Trident Maple Bonsai Tree Care Guide

General Information:

Acer buergerianum is a deciduous maple native to China, Japan, and Korea. In its natural environment this tree can grow to 20-30 feet in height and the same size in width. The tree can be distinguished from Acer palmatum by its three-lobed leaves, as opposed to five on the leaves of the Japanese Maple. While not quite as popular for bonsai as Japanese Maple, the Trident is just as suitable a subject. This tree is sometimes called the "juniper" of maples due to its bonsai-friendly traits.

Tree's Attributes:

The Trident Maple has an airy crown of foliage comprised of glossy green three-pointed leaves that turn gorgeous shades of yellow, orange, and red in autumn. The trunk is thick and richly textured in peeling orange-brown bark, a trait that draws bonsai enthusiasts to this particular maple. The roots readily form interesting gnarls perfect for exposed root styles. In April to May the tree develops modest yellow-green blooms.


The Trident Maple bonsai is a relatively hardy specimen, however it has moisture-rich roots that need protection in winter. This deciduous does need a normal period of dormancy but should be in a cold-frame or shed, with its roots and soil surface protected by an insulator such as mulch. It will thrive most vigorously in full sun.


Trident Maples are reasonably drought tolerant but ideally the soil should be kept consistently moist. Water daily throughout the growing season, monitoring for increased water needs in the hottest parts of summer. Because of this bonsai's ability to hold water in the roots it should be kept a bit dryer in winter to prevent freezing damage. This tree can withstand temperatures of 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit for fairly long periods of time.


During the first month of the growing season fertilize the Trident Maple bonsai every week, then decrease the frequency to every two weeks. If the tree is young, use a formula higher in nitrogen. If older, use a balanced fertilizer. As fall comes around switch to a low nitrogen, high phosphorus feed.


Best Styles – maples can take on a variety of forms but formal and informal uprights are the most common and the easiest to achieve. Root-over-rock and other exposed root styles are also very striking on this specimen.

Prune the Trident Maple in spring, before budding, pinching new growth back to two leaves. Prune aggressively at the crown to encourage new growth to occur in the lower part of the tree. In mid-summer leaf pruning may be carried out to reduce leaf size; remove 30 percent of the largest leaves, but only do so every other year otherwise the process causes too much stress to the tree.

Wiring is best done in late summer or autumn. The branches of this tree are somewhat fragile and can snap, so bend gradually. It is also helpful to use raffia or other protection to keep the wire from cutting into the bark.


Trident Maple bonsai may be propagated by seed, cuttings, or layering. Seeds planted in fall will sprout in the spring. To test the viability of the seeds, soak them in water for a day or two. Those that float may be discarded. Take softwood cuttings in June to July and place in moist rooting medium. Rooting hormone will improve the results. The cuttings should set roots over the summer, otherwise they will be unlikely to survive through winter.


This bonsai has fast-growing roots, so young trees may need repotting every year. Older trees can go two to three years between transplanting. Be sure the new pot allows plenty of room for root growth. This tree can withstand aggressive root pruning, up to 50% removal. If a small amount more than that needs to be removed because of root dieback the tree will likely be fine, but it's better to be conservative with pruning if possible. Trident Maples can be planted in a variety of soils, as long as it's well-draining and preferably somewhat acidic. Chlorosis sometimes develops if the pH is above 7. This tree does, however, have a moderately high salt tolerance.

Insects/Pests & Diseases:

This species is remarkably pest and disease resistant. It may attract caterpillars from time to time. The best treatment for these pests is to remove them by hand and kill them or move them far from your beloved bonsai.

Aphids may also infiltrate this bonsai, in which case you can rinse them off with a good stream of water, or by spraying with a weak solution of dish soap in water, followed by a rinse of plain water.

Root rot can occasionally be an issue as well but proper watering and well-draining soil will go a long way toward preventing it.

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