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Moving a Mame Maple Bonsai into a new Container

Moving a Mame Maple Bonsai into a new Container

Mame Bonsai Maple trees repotting

I adore this little maple for the seemingly impossibly small leaves on it during the growing season; more like a small leaf trident maple than whatever variety of momiji it is. In my experience Acer palmatum typically has 2-3″ leaves which can reduce to around 1″ with control of the plant. The leaves on this mame maple bonsai tree seem to stay around 1″ without any interference.

My little maple in the summer, before repotting.

As with any mame, the tree has to be stepped down into an appropriate size container, which can take multiple years. This tree had been growing in a 1.5″ square by 3″ tall unglazed pot. Every time I saw it sitting on one of my benches, I thought that it would look much better in a nicely glazed container. But which one?

A selection of mame-sized pots that could be used for this tree. All of them are 1″-1.5″ in size.

Getting the tree out of the old cascade container seemed like a bit of a challenge, because none of my standard tools would fit in such a small container! Anything small enough would be unlikely to get to the bottom through the soil and roots. I decided to cut the tie wire and put a small piece of wood under the drainage hole, then I tapped the rim of the container with a rubber mallet to release the rootball from the side of the container. This is definitely not standard technique, but it worked! I was surprised and delighted to find a pot full of great roots, evenly distributed throughout (below).

I trimmed the roots to a cylinder shape just slightly smaller than the container and filled the bottom with a mixture of 1/2 akadama and 1/2 pumice sifted to smaller than my standard small mix. I added a layer of 1/16″ akadama at the surface to retain slightly more moisture. Ultimately, I decided to go with a darker color container but one that was still less than half the size of the previous container. I decided to call the corner of the pot the front of the tree because it closes the visual gap between the trunk and the side of the pot that you see in the photo (below, left). The photo (below, right) shows the back of the tree - which might change to the front in the future!  


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  • Dory on

    Richard, that’s a great idea. We’ve added it to our content queue – thank you!

  • Richard Dorfman on

    Sweet little tree. I too have developed an affinity over the years for mame. Could you write a followup article that discusses the concept of “stepping down” container size over several years? Suspect that is one of the keys to successful mame.


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