Trident Maple Bonsai

Trident Maple Bonsai Care Guide

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 it’s placed in can be too much for this plant. Provide shade for the plant during very hot days.


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, which allows 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.


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.

Humidity and Temperature

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 summer days during the summer.

Trident maples are deciduous trees, meaning 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.


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 a fertilizer that is higher in nitrogen than in phosphorus or potassium in order to encourage initial growth. However, once the bonsai has become established, consider switching to a formula with lower nitrogen levels to 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. 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 over fertilizing can cause to a plant’s root system.

Common Pests and Diseases

Thanks to trident maple’s hardy nature, these bonsai rarely have an issue with pests or disease. In general, the few pests that attack trident maple bonsai are easy to deter.

If you do have an issue with pests, it’s most likely to be aphids, tiny green bugs that suck the nutrients out of plants. One or two aphids can’t do much harm, but numerous aphids attacking at once can weaken or kill a plant. Spraying a stream of water on your bonsai will knock the aphids off. Usually, aphids won’t be able to return easily, however, if your plant is suffering from repeated aphid infestations, try using neem oil or horticultural oil to keep aphids away. The most common disease that trident maple bonsai face is root rot. You can prevent root rot by watering correctly and treating with a root supplement. Avoid overwatering your bonsai, and be sure your plant’s container has drainage holes that allow excess water to escape.

Winter Care

During the winter, trident maple bonsai prefer to remain outdoors in most cases, as they 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, 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 or use an unheated foil tent to protect it outdoors if desired.

Pruning and Wiring Trident Maple Bonsai

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


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.


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 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 Fre quently Asked Questions

Still have a few questions about trident maple bonsai? Here are a few answers to some of the most common questions about this hardy bonsai tree.

FAQ: Can you grow trident maple bonsai from seed?

Although it isn’t common to grow trident maple bonsai from seed, it is possible. You can plant a trident maple bonsai seed in the soil in the fall, and if everything goes well, it will sprout in the spring.

If you’d rather start the seed indoors, you can place several seeds on a wet paper towel, fold the towel, and place it in a Ziploc bag. Put the bag into the refrigerator for 8-10 weeks to mimic winter conditions. When you remove the bag and unfold the paper towel, you can place the seeds into containers with soil. Some of them should begin to sprout soon. Once the seedlings are at least 6 inches tall, they should be moved outdoors.

Growing trident maple bonsai from seed requires patience, but if it sounds interesting to you, it can be fun and rewarding.

FAQ: Is trident maple fast-growing indoors?

Unfortunately, trident maple does not do well when 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.

FAQ: When do you 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’s tempting to choose containers based on looks alone, it’s important that the container you choose allows water to drain from the soil easily. Proper drainage allows oxygen to reach the roots!

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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