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General Care For Ginkgo Trees

General Care For Ginkgo Trees

In this Episode of the MrMaple Show, Tim and Matt talk about Ginkgo trees and some of the general care information, as well as some tips and tricks for taking care of Ginkgos.

About Ginkgo Trees

When we talk about Ginkgo trees, we're talking about Ginkgo Biloba, the same thing that people often take as medication. They are very easy plants to grow, and they typically thrive in Zones 3-9. Garden Ginkgo trees are extremely cold, heat, drought, and pollution tolerant, but there are different tips that we can give you to help your tree grow well and survive in the landscape and garden.

Watering Ginkgo Trees

If you've seen our other general care pages and videos, the first key to growing Ginkgo trees is good drainage. Ginkgo are plants that do not like boggy or wet feet, so you want to make sure that somewhere the drainage is good, not holding water or staying swampy. If you let the roots continue to stay wet, you will get root rot and you will slow the overall growth of your tree down. 

Soil for Ginkgo Trees

One great tip with Ginkgo that is different from a lot of other trees is that Ginkgo love a more alkaline soil, so by giving them lime when you're planting them and lime throughout the season, you help this plant get established and take up water and nutrients way more efficiently. 

A tip from Tim and Matt's friends in Japan is to use pelletized garden lime. This will help increase the growth rate on your Ginkgo trees. Here at Mr. Maple, we tried putting basic garden lime on half the Ginkgo trees in a greenhouse, and left half as a control group. After just one growing season, the trees that we had limed were significantly larger than the trees that had been fertilized but not limed. 

Many people say "I find Ginkgo to be incredibly fast growing," but we have found Ginkgo to be slow growing. This difference is often the alkalinity of your soil. Make sure to use garden lime, not the fruit. We joke that "you're not making a margarita out there in the garden." Make sure as well to use the granulated, pelletized form instead of the liquid lime. You don't want your lime washing away too quickly. 

Lime itself is not a fertilizer, instead what it does is it allows the plant to take up water and nutrients more efficiently due to the lime changing the soil's pH to the correct pH for the Ginkgo's roots to perform best at. Lime is not a fertilizer, but it helps plants take up the fertilizer more efficiently.

Lime works not only with regular sized Ginkgo trees, but with Dwarf Ginkgo as well. It will grow faster and more full. 

Light Conditions for Ginkgo Trees

Ginkgo Biloba are actually sun-loving plants in most USDA Hardiness Zones. Ginkgo grow mostly in Zones 3-9, and even some in Zone 10, so they can go into some high heat areas. The key, however, is sunlight. If you want to pick up the growth for your Ginkgo, you will want to make sure it gets at least 4-5 hours of sunlight during the day. This will help the tree to have a more direct growth rate. When Ginkgo are grown in heavy shade, they grow much slower and have darker foliage. 

Picking the Right Cultivar

Picking the right cultivar for you is definitely going to matter when taking into account what you want to achieve long-term. There are dwarf Ginkgo that are going to be small and compact, while there are other forms that are going to be faster, upright-growing trees. If you want a smaller Ginkgo, start with a dwarf. You don't want to grow an Autumn Gold or Saratoga and have to continuously cut them back to maintain the smaller overall size. There are a lot of great, small, compact forms like American and Troll that are going to give you the more compact, dense, smaller size than an overall larger tree. 

Now, you may be looking for a larger overall tree, and a great selection would be the aforementioned Autumn Gold.

Since there are so many different variances, be conscious of this when planning the spot you are going to plant your Ginkgo in. Pick a tree that will fit your spot long-term and fits the parameters of what you are looking for. Dwarf Ginkgo are going to lend themselves extremely well to container growing, so a very popular way to grow those would be a small patio planter or container. (Again, if you are container growing, be conscious of the drainage in the container. You do not want to put a saucer at the bottom, because that will hold too much moisture and cause swampiness and root rot). 

Fertilizing Ginkgo Trees

 Timing is key. Early spring is a good time to fertilize your Ginkgo, but you want to cut that off after May. This will give you better winterization if you don't fertilize after May, so that your tree has adequate time to shut down for winter. If your Ginkgo is still trying to flush new growth in August, it will not shut down correctly, and that can affect your spring flush. It will also give you better fall colors. 

You will want to use something similar to what you fertilize Japanese Maples with, something 15 or under on the nitrogen. This is excellent for growing your Ginkgo at a moderate pace and help it to thrive in the landscape. Remember that if you are not limiting the plant while you are fertilizing, it's not taking up most of the fertilizer. Make sure to limit when you fertilize so that you don't waste your fertilizer. When you have a larger Ginkgo or something that's been established in the landscape, you can give it a little bit more and a little bit higher nitrogen count as long as it's established.

We only ship Japanese maples within the continental United States of America.

When you buy a Japanese maple from, due to the high volume during the COVID-19 situation, your order of Japanese maple trees will be shipped out within 2 weeks. We greatly appreciate your understanding during these times.

We have custom boxes that extra thick and allow for the safest shipment of your Japanese maples. Our new custom boxes allow us to ship your Japanese maple trees in their container, making the smoothest transition from our nursery to your garden. These boxes can fit two Japanese maples easily inside each box. You will simply need a pair of scissors to cut the tape around the box and pull your Japanese maple out.

Location is something that should be considered. Nearly all Japanese maples can handle growing in the shade or getting morning sun and afternoon shade. For planting trees in the sun it is important to make sure you are getting a selection that can handle full sun in your area. We have plenty of Japanese maples that grow and do well in full sun in Zone 8. When you get to zone 9, many of the Japanese maples should be planted with protection from the hot afternoon sun. There are a few maples we carry that can handle full sun in zone 9.

