Trident Maple Bonsai Care Guide

Trident Maple Bonsai Care Guide

Trident Maple Bonsai

Trident maple (also known as Acer buergerianum) makes a beautiful bonsai tree. This ornamental tree has three-lobed leaves and a thick-set trunk. The leaves are a deep green during most of the year and turn orange and red in the fall. In addition to its appearance, bonsai collectors also love how hardy and relatively easy to maintain this particular bonsai is. 

Because Trident maple bonsai can withstand some adverse conditions, it is a perfect bonsai for beginners. That being said, you still need to provide attention and care to help this bonsai thrive.


Trident maple likes lots of sunlight. When placed outdoors, this bonsai should be in direct sunlight most of the time. However, during the hottest parts of summer, you will need to protect this plant during the middle of the day. A normal-sized Trident maple can handle midday heat, but in bonsai form, heat from the container that it is placed in can be too much for this plant. Provide shade for the plant during very hot days.

During the winter, Trident maple prefers to remain outdoors in most cases. Trident maple bonsais do not handle indoor temperatures well. They can withstand temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit for a week or two during the winter. 

If you live in an area that regularly gets that cold or colder, then it’s better to provide more protection for your Trident maple bonsai rather than bringing it indoors. You can place your Trident maple in an unheated garage or outdoor structure over winter. You can also use an unheated foil tent to protect them outdoors if desired. 


As outdoor bonsai, Trident maple is not overly fussy about the temperature. As previously mentioned, they do enjoy lots of sunlight, but need to be shaded to avoid overheating on particularly hot days during the summer.

Trident maples are deciduous trees, meaning that they lose their leaves and go dormant during the winter. The temperature during the winter needs to remain low enough that they do not begin growing again until the danger of a late freeze has passed.

If early warm spells in the spring cause Trident maple to begin growing but temperatures below freezing are forecasted, cover the pot with burlap or place the plant in a protected area to prevent damage to developing roots.

Trident maple is a hardy bonsai, so the temperature is not too much of an issue unless temperatures are extreme or unless you have a bout of unseasonable weather.


Trident maple bonsai are not very picky about their soil. In its full-size form, it can handle clay, sand, and loam; as a bonsai, it can handle any good-quality potting mix that allows for good drainage.

There are potting mixes specially designed for deciduous bonsai, and you can use one of those as soil for your Trident maple if you want to. However, they are hardy enough that they should be fine growing in a good regular potting mix.

How Often Do You Water a Trident Maple Bonsai?

Although it’s difficult to estimate how often a particular bonsai will need to be watered due to differences that include location, potting soil, and container size, it is safe to say that Trident maple bonsai need to be watered often.

This plant has strong roots and lots of leaves, so it uses a lot of water, especially during the summer. Depending on your climate, you should expect to water Trident maple bonsai daily during the summer months. You should still check your plant frequently during the spring and fall months as well. You will probably need to water every other day or so.

If you live in a hot climate, you may find it easier to keep your bonsai adequately watered if you grow it in a deeper pot. This will allow the soil to retain more water. You can also add a layer of pebbles on top of the soil to prevent as much moisture from evaporating that way.

Trident maple does require frequent watering, but it is hardy enough to withstand some occasional dry spells. You won’t hurt it much if you forget or have to skip watering every once in a while. Just don’t expect it to be fine without watering if you head off for a cruise during the middle of the summer.

When Should You Fertilize a Trident Maple Bonsai?

Wondering how much fertilizer your Trident maple bonsai needs? This bonsai needs frequent fertilizer in order to thrive. 

Beginning in the spring, plan to fertilize Trident maple once a week. Cut back to every other week during the summer, and continue fertilizing until fall. Make sure to stop at the beginning of fall to stop encouraging growth before this bonsai needs to go dormant for the winter.

Young Trident maple bonsai need fertilizer that is higher in nitrogen than in phosphorus or potassium in order to encourage initial growth. However, consider switching to a formula with lower nitrogen levels once the bonsai has become established. This will help keep the leaves smaller and slow down growth to make the bonsai form more manageable.

We’d recommend using a liquid fertilizer as it is easier to dilute liquid fertilizer and provide small amounts of fertilizer. Begin by using smaller amounts of fertilizer than the packaging recommends. You can always add more fertilizer later if necessary, but you cannot undo the damage that overfertilizing can cause to a plant’s root system.

When to Repot Trident Maple Bonsai?

Because Trident maple is a fast grower, it needs to be repotted more often than the average bonsai tree. Expect to repot Trident maple bonsai every two to three years. Young trees may even need to be repotted as often as every spring.

