1. When is the best time of the year to graft Japanese Maples?

1A. The scion must be dormant, or nearly so; in late winter or in summer when the scion has hardened off (no active growth at the tip).

2. What is rootstock? Does it matter what rootstock you use?

2A. Rootstock is the rooted part of the graft to which the scion is grafted. The scion and the rootstock must be compatible. Acer palmatum rootstock is best used with Acer palamtum scions. Acer palmatum is also compatible with Acer japonicum but not with Acer buergerianum.

3. What is cambium?

3A. Cambium is the growing part of the tree. It is located on the outer edge of the tree. The inner cells of the cambium produce the woody part of the tree, while the outer cells of the cambium form the bark. The woody part of the tree is for support. The cambium contains the tubes which conduct the nutrients up from the soil (xylem tubes) and the phloem tubes which conduct the manufactured food downward. If you girdle a tree, you interrupt this flow and the tree dies.

4. What is grafting?

4A. Grafting is joining the cambium layers of the rootstock to the cambium layers of the scion for some length of time. The graft heals (calluses) and the scion is then fed by the roots of the rootstock. The cambium layers of Japanese maples are very thin and much care must be taken when preparing the cuts so the cambium layers will not be damaged. A sharp grafting tool is absolutely essential.

5. Can you recommend a grafting knife?

5A. I use the Tina 605, for righthanders. It is made of special metals that will hold an edge. One side is flat and the other side is slanted about 23 degrees. I strop it after every hundred cuts or so. Vertrees used a single edge razor blade, which I do not recommend. I find it is much more difficult for me to control. What ever you use, it must be kept extremely sharp. One of the biggest causes for graft failure is damaged cambium. Lots of grafters use a box cutter which I suggest if you don't go for the grafting knife.

6. Does the scion have to be the same diameter as the rootstock?

6A. In an ideal world it would be nice if the scion were the same size as the rootstock, but that is seldom the case. After I make my cuts, I angle the scion across the rootstock cut, this assures you have the cambium layers in contact in at least two places. I hold them in place with a grafting rubber or Buddy tape or Parafilm until healing takes place. If the cambium layers are not touching, then no successful graft will take place. Care must be taken in wrapping the graft so as not to squeeze the cambium layers too tightly together, just tight enough to hold the layers together until healing occurs.

7. How long can you leave scions in the refrigerator?

7A. I have left them in the fridge for two months and made successful grafts. I don't recommend leaving them in the fridge any longer than necessary. I place them in the fridge in a damp paper towel with just a hint of fungicide and place the towel in a zip lock bag. I try to remember to label.

8. When is the best time to collect Japanese maple seed?

8A. I collect JM seed (samara) just as the wings begin to turn brown in the fall. I prefer to not let them dry out. I place them in an equal volume of moist peat/perlite in a zip lock bag with a hint of fungicide for sixty-ninety days in the fridge. As they germinate I plant them in 4 inch pots. If your JM seed are dry, soak them in warm water for 48 hours and then treat them as above.

9. Can Japanese maple be grown from cuttings?

9A. Yes. It seems most of the time the plant doesn't do as well on its own roots as when it is grafted. However, Bloodgood seems to do quite well. Give it a try.

10. Can JMs be air layered?

10A. Yes, but most of the time, you will have a stronger plant if it is grafted. Never be afraid to give it a try!

11. What is the best size rootstock to use for grafting?

11A. I like for my rootstock to have a stem diameter of about 1/4 inch. Of course you can graft on smaller rootstock as well as larger. Remember, sharp knife and place the cambium layers on a slant!

12. When should the bag be removed that is covering the graft?

12A. Be sure the graft has taken (callused) before removing the bag. I check after two weeks, and if the graft looks good , I wait another week and then loosen the tie to allow air to flow into the bag and then two days later I remove the bag. Sometimes it takes six weeks or longer for the graft to callus. Unfortunately, sometimes never. If the scion starts turning brown and drying out, be assured the graft has failed. Don't be alarmed! As your grafting skill improves, so will your percentage of successful grafts.

