Growing a sugar maple bonsai tree does not have to be complicated. Although it may be time-consuming, if you have the time to dedicate to your bonsai, you can grow a stunning little tree you will want to show off on Instagram.
The sugar maple tends to be larger than most, so let’s look at how you can reduce them to Bonsai size.
What Is a Sugar Maple Bonsai?
The sugar maple bonsai tree is an American maple tree that can grow up to 80 feet tall and spread to 60 feet wide. So, growing one as a bonsai takes time and patience. And the result is worth it with its vibrant red-orange leaves in the fall.
You may have seen the sugar maple bonsai under a different name.
Some of the common (even incorrect) names include:
- Acer saccharum
- American maple
- American maple bonsai
- American sugar maple
- Canadian maple
- Canadian maple bonsai
- Canadian sugar maple
- Maple bonsai
- Sugar maple bonsai tree
- Sweet maple
The sugar maple bonsai is native to Canada and the Northeastern and Central United States. As a member of the Sapindaceae family, it also has 17 different cultivars. It is the primary source of maple syrup and is also known for its color-changing leaves.
Sugar Maple Bonsai Care
Bonsai is an ancient Japanese art of training traditional trees to grow in miniature form. The sugar maple is more challenging to train than the Japanese maple, so getting a sugar maple to grow in bonsai form will take time and some skill. But if you stick to it, you should be able to produce a beautiful miniature sugar maple.
– Growing Indoors or Outdoors
Because the sugar maple is a larger tree than what is typically used for bonsai purposes, many people choose to grow them outdoors. The good thing about the sugar maple is that it likes the cold, so you don’t have to worry about bringing it in during the winter.
However, suppose you live in an area where it never gets very cold. In that case, you will need to find a way to winter your sugar maple indoors during a specific part of the year.
They do not do well in hot weather and have to have temperatures below 32 degrees for dormancy or die.
– Water Requirements
Only water your bonsai tree when needed. That may mean once a week or once a day, depending on whether your tree is outside or inside and what the humidity levels are. During the growing season, you should water it every day, though.
Remember, if it is living outside, Mother Nature will water it too, so make sure you do not overwater. It is best to water your tree in the morning if it is outdoors because it needs time to soak up some moisture before it gets too warm. Also, try not to get the leaves wet, or it could cause scorching.
– Light Requirements
The sugar maple can handle full sun to partial shade. If you grow your sugar maple as an outdoor bonsai tree, be sure to plant it where it will not get too much direct sunlight. Too much direct sun can scorch the leaves.
– Humidity Requirements
Like most maple trees, the sugar maple is tolerant of many conditions. Still, it does not like extreme humidity or low humidity. Suppose you are growing your sugar maple bonsai outside. In that case, you have little control over the humidity, but living in an area where your tree comes from will help.
These states include:
- West Virginia
- Rhode Island
- New York
- New Hampshire
– Temperature Requirements
As mentioned above, the sugar maple bonsai does not like heat, although it can tolerate it for a short time. Temperatures above 90 are not healthy for your tree, but as long as you keep it watered and shaded, it will be okay. It may be better if you have it potted so you can bring it indoors if it gets too hot where you live.
– Soil Requirements
Your sugar maple bonsai likes well-draining loamy soil or sandy soil with a lot of humus.
However, the tree can live in just about any soil, including light or loose clay. The only medium that your bonsai cannot grow in is sand that does not have a lot of humus or compact soil that does not drain well.
If your tree is outside, you do not have to fertilize it as often as you would an indoor tree.
Once established, the roots reach down into the earth and get their nutrients from biological waste. Feed it once a month with a liquid fertilizer specially made for sugar maples. Make sure you mix it with water as specified.
If your tree is indoors, you will need to give it fertilizer twice a month. But just like the outdoor tree, you should make sure the fertilizer you use is suitable for your tree. You do not want to give it too much fertilizer, or it will burn the roots. Use a solid fertilizer indoors at a ratio of 10/10/10.