The best time to repot this bonsai is in the spring. Wait until the buds are green and beginning to swell. When you repot, you can remove up to half of the roots during the process. 

When you pot up into a larger pot, be sure to choose containers with drainage holes. The larger and deeper the pot, the more drainage holes it should have. While it is tempting to choose containers based on looks alone, it is important that the container you choose allows water to drain from the soil easily. Proper drainage allows oxygen to reach the roots. How to Bonsai Trident Maple

Trident maple naturally has a balanced look that is frequently sought after by bonsai lovers.

Trident Maple Bonsai Styling

The usual goal when styling a Trident maple bonsai is to mimic the natural curvy, soft shape of a maple. However, Trident maple bonsai can be styled in almost any way except for the broom style. Two styles that work exceptionally well for this tree are root over rock and free upright form.

Wiring should be used only when the plant is young because older maples will not be as pliable. Even so, use caution when using wires to shape Trident maple. This tree grows quickly, and the wire can become embedded in the branches if it is not removed quickly enough.

Unless you have experience training young bonsai, this is a task better left to others. Even some experts prefer to use pruning as the main training method for young Trident maple bonsai.

Trident Maple Bonsai Trimming and Pruning

The best time to trim and prune Trident maple bonsai is during the winter when the branches are most visible. 

Sometimes you will need to trim during the growing season to achieve a desired result, though. For example, if you want a thick branch, wait until multiple pairs of leaves have grown on a branch and then trim it back to one or two leaf pairs.

After trimming thick branches, be sure to use a wound closure agent. Large wounds remain visible for a long time on Trident maple trees, and the appearance suffers if wounds are allowed to remain open.

Other Types of Maple Bonsai

Interested in a maple bonsai but not quite sure that Trident maple is what you are looking for? Maple bonsai are very popular, so there are plenty of options to choose from.

Japanese Maple Bonsai

Bonsai enthusiasts love this traditional choice. The most commonly cultivated Japanese types are Deshojo, Arakawa, Seigen, Katsura, and Shishigashira. It’s hard to go wrong with one of these options.

Japanese Red Maple Bonsai

These bonsai are sought after due to their leaves, which have 5 or more lobes. Despite the common name, Japanese Red Maple (also known as Acer Palmatum) can be either a green or red variety. Collectors particularly like the red variety.

Sugar Maple Bonsai

This type of maple is a little more challenging to grow as bonsai due to its large natural state. However, sugar maples can grow in colder climates, meaning that this bonsai is a great choice for those living in areas where other maples are not able to overwinter outside. Keep in mind that these bonsai will be larger than most other bonsai.

Trident Maple Bonsai FAQ

Do maples make good bonsai?

Many types of maples make good bonsai. Maples do grow faster than other types of bonsai, but they are hardy enough to withstand the extensive pruning and trimming that bonsai often requires. 

In general, maples are relatively forgiving as bonsai. Plus, their fall foliage looks absolutely stunning in bonsai form, which makes them a favorite of both new and experienced bonsai collectors.

Can maple bonsai be grown indoors?

Although Trident maple bonsai cannot be grown indoors, some other types of maple bonsai can be grown indoors. The Japanese maple can survive indoors, but it still needs to be taken outside for at least a short period each day during the growing season. Growing maple bonsai inside is technically possible but will probably end up being more work than most people are willing to do.

Do maple bonsai lose their leaves?

Yes, just like their full-size counterparts, maple bonsai have leaves that change colors in autumn, and they lose their leaves before the winter. Maple bonsai are deciduous. They go dormant during the winter and grow new leaves during the following spring. These seasonal changes are part of why maples are so prized as bonsai.

It is normal for maple bonsai to lose their leaves before the winter. But if they are losing leaves during other parts of the year, this may indicate that there is a problem. Be sure that you are watering maple bonsai correctly. Both overwatering and underwatering can cause maple bonsai to lose their leaves. 

How long do maple bonsai take to grow?

Maples are typically fast growers. Maple bonsai may begin to mature into a specific look in about 5 years. They require consistent pruning and shaping due to their quick growth. However, even though maples grow quickly, it can take 10 to 15 years for them to develop a look with a thick trunk. Providing ideal growing conditions can speed up bonsai growth, but with maples, most owners try to slow down after the first few years to prevent the bonsai from growing too large.

Have another question about caring for your Trident maple bonsai plant? Drop a comment below! 

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The Bonsai Resource Center is here to help you learn about Trident Maple bonsai and provide you with the tools you need to keep your plant healthy and strong. Explore our other articles, visit our online shop, and connect with other bonsai lovers in our Facebook group to learn everything you need to know about this rewarding hobby!

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