13. Can Acer buergerianum be grafted to Acer palmatum?

13A. No. They are not compatible. However, Acer palmatum cultivar scions can be grafted to Acer japonicum rootstock and vice versa.

14. Is there any rooting compound or chemical that you can dip your scion in that will enhance your grafting.

14A. Not any I have found or read about.

15. When should the top part of the rootstock be removed?

15A. The rootstock above the graft should be removed as soon as the graft has taken well. I remove my rootstock tops after leaves begin to form on the scion. Others leave theirs on for a month or more.

16. When should the rubber strap be removed?

16A. I do not remove the rubber strap. It deteriorates after a few weeks. This is not the case if you are not using straps made especially for grafting. If for some reason you are using straight rubber bands, then remove them after the graft has taken. I purchase my rubber straps from amleo.com. See my vendor list.

17. I have difficulty aligning my cambium layers. Any suggestions??

17A. I have begun using a "mageyes #5" head attached magnfying glass and it has helped tremendously. I align the cambium layers on a slant. You can find it at mageyes.com

18. I placed Japamese maple seed in the fridge in November in moist peat and a zip-lock bag. I just noticed some of the seed are sprouting here in February. Should I pot them?

18A. By all means. Pot in good potting mix with good drainage, with not too much fertilizer.

19. What are your suggestions on planting a Japanese maple?

I am constantly asked by people who visit my website and my five acres about how to plant a Japanese maple. How large should the hole be and what amendments do you use and how often do you water it. I not only plant my Jms, but most everything woody the same way. Then the question comes up on why dig a deeper hole when most of our plants and trees are shallow rooted. I think most of us know that if you can get a plant to develop a good root system then the top of the plant will take care of itself.

I plant Jms and Rhododendrons and Native Azaleas and dogwood the same way, shallowly. The deep hole gives me excellent drainage. We all know, to get optimum growth, we should plant in a raised bed. Thus the reason for my planting method.

I mark off a square where I want my hole three feet by three feet. I take my mattock and dig at least a “mattock deep”hole and remove the soil and place on a piece of plywood or plastic, keeping the square shape. I then go back into the hole and dig another “mattock deep”, loosening the soil but not removing it. I fill my wheelbarrow that has a capacity of 22 gallons with old ¼ inch bark. I dump half the bark in the hole and mix thoroughly with the loosened soil. I then replace the soil that I have laid aside on top of this mix and amalgamate with the mix in the hole along with dumping the bark remaining in the wheelbarrow. Now I add my amendments. I use a half and half mixture of 12-6-6 and slow release fertilizer and add about a pint. I also add a quart of dolomitic lime (the pH of bark is 3.9), a half cup of micromax (trace elements), a half cup of calcium sulfate (gypsum), and a half cup of magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts). I thoroughly mix all the ingredients.

I now have a pile of mix about a foot or so above ground level. Lets say I am going to plant a native azalea that is in a three gallon pot. I make a hole in the middle of the mix about the size of the plant and to a depth that will allow the plant’s surface to be about two inches above ground level. I then pull all the loose soil up against the root stalk. Next I begin making a circle in the mix around the plant until I have a trench surrounding the plant with the top of the plant’s soil surface completely exposed. I soak the mixture. I let drain and three days later I soak the mixture again and mulch. For the next year I will keep the mix moist, but never soggy. The second year you will observe maximum growth of your plant. I have observed Chuck Browne and Tom Corley planting the same way, so I couldn’t be too far off base, could I?

20. Can youi recommend a nursery that sells Japanese maples in the Auburn, Alabama area?

20A. Quail Hollow Nursery (Coach Pat Dye) call Lynn Huggins nursery manager at 334-401 9929

Millstone Nursery (Paul Lowe), located at 11265 Hwy 50 West, Dadeville, Alabama 36853 phone, 256-896-0105.




2002 Dr. William B Shell. All Rights Reserved.