Trident Maple Bonsai

Trident Maple Bonsai

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Pictures of Trident Maple Bonsai

General Information

Trident maple — Acer buergerianum — is one of the most vigorous temperate broadleaf deciduous species that exists in bonsai. The strength of these trees comes from the vascular system and you can heavily prune their roots and branches.

Some of the reasons trident maple bonsai are so popular:

- The ability to become very thick and fluid in their movements

- A flaking, creamy bark that creates interesting patterns

- Tight, tiny three-pointed leaves 

The leaves give wonderful interest in the spring as they originate and turn incredible colors of yellow, orange, and red in the fall. As a bonsai subject, the trident maple creates four seasons of delight.

Trident maple lends itself to stone plantings well, as it  grows with a particular root over stone composition that creates interesting relationships and patterns.

This strong and durable species is one of the traditional pillars of bonsai.

Caring for Trident Maple Bonsai

Watering

Because trident maple is a deciduous species,  it can tolerate some dryness in the soil   and  the soil should never be sopping wet.

Every tree needs a balance of water and oxygen, and trident maple—like any broadleaf deciduous species—leans toward the water-heavy side, preferring to be moist  and damp. 

However, because trident maple can tolerate some dryness in the roots, you want it to dry slightly between waterings—but never become bone dry.

In general, trident maple bonsai should be watered regularly and keep a fairly consistent amount of water in the container for it to be successful. This is especially true for a vigorous or aged trident maple with an abundance of leaves.

Temperature

Trident maple bonsai can tolerate temperatures well over 100℉ as long as they are properly shaded. See the next section for more information on how to shade your bonsai properly.

Trident maple bonsai winter care can be a bit trickier, as they do not tolerate heavy freezing. This is because their thick, fleshy tissue holds a lot of water, even over the winter season.

When there are dramatic freezes (temperatures consistently below 28℉)  trident maple will show winter dieback not only in the branching and fine twigs, but also in areas of the trunk.

Fortunately, trident maple will tolerate temps down to 28℉ dependably without dieback.

Lighting

Since trident maple is such a durable broadleaf deciduous species, it can tolerate the sun well and benefits from full sun in the spring and fall.

Trident maple bonsai continue to enjoy  plentiful sun until temperatures hit 85-90℉. Once  the full heat of summer is underway, they should be kept under a 30% shade cloth.

This typically allows trident maple bonsai to tolerate the sun’s intensity—unless the relative humidity gets too low. If  the relative humidity drops below 10%, more shade is needed.

Fertilizing

If you are developing your trident maple bonsai in the spring, you should be fertilizing aggressively.  Trident maple can thicken rapidly with feeding, and this is a great way to: 

● Develop it to heal big wounds

● Get thicker branches 

● Grow the trunk

You should do the same thing if you are developing in the fall.

However, if you are refining your trident maple, you want to hold off on spring fertilization so the tree can use its stored energy. If you give fertilizer during this time, you’ll end up with excessively long internodes .

When you do post-flush harden partial defoliation and pruning, you should give your trident maple bonsai a light application of fertilizer.

Hold back on fertilizer in the heat of summer, then train refinement by giving it light fertilizer at the beginning of fall.

Pruning

There are three times throughout the year when pruning trident maple bonsai is most beneficial:

1. Developmental pruning in the spring before the beginning of growth

2. Refinement pruning in the post-flush harden late spring/early summer (last weeks of May or first week of June)

3. Refinement or developmental pruning as the leaves begin to change colors and drop in fall

Repotting

The roots of a trident maple bonsai can be pruned back underneath and up to the trunk. You can bare root them in the repotting process and laterally organize the roots to plate out the root system and avoid downward growth.

Trident maple bonsai thrive with solid akadama soil. This has high nutrient capacity, high water retention, and scalability to the production of fine roots—which will lead to shorter inner notes and smaller leaf mass over time.

Propagation

Trident maple bonsai can be propagated from cuttings or air layers.

This is a challenging species to air layer because it is aggressive in its growth and vascular tissue production. Its ability to thicken means that the callus often bridges the air layer. 

For this reason, you should use a rooting hormone and cut a wide space between the tissue and air layer to avoid the callus filling in the gap.

Pests/Disease

Trident maple bonsai suffer from common foliar pests, such as aphids. There is potential for whitefly problems. In arid climates, there is also the possibility of spider mites.

Fortunately, these general pests are all easily remedied with appropriate treatments.

Trident maple bonsai can get root rot molds such as Pythium or Phytophthora, often seen in maples. They can also suffer from common failure diseases such as anthracnose.

In general, this species is strong and shouldn’t have these issues if you monitor your tree and give it what it needs.

Wiring

Ideally, you should structurally wire your trident maple bonsai in the fall as the leaves drop and it is pruned because this is when the tree is most flexible.

It can also be wired in the spring before the production of growth.

Any wiring during the growing season should occur when the growth has hardened off, as with post-flush harden pruning. This allows you to wire soft, green shoots and give direction to the growth before it thickens and loses its malleability. 

Just like many other broadleaf deciduous varieties,  trident maple bonsai is brittle, so you must be careful about how much movement you try to put into the lignified, woody branches.

Trident maple bonsai is capable of being styled and moved. If you want extreme movement, it needs to be done with green, soft growth—after it has hardened, but before it lignifies.

Trident Maple Bonsai FAQs

Can Trident Maple Bonsai Be Grown Indoors?
No, trident maple bonsai is an outdoor plant, as it does best in sunny spots for most of the year. If you really want an indoor maple bonsai, it is possible—but probably more trouble than it’s worth. For instance, the Japanese maple can survive indoors, but it still needs to be taken outside for part of each day during the growing season.
How Do I Bend a Trident Maple Bonsai Without Breaking It?
Trident maple is brittle, but it can be bent. It is most flexible as the leaves drop in the fall, so this is the best time to get big moves and bends out of it. It can also patch and heal well during this time. In general, trident maple bonsai should have a slight rotation of the tissue to make it more bendable. You should never twist it. The slight rotation makes it slightly more flexible and distributes the force of the bend over a wider amount of tissue. To really get a trident maple bonsai to bend, you should wire new growth as it hardens—while it’s still green, but before it turns woody
Should I Fully Defoliate My Trident Maple Bonsai?
Although trident maples are vigorous enough to tolerate full defoliation, this always taxes the energy system of a broadleaf deciduous tree and isn’t a sustainable technique in the long run. If they are vigorous and growing, partially defoliating and pruning the growth of a trident maple two to three times a year is preferred. This will lead to shorter internodes and smaller leaves with a dependable response.

Buying Information

Bonsai Mirai is dedicated to helping you maintain the health of your Trident Maple and all other bonsai trees. Our team of professionals can assist in everything, from the execution of a bold design to the initial potting or the daily responsibilities of caring for your tree.