Acer trees are very long-lived, upwards of a hundred years, so it’s worth spending a little time in choosing the right variety for your planting environment, whether in a pot or planted in the ground. Below is advice on how to create the best conditions for your acer:
Acers love slightly acidic soils, rich in organic matter varying from sand to loam to clay. Don’t worry if you are planting in chalky, alkaline soil; adding compost high in organic matter (such as John Innes No.2) will help make conditions suitable. Most importantly, avoid very wet boggy soils.
Care in pots
Acers are very well suited for growing in pots. Ideally use loam-based compost (such as John Innes No 2) rich in organic matter yet still free draining. For best results apply a balanced slow-release fertiliser or liquid feed from early spring to early autumn. Try not to use a pot more than twice the size of the existing pot; over-potting will significantly slow down top growth.
Firstly, water the acer well, ideally by removing from its pot and soaking in water.
Dig a hole half as wide and deep again as the root ball. If you feel your soil doesn’t drain fantastically well, mix grit and compost in the base of the hole, otherwise just adding compost in the base will be fine.
Plant the acer ensuring the top of the root ball is not proud of the surrounding soil level. For best results mix the soil with compost and back fill.
Mulching is beneficial, adding a good source of organic matter, keeping the soil and roots cool in the warmer months, and suppressing weeds.
Any major pruning of your acer is best done when the tree is dormant from November to early February. Pruning while the tree is dormant avoids the tree bleeding sap from the pruning wounds. Light pruning to maintain shape can be done any time from mid to late summer. But generally pruning is best kept to a minimum as acers are generally at their most graceful when left in their natural form.
Sun or shade?
It is fair to say any and every acer will enjoy dappled light. Some will prefer more shade, others more sun. Check the descriptions found on each product page to make sure you make an appropriate choice.
Most acers will benefit from an environment sheltered from strong winds to prevent leaf scorch. Some varieties tolerate wind to a degree but most, especially the varieties with feathery foliage, will prefer the quiet life.