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What Is the Best Fertilizer for Japanese Maples?

Japanese maple trees are a great species to plant in your yard. In fact, the maple tree is one of the most common trees found in North America. The Japanese maple is a type of maple tree, and as with any tree, it’s important to know the conditions they thrive in so they can grow their healthiest. At Mr. Tree, we have already told you how to properly care for your maple tree, but now we want to get into more specifics and focus solely on the Japanese maple.

What Is a Japanese Maple Tree?

The Japanese maple tree is a versatile ornamental tree. The leaves are red or reddish-purple in color during the springtime and the fall. With too much heat, they sometimes become green during the summer months but remain mostly red. These trees can reach 15 to 25 feet tall and 20 feet wide. They should be planted in soil that is moist, slightly acidic, and well-drained. Keeping the soil moist is critical, as the soil should not go through alternate periods of dry and wet.

Additionally, Japanese maple trees need full sun and partial shade to thrive. If a tree is planted in an area with too much shade, it will turn greener in color and grow more slowly. These trees already grow at a fairly slow pace, with height increases from less than 12 inches to under 24 inches each year.

The seeds, buds, and flowers that grow on these trees attract small wildlife such as squirrels, chipmunks, songbirds, and quail.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take a look at the best fertilizer for Japanese maple trees.

The Best Type of Fertilizer for the Japanese Maple Is a Slow-Release One

You probably already know that fertilizers help plants grow fuller, taller, healthier, and faster. They give the soil essential nutrients that help to support growth and photosynthesis. But not every fertilizer works on every type of tree. They contain varying amounts of potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus. Just like every human does not need to take the same types of multivitamins, trees do not need the same types of fertilizer. For Japanese maple trees, fertilizer is an important part of their nutrient process, but it needs to be released slowly.

The reason to look for slow-release fertilizers for your Japanese maple trees is that this will give the tree a steady supply of nutrients over a period of time, instead of a quick supply of food. Additionally, the fertilizer should have high nitrogen levels, as this is what Japanese maple trees need most. A good thing to look for is fertilizers that have about three times more nitrogen in them than phosphorus. Nitrogen is the most important thing your tree needs to increase the growth of its twigs and leaves. Meanwhile, phosphorus and potassium are important to photosynthesis and other processes.

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How Can You Tell the Nutrient Ratio?

The fertilizer package labels should have the nutrient ratios listed on them. For instance, if the label says that its ratio is 16-4-8, that means that it is comprised of 16% nitrogen, 4% phosphorus, and 8% potassium. Therefore, a bag of 16-4-7 fertilizer that weighs 10 pounds has 1.6 pounds of nitrogen in the entire bag.

Know the Amount of Fertilizer You Need

The best fertilizer for Japanese maple trees that are mature is 1/10 pound of nitrogen for every 1 inch of the tree’s diameter. This tree trunk diameter should be measured at four and a half feet from the ground. Be careful if you are using other lawn fertilizers near your Japanese maple trees. Do not reapply fertilizer in these areas.

How Do You Know Where to Put the Fertilizer?

Japanese maple trees can have root systems that extend four feet deep into the soil. But the “feeder” roots are the ones responsible for absorbing nutrients. They are found in the top 12 inches of the soil. Because of this, you want to spread enough fertilizer on the surface of the soil so that it can reach these feeder roots. Start at least one foot away from the trunk of the tree and extend to about one and a half times the diameter of the canopy of the tree. Be sure to spread the fertilizer evenly across the ground.

In cases where the soil is a bit too wet or has become compacted, the fertilizer should instead be applied in holes that are six to eight inches deep, all in the same area. Preparing about five holes per one inch of trunk diameter is a good measure.

A Little More Help

The above tips will help you choose the best fertilizer for your Japanese maple trees. If you are looking for more specific options of fertilizers that you can buy yourself, some good examples are Happy Frog Japanese Maple, TreeHelp Annual Care, and Miracle-Gro Fertilizer Spikes for Trees and Shrubs. All of these are slow-release fertilizers. Some have higher nitrogen levels than others.

Even knowing these tips for finding the best fertilizer for your Japanese maple, it can still be intimidating to figure out what will really work best for your trees. Because of this, you may want to call in a professional arborist for advice and personalized recommendations. At Mr. Tree, we want your yard looking its best with your trees at their healthiest. We can come to look at your Japanese maple trees and your soil conditions and provide a recommendation for the fertilizer that will work best for your trees.

Additionally, we can take care of the fertilizing for you too. By allowing us to take care of maintenance such as this, we can ensure your tree is getting the best fertilizer and the correct amount each time. Reach out to us today, and we can help your Japanese maple trees stay healthy and full.