One of the most important things to remember is that Japanese maples do not like wet feet. This means that heavily boggy areas will need raised beds that allow drainage for the Japanese maple roots. This can simply be done by raising the area where you will be planting the Japanese maple with more soil.

The hole should be dug 1.5 times bigger than than container the Japanese maple is in. This extra size is primarily to losen the soil for the roots of your Japanese maple which will allow for it to get established quicker. Take the Japanese maple out of the container and place it in the hole. The main thing to remember when planting a Japanese maple is that it should be planted level with where the soil level was in the container. This is important as Japanese maples planted too deeply do not perform well in the landscape. This means that you will have to put part of the soil that you already dug back into the hole before planting.

People often ask where or not they should condition their soil for the Japanese maple. For the most part, you shouldn't. Japanese maples can do well in both sandy soils and clay soils. When you ammend the soil they have to get established in your ammendments and then get established in the exterior soil.

Japanese maples have a non-invasive root system that makes them ideal for container growing and bonsai culture. This will allow you to bring the ornamental appeal of Japanese maple to your deck, patio, poolside, and driveway expanding your garden. The concept of how big a Japanese maple will get in a container is similar to that of how big a goldfish will get inside a bowl. A Japanese maple will grow the size container it is put in. A small container will dwarf the size of the tree from the size the tree would naturally be in the landscape. Dwarf Japanese maples are often used in containers because they get fairly close to full-size in most containers. The best tip for container growing is a well-drained pot.


1. Choose your Japanese maple based on the location you plan on growing your container grown maple (ex. Sun or shade?).

2. Select the container you would like to use. The primary thing to look for is good drainage. You may be able to drill extra holes in non-ceramic containers. At least one drain hole is necessary. For containers with only one drain hole, you may consider lining the bottom of the container with 1-2 inches of medium sized gravel to increase drainage.

3. Soil should be selected based on how frequently you plan on watering the plant. For Japanese maples that will be regularly watered by an irrigation system, a soil with more perlite is ideal. An example of this would be a regular bag of miracle grow mix. For maples that will not be on a regular irrigation system, make sure to add more peat moss to the mixture. This will allow for the maple itself to retain a higher amount of moisture. When adding the soil to the container make sure to keep the root collar and trunk of the Maple at the same level it was in it’s previous container. It is also good to leave at least 1/2 inch to 2 inches of the top lip of the container free from soil. This allows for the maple to be watered effectively.

4. Select a companion plant such as small sedums that can cover the soil-surface to reduce heat and moisture loss for the roots of the maple. When choosing a companion plant it is essential to use only plants with extremely shallow and tiny root systems that will not grow into the roots of the maple.

5. Water frequently based on the finger test. If the soil around your Japanese maple feels dry, water.

6. For small containers (smaller than a nursery 3 gallon) check the root system of your Japanese maple during the winter every 3 years. If the root ball is getting very thick, trim the root system leaving 3/4 of the root system. Add soil as necessary. For larger containers, you can go much longer without root pruning the roots of your Japanese maple. We suggest checking every 7-8 years. For those that do not want to root prune, you can always upgrade your Japanese maple to a larger pot size or put the tree in the landscape, however, with a few minutes of root pruning every few years a Japanese maple can stay in any pot for its entire life.

*Japanese maples that have been stressed should be given Super Thrive at recommended doses from the bottle. This can often be purchased at Wal-Mart or your local garden center or department store. This simply gives Japanese maples the proper nutrients and hormones that will help it heal and recover and help it get back into a growing mode.

Japanese maples are extremely easy to care for. The less you do the better. Japanese maples do not like a lot of nitrogen so fertilizers are not necessary. Fertilizers with low amounts of nitrogen can be used in the early spring and mid-summer, however it is not necessary.

Trimming your Japanese maple can actually make your tree grow faster. If you trim the smaller branches back leaving larger and thicker branching with buds, your tree will often grow very quickly. This is because you get a cleaner flow or nutrients from Japanese maples that have been trimmed. It is like excersing your Japanese maples. It is best to do this in the early spring right before your Japanese maple leafs out. This is typically around the late February to early March time period for us in North Carolina. The main trick for trimming is to never trim more than 45% of your tree off. Yes, that means you can trim a Japanese maple heavily. Remember to clean your pruning tools with rubbing alcohol. This helps keep your pruning tools sanitized which helps your Japanese maple stay healthy.

Steps for Pruning:

1. Start out by pruning out branches you don't like on your Japanese maple. If the branch is larger than 3/4 of an inch in diameter we recommend using a saw. Large branches you don't like only get bigger so it is best to prune them out early in the tree's life.

2. Prune out the twiggier smaller branching. Smaller branching only makes smaller branching. This means these will make the tree grow slower. By pruning your Japanese maple and leaving the large branching you will get a larger tree quicker.

3. Trim out conflicting branching on your Japanese maple. This means if two limbs are touching are are too close, one of them should be trimmed out. A lot of pruning is judgement calls. Picking which one stays and which one goes will be a judgement call that only the owner or the pruner can make.

4. If you are trimming an upright selection, make sure to keep one branch as a central leader. This is typically the tallest part of the tree on most upright Japanese maples. If you are trimming a dwarf or a laceleaf Japanese maple, you can trim the Japanese maple to accentuate the natural shape of the tree. This can be done with laceleaf types by trimming your Japanese maple to create different levels of branching.

5. Trim out the fishtails. When there are three small branches coming out of the terminal buds on the end of a branch, it is often good to trim out the middle branch. This gives room for the other two branches and allows them have more energy.

While trimming is not necessary, if you follow these steps, your Japanese maple should grow much quicker for you.

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