– Pot Size Requirements
The pot has to be small enough to restrict its growth but large enough to allow the roots to grow. The soil has to be able to cover the roots. You can repot your sugar maple once a year during the spring until it is about five years old and then only repot it every three years. Or if the leaves turn yellow, you may also need to repot your tree.
Pruning and Shaping Your Sugar Maple Bonsai
Some of these tools include:
- Traditional shears are butterfly-shaped for trimming branches, twigs, and roots.
- Straight handle shears are designed to fit into tight spots and to reach deep spots.
- Concave cutters are strong but precise for cutting branches and roots, taking a concave bite from the tree for better healing.
- Knob cutters are like concave cutters but have a straight cutting edge for cutting roots and branches.
- Long-handled wire cutters cut away wires without cutting into the tree.
- Jin pliers are for peeling back bark to create a natural aging look.
- Trunk splitters need to be strong enough to cut with leverage from the perfect pivot point.
- Rakes are for working the soil during general care.
- Tiny rakes gently remove soil around the roots.
- Јapanese pruning saws are made for cutting dense roots.
Common Problems to Look For
– Leaves and branches problems
The sugar maple bonsai is susceptible to verticillium wilt, anthracnose, and cankers.
Your tree may have anthracnose if there are tan or brown dots on the back of the leaves.
Anthracnose is a fungal disease that attacks the leaves and branches in the spring. You should dry the tree as much as possible and stop the progression because it is the cool, wet weather that creates the fungus.
Cankers are dead sections of branches or bark. They can be killed by an injury, bacteria, or fungus. Trim and remove the damaged spots. Be sure to use proper pruning techniques to prevent it from happening again.
3. Verticillium Wilt
If your sugar maple bonsai leaves lose color, wilt, or curl, your tree may have verticillium wilt. It isn’t easy to get rid of, but you can try solarization. You should also remove any dead leaves and be sure to give your tree the right amount of fertilizer and water.
Your sugar maple may also be affected by an infestation of pests like aphids, borers, and scale bugs.
- Aphids are small green bugs that steal nutrients from your tree. Signs of infestation include curled leaves, sticky leaves, black mold, and ants. Spray your tree with water every other day until they are gone, and then apply neem oil and insecticidal soap.
- Borers come in many kinds, but they are all bad for your tree. You may see the leaves dropping and drooping. The leading cause of borers is drought, so make sure your tree gets enough water. Use protective trunk spray such as permethrin, bifenthrin, or carbaryl to get rid of them.
- Scale bugs are small bugs that suck the sap from your tree. They will cause yellow leaves, limb death, and an overall unhealthy tree. The best way to get rid of the problem is to prune out the limbs and use neem oil or insecticidal soap
Now that you know how to grow and care for your sugar maple bonsai, you can concentrate on training and grooming it. The art of bonsai is something you have to do regularly if you want your tree to look its best.
Here are the highlights of what we discussed in this article:
- The sugar maple bonsai is an American maple tree that can grow up to 80 feet tall and spread to 60 feet wide, so you have to work hard to train it to be a bonsai.
- There are many other names for the sugar maple bonsai, including Acer saccharum, American sugar maple, and Canadian sugar maple.
- You can grow your sugar maple bonsai inside or outside, depending on where you live and how large you want your tree to grow.
- The sugar maple does not like high temperatures and needs a dormant period every year at 32 degrees or below.
- Shade or indirect light is plenty for your sugar maple bonsai. They do not like direct sunlight.
- Water the tree daily during the growing season, but if it is outside, only water as needed.
- Give your outdoor tree liquid fertilizer once a month and your indoor tree solid fertilizer every other week.
- You need a lot of tools for grooming and training your sugar maple bonsai. Make sure they are always sharp, clean, and disinfected.
- The sugar maple is susceptible to verticillium wilt, anthracnose, cankers, aphids, borers, and scale bugs.
The most important part of taking care of your sugar maple bonsai after watering, feeding, and the sunlight is training. You will need to use wires to train your tree how you want it to grow and a tool kit to keep it looking beautiful. Keep at it, and your tree will be ready for Instagram in no time.