Acer Palmatum ‘Deshojo’

Japanese Red 'Deshojo' Maple Bonsai

The Deshojo maple is one of the most popular and classic bonsai trees. Its intensely bright red leaves during autumn are stunning and part of the reason for its huge popularity. In winter, the five-pointed leaves drop, leaving a striking silhouette.

Japanese Red 'Deshojo' Maple Care Guide

Japanese Red Maple Bonsai Care Tips

Choose an outdoor location that is sunny but protected from strong wind and scorching sunlight in the hottest part of summer days. The more sustained light the tree receives, the deeper red the leaves will be.

Despite being frost hardy, Deshojo bonsai trees should be protected from sustained freezing and intense frost so protect your bonsai tree from temperatures below -10 °C by moving it to an unheated cold frame, greenhouse or conservatory, or providing insulation during winter.

There is no definitive guide to watering and it should be conducted on an observational schedule, not a routine. This means that it is important to keep an eye on the moisture levels of the soil to avoid over and under watering, both which can lead to dropping leaves and/or root death. The amount of water a bonsai requires depends on pot size, climate, airflow, soil and tree type so it is best to use your eyes and fingers to assess whether the soil is damp, wet or dry. 

If the top inch or so of soil has dried, it is ready to be watered. When you water, try to get an even coverage over the roots and soil, allowing water to flow out from the bottom of the pot to ensure a good soaking.

If you are a first-time bonsai owner, another way to water is by submerging the entire pot in water until the bubbles stop. If you choose this method, be aware that your bonsai may not need watering for another two to four days, but this will depend on the factors mentioned above such as soil type, pot size and climate.  

During the spring and summer growing months, maples require a large amount of water which could mean watering twice a day. There is not much danger of overwatering during these months as long as a well-draining soil mix has been used but take care to use the bare minimum of water during the winter months when the leaves have dropped. It is also recommended that you don’t use hard water, instead use rainwater where possible.

Using fertiliser on your Deshojo will help encourage healthy growth and this should be done periodically from once a week to every two months and only during the growing season. You can start adding Chrysal Liquid Bonsai Feed to your water from March until October and use weekly. Use Naruko Fertiliser Slow Release Bonsai Feed once every one to two months. With Buddhist Pine trees, less is more, and we tend to advise using half the recommended dosage to see how your Buddhist Pine reacts first.

Pruning your bonsai is important not only to create or maintain an aesthetic style but to also ensure light and airflow can reach inner leaves and the shoots and twigs of the Deshojo maple can and should be trimmed all year round. During the early to late spring months use appropriate tools to cut back stems which have grown longer than four leaves, leaving the two leaves which are closest to the stem intact. Save any pruning or cutting of the stronger branches until autumn to prevent bleeding and be sure to use a use wound closure agent since maples are particularly prone to fungal infections. Remove large leaves during periods of active growth to encourage the appearance of smaller and finer leaves.

Wiring is best done when the tree is in leaf since branches that contain sap are less likely to snap. Monitor any wiring carefully to ensure that the wire does not become embedded in the bark as the tree grows vigorously over the spring to summer periods. We recommend using wires with a thickness that matches the thickness of the branch: if the wire you choose is too thick you will damage the bark. If it is too thin, it won’t be effective.

Repotting your tree is an important way to provide a fresh and suitable soil mix and ensure appropriate root health. Repot in early spring. Generally, your Deshojo will need to be re-potted once every two years if it is young, while older ones can stay in their pots for longer. However, you should always check if it has become root-bound before you change pots. You can do this by lifting the tree gently out of the pot by the main trunk and examining the root system. You will know it is ready if you can see that the roots are circling around each other and the pot. If, however, they still appear contained in the soil, you should place it back and wait until the following spring to check again.  

Trees that are ready for repotting will require root pruning, a suitable new pot and appropriate soil mix.

Maples have a strong and vigorous root system that tolerates heavy pruning, and you can cut back the roots aggressively, removing about 30-50% of the root mass to encourage new growth. It is important that the soil mix you choose for your maple tree’s new pot is well-draining and we tend to use a mixture of different speciality bonsai soils on our trees.

When repotting, do not cut back the root mass by a large amount, and choose a well-draining soil mix that has a neutral or slightly higher PH value of 5-6 but not over 7. We tend to use a mixture of different speciality bonsai soils on our trees. Every species is different so please contact us for free soil-mix advice or to take advantage of our repotting service.

Bonsai trees aren’t only magnificent additions to an indoor oasis, they are more than capable of standing out in any garden. Many Bonsai species are incredibly hardy and withstand nature’s colder and damper turns with aplomb making them worthwhile outdoor plants. We have an extensive library of care guides for outdoor bonsai trees. It’s not about selecting the perfect bonsai, it’s about selecting the perfect bonsai for you. 

Acer is a sizable genus of shrubs and trees with over 120 species. Known to most as maples, these palmate-leaved deciduous are closely related to both lychee and horse chestnut. Commonly cultivated for bonsai are the Trident Maple and the Field Maple among its many cultivars. So popular are Acer for bonsai, some hobbyists in Japan grow maples and only maples. 

Japanese Red Maple Bonsai - Typical Queries

To grow a Japanese Red Maple Bonsai from seed, you need to stratify the seeds in a refrigerator for 90 to 120 days to simulate winter conditions. Then, sow the seeds in a well-draining soil mix and keep them moist and warm until they germinate. Transplant the seedlings to individual pots and prune and wire them as they grow.

Protecting a Japanese Red Maple Bonsai from frost is important to prevent damage to the buds and branches. You should place your bonsai in a sheltered location that is sunny but protected from strong wind and scorching sunlight in the hottest part of summer days. The more sustained light the tree receives, the deeper red the leaves will be. If the temperature drops below -10°C (14°F), you should move your bonsai indoors or cover it with a frost cloth.

Pests and diseases on a Japanese Red Maple Bonsai can affect its health and appearance. Some of the common pests and diseases are aphids, scale insects, spider mites, leaf spots, powdery mildew, and verticillium wilt. You should inspect your bonsai regularly and treat any problems as soon as possible. You can use a mild insecticide or fungicide spray, or a homemade solution of water, soap, and alcohol.

Propagating a Japanese Red Maple Bonsai is a way to create new plants from your existing ones. You can propagate your bonsai by seeds, cuttings, or grafting. Seeds are the easiest method, but they may not produce the same characteristics as the parent plant. Cuttings are more reliable, but they require more care and attention. Grafting is the most difficult method, but it can produce exact clones of the parent plant.