Last Updated on January 13, 2022 by Grow with Bovees
Maple trees planted in your yard offer myriad different benefits, most notably their autumn colors, and the shade they provide.
Many species of maple trees put on a stunning display of colors including browns, oranges, and reds every year.
Maple trees are available in numerous species, and come in all shapes and sizes.
Maple trees require roughly 11 gallons of water per week to stay healthy and thrive. If you receive around one inch of rainfall during a week, there should be no need for more water.
But when it comes to maple tree care, choosing the right fertilizer can be a bit tricky, because not just any fertilizer will do for these deciduous trees.
However, there are some popular species of maple trees such as sugar maple, and red maple trees that do not need fertilizer, but younger sugar and red maples can benefit from the nutrients if the soil is deficient.
Other popular species of maples include Japanese maple and silver maple.
Best Fertilizer for Japanese Maples, Silver Maple, and Other Maple Trees
The best fertilizer for maple trees is one that is rich in nitrogen. You can find the ratio of the nutrients listed on the fertilizer label of a respective fertilizer.
You should never use a quick-release fertilizer, but use a slow-release fertilizer such as 10-4-6 and 16-4-8.
These numbers represent the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium in the fertilizer. For example, a 10 lbs bag of 16-4-8 fertilizer will contain 1.6 lbs of nitrogen, 0.4 lbs of phosphorous and 0.8 lbs of potassium.
The reason for not using a quick-release fertilizer is because it dissolves very quickly in the soil, making the nutrients readily available.
Maples prefer controlled-release type fertilizers or slow-release fertilizers such as the Happy Frog Japanese maple fertilizer and Dr. Earth fertilizer. (Amazon links).
When to Apply Fertilizer for a Maple Tree
The best time to fertilize your maple tree is when all the leaves have fallen in the autumn. The roots of Japanese maple and other species will continue to grow in cool soil, until the temperature of the soil reaches 40-degrees F.
These growing roots will store the nutrients from the fertilizer, and use them to grow in the spring. You can apply slow-release tree fertilizer in March if you feel if you’re expecting a warm winter, and to avoid cold damage to new shoots.
If you’ve recently transplanted a maple tree, you don’t have to apply fertilizer immediately but wait at least for its second growing season.
How to Fertilize Maple Trees
With regard to how to fertilize maples, remember your goal is to maintain a constant low level of fertility, which means applying low levels of nitrogen for your maples to grow at a slower speed.
Applying high amounts of nitrogen will result in fast growth that will weaken the plant, and not nourish it.
Maple tree root systems can grow up to four feet deep or more into the soil, but the majority of the roots that absorb the nutrients from the fertilizer are located at the top 12 to 18 inches of the soil.
So, you don’t have to spread maple tree fertilizer all the way at the bottom, but can apply fertilizer at the soil surface.
Do a soil test
Before applying fertilizer to your maple, it’s important to perform a soil test to determine the pH, and amend the soil if it’s too acidic. You can do this easily with a soil test kit.
The pH for maples should be between 4.5 and 7.5, and if its above this number, add aluminum sulphate. peat moss or sulfur to the soil to lower the pH.
Test the fertilizer for nutrients
Kits to test nutrient level in your soil are easily available. You can even dig up some soil, and send it to a cooperative extension service for testing.
Even though phosphoros is essential for maple tree growth and root development, you should not add it to the soil if it’s already present at the appropriate quantity.
Add slow release fertilizer
When you plant the maple, add two ounces of slow release fertilizer (19-5-17) to the soil, but do not use soluble fertilizers.
Add nitrogen fertilizer
After the first growing season has passed, you can add nitrogen fertilizer at the rate of 0.2 to 0.4 pounds per 100 square feet. Spread the fertilizer evenly across the surface of the soil, and water thoroughly to allow the water to reach the roots of the maple tree.
Does My Maple Tree Need to be Fertilized?
You do not have to fertilize your maple tree each year, and fertilization that is not required or is in excess can damage the roots.
If you notice slower twig growth, the color of the leaves fading in mid-summer, or the size of the leaves is smaller than normal, these are signs of nitrogen deficiency.
Using Tree Fertilizer Spikes for Maples
Fertilizer spikes are pre-measured fertilization products that release nutrients from the soil over time. Compacted soil can sometimes create a barrier that prevents the nutrients in the fertilizer from getting to the roots from the surface of the soil.
In this case, you can dig small holes for the fertilizer spikes around your maple tree, so that the fertilizer reaches four to eight inches into the soil.
When to Water Maple Trees?
Watering is just as important as applying fertilizer to maples. You should regularly water newly planted trees during periods with little rainfall, about twice a week.
The frequency, timing and amount of water required for young maples depends on the species, size of the tree, type of soil (sand, loam, clay, silt), and how well it drains.
Even though there’s no sure shot answer to how much and how often you need to water your trees, you can dig roughly 10 cm to 15 cm from the tree, and touch the soil to see if it’s cool or moist.
If it is, you do not need to water at this time, so check back in four to five days if the soil condition has changed.
Maple trees grow without a fuss, as long as they receive the right amount of nutrients and water. You should spread a slow release fertilizer across the soil surface, and water generously around once eor twice a year.
They love nitrogen, so be sure to choose fertilizer for maple trees with ratios between 10-4-6 and 16-4-8., and apply at the rate of 1/10 pound per 1 inch of trunk diameter.