How to Grow Trident Maple Trees

Leaves of the Trident Maple in Autumn

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People adore the delicate lace-like leaves of Japanese maple trees and their unique coloration, but sometimes leaves do not need to be intricate to be aesthetically pleasing. The beautiful simplicity of the three-lobed leaves of the trident maple tree (Acer buergerianum) contrasts with other Asian trees in this family.

Many Japanese maples and ornamental maples have been reclassified to the Sapindaceae (Soapberry) family and the Trident Maple is one of them.

As well as attractive foliage, the color of this tree delights in the fall. The hues can range from red to orange to yellow. They dazzle from October to November before dropping to reveal the trident’s attractive exfoliating bark that holds just as much interest as the leaves.

The patchy exfoliation shows off peach and mustard splashes where the dark gray-brown bark has flaked away. Combined with the leafless branches’ framework, it creates a sizable handsome display that pops with a flare of color in the stark winter season. 

The trident maple is not too large at 25 feet. This makes it a good choice as an ornamental tree in a modern garden landscape and it will do well in most yard designs. Adapting the trident maple to fit your plans is a matter of limbing the tree at an early age to determine if it will be multi-trunked or single-trunked.

Single trunk trident maples make excellent shade trees and do wonderfully lining streets and drives, as they are very resistant to air pollution. Trees with multiple trunks will be sprawling and spread as wide as the tree is tall. 

Setting it permanently into the landscape is not the only option for the trident maple. These trees make fantastic candidates for large containers to place on patios or around the yard. They thrive in this setting and will not be hindered by the confined growing space, though the more extensive the container, the larger the tree. 

This ability makes the trident maple tree a common choice to use in the ancient Japanese art of bonsai, or its Chinese counterpart penjing. Though bonsai is much more prevalent, the art form of growing and sculpting miniature trees originated in China, where the trident maple is a native.   

No matter how it is being used, the trident maple tree is a beautiful medium-sized ornamental that can bring interest to any landscape, make an excellent work of art, or be the centerpiece specimen in an Asian inspired winter garden.

Botanical Name  Acer buergerianum
Common Name  Trident Maple
Plant Type   Deciduous Tree
Mature Size  25-35 ft. Tall 15-25 ft. Wide
Sun Exposure  Full Sun
Soil Type  Moist, well-drained soil
Soil pH  Neutral to Acidic
Bloom Time  Early Spring
Flower Color  Inconspicuous
Hardiness Zones  5-9, USA
Native Area   China and Korea
Toxicity  No

Trident Maple Tree Care

Though the trident maple lacks the elegance and grace of most Japanese Maple leaves’ intricate patterns, it compensates by being hardy, adaptable, and easy to maintain. 

Light

The Trident Maple will do best in full sun. Giving it a full six to eight hours of sun a day will promote impressive foliage and shape.

Soil

This tree is pretty adaptable when it comes to soil but thrives in moist and well-drained soil. Soil pH is somewhat of a concern and should be considered as this maple does best in neutral to slightly acidic soil. Testing the soil around the tree before planting and occasionally after might not be a bad idea.

Water

Until the tree is established, 15-20 gallons of water a week for the first season should be sufficient to keep a trident maple happy. After that time, you can water less frequently, as needed. This species tolerates occasional drought conditions.

Temperature and Humidity

The tree can cope with cold winter conditions. It does best in USDA Zones 5-9.

Fertilizer

There is no reason to fertilize this tree other than finding deficiencies in the soil after soil tests and finding it too basic.

Is the Trident Maple Toxic?

The trident maple is non-toxic to humans and pets, but there are no edible uses for the trees byproducts.

Pruning

Street trees should be limbed to allow for a singular stem for upright growth, and specimen trees should be allowed to spread and keep their natural shape. You can also look for a cultivar grown specifically for use as an upright street tree named Acer buergerianum Streetwise®.

Growing Trident Maple Trees in Containers

If creating bonsai, penjing, or growing the tree in a container, it might be a good idea to shop for the dwarf cultivar known as Acer buergerianum ’Miyasama yatsubusa’. This cultivar reaches a height of only six feet tall and has a spread of three feet, but, unlike the wild type, it is fast-growing.

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