Japanese maples are very popular as patio plants. They can be extremely beautiful but they commonly fail to deliver their full potential. The two most common reasons are they don’t like wind, scorching sun, even in London, is too much for them. In the spring, the new leaves are also very sensitive to late frosts and aphid attacks. Once the leaves are spoiled, that’s it for the season. Forget that glorious autumn colour. In nature, they grow in slightly acid conditions but they do fine in ordinary compost. What they won’t stand is drying out or sitting in water.
If I haven’t put you off, here are my tips for the cautious grower.
1. Cover the plant with horticultural fleece (available from garden centres) to get it through that treacherous period between the buds bursting and the leaves fully opening. This will protect against unexpected frosts and aphids.
2. If you haven’t got an ideal position out of the midday sun and away from windy corners, use tougher plants like bamboos to give them a bit of shade and shelter.
3. Don’ wet the leaves while the sun is on them. They scorch very easily.
4. Prune any dead bits that you find at the end of the stems. These are nothing to worry about in themselves but can lead to secondary fungal infections.
The trick is to get those leaves through the summer so your tree can show what it has really got offer in autumn.
Written By Alistair Ayres