Trident Maple Bonsai Care Guide

Recently, we introduced you to the Chinese elm bonsai tree. We want to acquaint you with the trident maple bonsai, another gorgeous bonsai plant to suit your home.

The Acer buergerianum is sought-after by many collectors and enthusiasts. It is a rapid-growing tree found in gardens and city parks.

This species is tough and can withstand challenging conditions like air pollution, heavy pruning, and dry soil.

What are Trident Maple Bonsai Trees?

The trident maple or Acer buergerianum is a small maple with branches growing roundly. It has three-lobed dark green foliage that gives it its name. The leaves turn yellow to red to display a vibrant fall color. It also has exfoliating bark as the tree species age showing gray, brown, orange, and red.

trident maple bonsai

While the trident maple bonsai lacks the elegance of the Japanese maple bonsai, it is fast-growing and adapts to different conditions. But it is less hardy and can get storm damage easily growing outside. The trident maple reaches up to 35 feet tall when mature and makes for a beautiful ornamental or street tree.

The trident maple is a versatile species in the Acer genus and makes an outstanding outdoor bonsai specimen to grow in its natural multi-stemmed habit. But you can train it to develop a single trunk to be a small tree species or form a shade tree.

Or you can place the trident maple in small pots to serve as a bonsai specimen with interesting bark texture and colors. Another exciting thing is that it does not only add winter interest as it flowers yellow blooms in spring.

Another interesting fact about the trident maple is that the tree was first bred in the eastern areas of China and Taiwan. After botanists discovered it in Taiwan, they introduced the tree to Japan, grown as a bonsai for ornamental purposes.

Trident Maple Bonsai Tree Care

Whether you grow the trident maple as an ornamental tree species or for bonsai art, it has specific needs. Also, an important thing to remember is that these are deciduous species that lose their leaves.

  • For outdoor growing, choose a spot with full sun.

  • Provide your tree with well-drained soil amended with organic matter.

  • The trident maples prefer slightly acidic soil, providing them with at least 24 feet of space, and allowing the roots to spread.

  • Water your trident maples weekly with deep watering when young, and after two years, it only need water during dry spells.

Trident Maple Soil

The Acer buergerianum can survive indoors with a free upright form in a small container for bonsai tree species. Hence, you can grow them as medium-sized to small trees in different clay, sand, or loam soils. But, like most deciduous trees, it needs a free-draining, acidic mix with 40% organic matter used in bonsai trees.

In addition, as it is a broadleaf tree, it needs this organic matter for the roots. 

You can include the following in the soil:

  • Akadama

  • Sand with a coarse grain

  • Pumice

  • Turface

  • Diatomite

  • Decomposed granite

Trident Maple Bonsai Light

Whether your plant is grown indoors or outside, it needs full sun. While they can tolerate shade, they prefer at least six hours of light daily.

The trident maple likes lots of sunlight. But when grown as a tree outdoors, you need to provide it with some protection in hotter months at midday when grown in a pot.

If kept indoors, you may use natural lighting or growing lights, as growing it in low light will cause it to become leggy and sparse.

Watering Your Bonsai Tree

watering bonsai plant

As your trident maple roots hold back moisture, it is tolerant to drought compared to other tree species. Still, since it’s grown as bonsai, you need to water them regularly. During summer, you may find that they need more watering than in winter.

Make sure to regulate watering, especially during colder months. Giving too much water can lead to root rot that may further cause death. The important thing is to provide your tree with well-drained soil to prevent this from happening.

Temperature and Humidity 

Your trident maple is a hearty tree but remains susceptible to frost. So during winter, keep your tree protected. This deciduous tree does not go dormant like other indoor plants.

Your tree enjoys temperatures above 24 °F (-4.4 °C) but can withstand temperatures of 14 °F (-10 °C)for up to two weeks at the most, but not lower.

Another important note is to keep your tree warm as the roots have a high moisture content and are vulnerable to frost.

It is best to keep it warm indoors. If you live in cooler areas, you can grow it outside in the summer but bring it inside in winter.

For humidity, it is also best to provide your bonsai tree with a pebble tray filled with water during colder months. Doing this provides your bonsai trees with sufficient moisture.

Trident maple hardiness zone is 5 to 9, but it can survive in zone 4 outside.

Solid Organic Fertilizerplant fertilizer

Regular feeding is not needed for older trees but is recommended for younger trees. You can use a high-nitrogen fertilizer first but switch to a lower-nitrogen one as your tree ages.

Doing this produces a controlled growth with smaller leaf pairs. This is something highly sought after if you do bonsai practice. You can fertilize your tree once a week in spring for new growth and then apply twice a month.

Then, as autumn approaches, you can provide your tree with a low nitrogen feed and higher phosphorous to prepare your trident maple for winter.

Trident Maple Bonsai Propagation

As with most plants, you would like to have another clone of your tree. Of course, you do! The best way to achieve this is with propagation. So, how do you propagate your trident maple bonsai? You can do this by growing seeds or gathering cuttings in early spring.

