Repotting Japanese Maple Trees: When, Where, How to Repot These Plants

Several years have clicked and it is time for repotting Japanese maple trees. But how can you do it exactly?

Your Japanese Maples will thrive when you show them some love by repotting every two or three years.
Your Japanese Maples will thrive when you show them some love by repotting every two or three years.

Japanese Maples steal the show in containers, but now and then, they crave a bit more space for their roots to spread their magic and keep the beauty flowing.

Follow our simple guide to repotting Japanese Maple trees to ensure it thrives for years to come.

Repotting Japanese Maple: When

When To Repot

Spring and summer months are the best times of the year to give your Japanese maple a new home.
Spring and summer months are the best times of the year to give your Japanese maple a new home.

The ideal time to re-pot your Japanese Maple is early Spring, just before the buds start to bloom.

During this time, the days are getting longer, and the temperatures are rising, signaling the awakening of your tree from its winter slumber.

Since the roots usually start growing before the leaf buds, re-potting in Spring allows the plant to establish new roots in its fresh compost more quickly than at other times of the year.

Repotting during the summer months is possible since most of the tree’s growth has already occurred.

However, be cautious of repotting in the hottest parts of summer, as extreme temperatures can stress the foliage’s ability to retain moisture.

When Not To Repot

Refrain your urge to repot the plant in April, May or Autumn months.
Refrain your urge to repot the plant in April, May or Autumn months.

Repotting in April/May is not advisable as the tree is busy producing new foliage.

Transplanting it during this time can lead to unsightly black or brown tips on the leaves.

Although not harmful, it’s best to avoid this situation.

Avoid re-potting in the autumn.

As the days shorten and temperatures drop, your Japanese Maple is preparing to enter a dormant state.

Repotting during this time could prevent the tree from fully establishing new roots.

Repotting Japanese Maple: Compost Type

Repot compost: we suggest using a mix of good quality peat-free ericaceous compost, fine pine bark and a slow-release fertilizer.
Repot compost: we suggest using a mix of good quality peat-free ericaceous compost, fine pine bark and a slow-release fertilizer.

Japanese Maples prefer a free-draining compost that retains moisture and balances air circulation.

Our recommended mixture consists of good quality peat-free ericaceous compost, preferably combined with fine pine bark and a slow-release fertilizer.

The fine bark serves two purposes:

  • Firstly, it creates air gaps within the compost, ensuring the roots do not become waterlogged.
  • Secondly, it absorbs and retains moisture, allowing for free-drainage while simultaneously keeping the compost from drying out too quickly.

Repotting Japanese Maple: Pot Type

Don’t select a pot that is too spacious for it.
Don’t select a pot that is too spacious for it.

GOLDEN RULE: NEVER OVER-POT YOUR Japanese Maple!

One of the biggest mistakes made when repotting Japanese Maples is using a container that is too large.

Avoid the temptation of transplanting the tree into a significantly bigger pot, thinking it will save time in the long run.

Japanese Maples prefer gradual transitions, so when repotting, choose a container that is only 50% to 100% wider than the current one.

For instance, if your young Japanese Maple is growing in a 15cm (6-inch) wide pot, transplant it into a container between 22.5cm (9 inches) and 30cm (12 inches) wide.

For slower-growing or dwarf varieties, opt for a smaller jump in size as they may take longer to establish.

Selecting The Best Pot Type

Glazed pots are particularly preferable for this plant.
Glazed pots are particularly preferable for this plant.

For long-term cultivation, our go-to choice is glazed pots. Terracotta pots tend to dry out too quickly in the summer, causing stress to the tree.

While terracotta is suitable for plants that prefer a Mediterranean climate, such as olive or fig trees, it’s not ideal for Japanese Maples.

Metal containers may look trendy, but they get excessively hot in summer and can damage the fragile root system.

Pot Shape

As for pot shape, avoid containers that narrow at the neck.

They can cause problems when re-potting in the future, potentially damaging both the tree and the pot.

If you have a weeping variety of Japanese Maple, consider opting for a taller pot to allow the branches to cascade over the edges.

However, avoid tall pots for tall trees, as they can be more unstable during windy weather.

Avoid containers with narrow necks.
Avoid containers with narrow necks.

Remember to place your pot on pot feet, elevating it slightly off the ground.

This enables excess water to drain away freely and protects the pot from frost damage during winter.

And if you want a step-by-step guide on how to repot Japanese Maple trees, here you are:

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Repot Japanese Maple Trees

Step 1: Timing

Optimal time for repotting is early spring, just before the buds start to bloom. Avoid repotting in April/May to prevent stress on new foliage.

Summer repotting is possible but be cautious, especially in the hottest parts of the season. Avoid repotting in autumn as the tree prepares for dormancy.

Step 2: Gather supplies

Choose a well-draining compost mix: peat-free ericaceous compost, fine pine bark, and a slow-release fertilizer.

Select a glazed pot of appropriate size and shape, avoiding containers that narrow at the neck. Use pot feet to elevate the pot for proper drainage.

Step 3: Assess the Tree

Check for signs of stress or disease and trim away any dead or unhealthy branches.

Step 4: Select the Right Pot Size

Never over-pot; select a container only 50% to 100% wider than the current one. For example, if the current pot is 15cm (6 inches) wide, choose a container between 22.5cm (9 inches) and 30cm (12 inches) wide.

Step 5: Prune Excess Roots and Foliage

Trim the roots slightly to encourage new growth. Prune any overly long or crowded branches. Remove dead or damaged foliage.

Step 6: Prepare the New Pot

Add a layer of the prepared compost mix to the bottom of the new pot. Create a slight mound in the center to support the tree.

Step 7: Repotting

Gently remove the tree from its current pot. Place it in the center of the new pot, ensuring it sits at the same depth as in the previous container. Fill the remaining space with the compost mix, firming it gently around the roots.

Step 8: Watering

Water the newly repotted tree thoroughly to settle the soil. Ensure the water drains freely from the bottom of the pot.

Step 9: Placement

Place the pot in a location with the right sunlight conditions for your specific Japanese Maple variety.

Last But Not Least: Monitor

Keep a close eye on the tree for the first few weeks to ensure it adjusts well. Regularly check soil moisture levels and water as needed.

By following these steps, you can ensure a successful and healthy repotting process for your Japanese Maple, promoting its growth and longevity.

And finally… Enjoy the beauty after repotting your Japanese Maple

Don't forget to keep a close eye on your Japanese Maple after the transplantation!
Don’t forget to keep a close eye on your Japanese Maple after the transplantation!

Take your time and ensure all the necessary elements, from the compost mix to the container, are in place.

The goal is to produce a beautiful and happy Japanese Maple that will reward you for all your hard work. Good luck!