simply cut off the branch to a stub, it can decay and die.  

How to Propagate Acers

If you want to propagate your Acer, then you can do this by collecting their seeds.  
Acers produce seeds in autumn. You can sow these by removing the wings and preparing a soil bed by levelling and raking the surface until it’s crumb-like. Sow in pots of seed compost, keeping them in a cold frame or sheltered spot in the garden outside over winter. The seeds will germinate in spring.  

Common Issues

Although acres are generally pest and disease-free as long as they have good soil and are sheltered from strong winds, you can occasionally find the following:  
- Leaf scorch can damage leaves on trees positioned in a sunny or windy spot in the garden. Young plants could also be damaged by frost, so cover them with a horticultural fleece when frost is forecast.   
- Vine weevils can attack acres grown in containers, eating their roots. However, encouraging wildlife into your gardens like birds, frogs and hedgehogs will help, as they eat these pests. You can also remove larvae from the compost and pick off adult weevils on spring or summer evenings.  

Acer FAQs

Q: What soil do Acers like? 
A: Acers will thrive in slightly acidic soil that is humus-rich and well-draining. However, they do well in most soil types, and if you wish, you can add in some well-rotted compost before planting.  
Q: How do you revive a dying Acer tree? 
A: Acers are thirsty plants, especially in summer. If you’ve been neglecting them of water, then it’s likely that they’ll show signs of dehydration and wilt. We recommend watering acers whenever the top layer of soil feels dry, or even up to twice a day in particularly hot weather.  
Q: Do Acer trees lose their leaves? 
A: Most Acers are deciduous, and therefore lose their leaves in winter. However, it’s always best to double check depending on what variety you are growing.  
Q: What size pot would suit an Acer tree? 
A: This depends on the size of the plant at the point of planting. We always recommend choosing a pot that’s about double the size of the root ball. Any bigger, and this can increase the chances of oversaturation, which leads to root rot.  
Q: Can you move an Acer tree? 
A: Thankfully, Acers can be moved if necessary. This, however, depends on the size of the tree. If it’s too big to be moved by just two people, then It’s likely too big to do so.

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