Autumn maple's foliage in SoCal


I’m just curious about anybody who is located in Southern California and owns maple bonsais.

So far, I have an Arakawa maple and is healthy, gets morning sun, and has adequate watering/fertilizing according to the seasons and schedule. But so far, its foliage hasn’t turned into that desirable autumn color that maples are also prized for.

For those here in SoCal, what has been your experience on this subject? In general, that’s not a common thing to happen in maples here, or in general, the color-changing starts late? I know we have several microclimates in CA tho, just wondering.

P.S.: at least where I leve here in SoCal, I see liquidambars to be more sensitive to season changes and at this time basically most part of those that I’ve seen already are really reddish

This may help to explain the process:

Hot summer days and cool autumn nights seem to be key.


Great source of information, thanks @cab_lad_70

Definitely where I live, it is not the norm to have hot summer days and cool autumn nights. Generally mild here in both ways.

Although I still love my maple bonsai, it is a little upsetting to know that local weather might narrow down the chances of witnessing the truly autumn foliage from this maple in my collection. Better enjoy the green tones for now! :slight_smile:

Also interesting to notice how sensitive different species are. I have this other pomegranate and right now is in bright golden color, a pleasure for the eyes ha (knowing now yellowish colors mean subtraction of sugars while the presence of reddish colors , on the other hand means addition of other kind of sugars in the foliage according to the source above :slight_smile: )

Do you have the time and inclination to try some experiments? I’m not sure how big your trees are or how easily they can be shifted.
Can you give them more than morning sun towards the end of the season without damaging them? A little more heat and direct sun might build up the sugars.
And then cool them down overnight by putting them in a bag with some ice packs. Remay fabric or even paper would insulate and hold in the cold.
It may be a little labour intensive - but imagine having the only trees with colour in your neighbourhood!

Good idea @cab_lad_70. What I can do is bring it to a higher shelf where there is more sunlight from early morning til early afternoon. Its actually a sohin sized arakawa, just attached some pics. There is a long branch that I haven’t pruned yet and takes most part of the sun, some of the leaves there started to show some tiny reddish color in one of the leaf tips. There is some hope there :slight_smile:

I see what you mean by the reddish tips on some of the leaves.
Ryan discusses the importance of heat and light in this video from 2019 - Leaf Drop Deciduous Pruning.

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@cab_lad_70 I am already start seeing some late autumn coloring in its leaves. I just did a small change of moving the maple to the top shelf where it gets more sunlight :maple_leaf: :slight_smile:

As a Orange County native, I can say it is rare to see Maples turn their beautiful fall colors, usually mine go from green or yellow to brow. Yours is looking good!

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And I see why the tree spends time on the lower shelf.

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last year that happened and let me honestly frustrated.

Also, just curious: have you had any luck with pines here in SoCal besides JBP?

yeah it was a good insight you gave me.

Summer/spring sun here can be scorching to maples after late am hours. Sounds like a good approach moving them to a lighter position around autumn/winter. Also I have some cold nights here, that combination of factors seemed to have helped.

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@cab_lad_70 just updating the tree color, now is clear reddish lol late autumn coloration here, but still.

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You have made a start - congratulations!
Do you think you’ll try to increase sun exposure next year to build up sugars over the summer?

Def is an intriguing point to consider for the next year. In another hand, this autumn/winter season here has been cooler than last years, specially at night. As we know the combination of factors during the right season as cold nights and longer exposure to sunlight during day it does help maples on turning foliage’s color.

I’m assuming that the cool nights can only have impact on sugars previously created in the sun but I guess you’ll have to figure out seasonal variations as well. I can’t always rely on great fall colour here either.

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