The fantastic thing about the trident maple is that it grows well when the seeds germinate naturally. You can sow the seed in fall outside in a shallow hole about one and a half inches deep. To determine whether the seed will grow, leave them in warm water for 24 hours. If the seeds float, they are non-viable.

You may also air-layer the cuttings. The best time to take cuttings is late winter for hardwood bonsais and midsummer for softwood trees. Here are two methods of air-layering that you can do:

Tourniquet Air-Layering

  1. Trap a piece of copper wire around the trunk or branch where you want new roots to grow.

  2. The wire must not cut deeper than halfway into the bark. So the thicker the branch/trunk, the denser the wire you need.

  3. Take some rooting hormone and dust it around the wound made in the trunk/branch.

  4. Take some sphagnum moss, wrap it around the wound, and cover it with plastic.

Ring Air Layers

  1. Take a knife to cut two parallel slits around the branch but keep enough space in between both slits.

  2. Remove the bark ring between the two cuts until you notice the shiny hardwood.

  3. The ring must be wide enough, so the tree does not bridge the wound. Also, make sure the bark is removed from the hardwood.

  4. Take rooting hormone, dust the wound, and wrap it with some sphagnum moss-covered plastic.

Keep the moss moist, and after three months, you should notice roots growing in the moss. Once the bag fills with bulbs, you can cut the layer underneath the new growth. Now, plant the whole bundle without disturbing them in your soil mix.

USDA Growth Zone

usda map for guide in growing trident maple bonsai

While your trident maple can survive in USDA zones 5 through 9, you still need to keep an eye on it for frost. So, it helps to keep your tree winter-protected.

Potting and Pruning Bonsai

You can perform repotting periodically on all bonsai trees when the roots fill the pot. Doing this provides your tree with fresh soil and helps encourage growth. You can expect to transplant your bonsai trees every two to three years.

Generally, the process of potting is simple and best done in mid-summer. To do this, you need to remove your trident maple and soil from the bonsai pots. Here are some steps you can follow:

  1. You need to remove about a fourth of the root mass of the outer and bottom parts of the tree.
  2. To do this, you rake the soil away when you prune back the roots.
  3. Once you have pruned back one-fourth, you can place it back in another pot.
  4. Make sure there is a screen over the drainage holes and place a thin layer of gravel in the bottom of the container.
  5. Place some fresh soil over the gravel and layer another well-draining soil over it to the previous height of the tree.
  6. Once you place your trident maple bonsais back inside the pot, fill up the pruned root mass with fresh soil.
  7. Work the soil around and under the roots to prevent air pockets.
  8. Water your tree, and best done by submerging it in a tub with water. To prevent soil erosion, you can cover the ground with some moss.

When it comes to pruning and wiring your trident maple, consider these issues—cutting the large branches results in the extravagance of growth at the site where you cut. Yet, wiring this bonsai tree is ticky when the wood is old.

You may find that more aged wood is stiff, resulting in internal fractures in the tree. However, these fractures do heal but can result in ugly swelling. So, it’s best to wire young growth and remove the wire as soon as the growth sets.

Maple Bonsai Varieties

If you love the bonsai tree and are just as excited about it as other bonsai enthusiasts, you will find the following varieties a must-have.

Acer palmatum

Acer palmatum

The Japanese maples are hardwood deciduous trees. These trees have red-burgundy or green leaves turning bright yellow, orange, or red in fall. The young trees have green or reddish bark, turning grayish-brown as they age.



The oak is a vigorous tree, and you may find some of them evergreen not heading their leaves. The tree produces acorns, and you can find many species around the world.



The cherry tree is another famous bonsai tree with bonsai enthusiasts. The tree has these gorgeous white or pink flowers you see in spring, and some of them even carry delicious fruit in summer.

Trident Maple Bonsai Plant Diseases & Pests

Your bonsai tree is hardy and very disease-resistant. The main concern with the tree is caterpillars when grown outside. Another concern is aphids you find on new growth and can lead to root rot.

The correct soil that is free-draining of water prevents the roots from getting waterlogged.

Frequently Asked Questions

Heavy snow can damage limbs and break young trident maples when grown as an outdoor specimen. Another concern is growing trident maple bonsai in alkaline soil, leading to chlorosis that causes the smaller leaves to turn pale green. You need to amend it with an acidifying fertilizer.

The pruning method involves leaf pairs of terminal leaves at the tip of the branches and removing all the rest behind them on the same stems. The remaining leaf is a sap drawer that continues to pull sap along the branches’ length to ensure healthy growth and new shoots.

When you remove all the leaves on your trident maple bonsai, it helps reduce the leaf size. Hence, new leaves begin growing smaller leaves. People typically do this three weeks before exhibiting their bonsai.

As the trident maple bonsai is slowly growing, it is long-lived, reaching a lifespan of 100 years or more.

While the trident maple bonsai has strong roots, it is not considered invasive in North America.

With slow to medium growth, the trident maple bonsai outdoors can grow up to two feet per year during a growing season, while mature trident maple bonsai only grows one foot yearly.

Whether you want to buy, sell or simply reach out to other plant enthusiasts, Plantly is the right place to be!

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