Buying, Selling and Growing Japanese Maples

Buying, Selling and Growing Japanese Maples

By far, the Japanese maple is one of the most popular, most coveted, most sought after plant you can have in your nursery.  There is a bit of an education process involved, both for you and I the sellers, and the end consumer.  For the most part, many people think there is one kind of Japanese maple.  Some are aware that there are upright Japanese maples as well as weeping Japanese maples, but very, very few realize that there are over 250 different kinds of Japanese maples.  And that’s where the education process comes in.  It’s our job to make them aware.  Once they are aware, they will immediately go into I must have one of those and one those and one of those mode.

Now let’s back up and think about the basics.  Just so you don’t get overwhelmed thinking that you have to grow and sell 250 different kinds of Japanese maples.  You don’t.  Just starting out you’ll do fine with one variety, then you can add a second, a third and maybe the fourth and fifth.  That’s plenty for now.

But it’s really simpler than that.  You can collect and sell Japanese maple seeds if you want.  More than likely, and I know you are going to tell me that there are none in your neighborhood, but more than likely there are some mature Japanese maples in your area that produce a great deal of seeds each year that simply go to waste.  Once you become consciously aware of what you are looking for, pretty soon you’ll spot large Japanese maples in a lot of different places.  There’s a really strong chance that you will be able to get permission to collect seeds from one or more of these trees.

Getting permission is as simple as asking.  If you tell the person who is to grant you permission that you are going to sell the seeds, their defenses will go up because all of sudden they’ll think they have something of value.  And they do, to a degree, if they know how to get the value out of those seeds.  But often times if you tell them that you’d just like to grow some and offer them something in exchange for the seeds, you’ll be able to make a deal.  $20.00.  A small weeping variety, something of value that will make it worth their while to grant you permission to collect seeds from their tree.

Once you have fresh Japanese maple seeds you have a saleable product.  People everywhere would love to try their hand at growing Japanese maples from seed, if they had the seeds, and instructions on how to do it.  Instructions?  I’ve written a detail article on growing Japanese maple from seed here:

Another way to sell Japanese maple seeds is to stratify the seeds (see the above article) and sell them pre-stratified, ready to sow.  You’ll get more for the seed if they are ready to germinate and the buyers will be happy because they can plant them right away and not have to wait 90 days.

You can get really good at growing Japanese maples from seed and sell small seedlings.  Depending on your climate and growing conditions from seed you can get Japanese maples as tall as 12″ in one season.  That’s a nice size to sell.  Anything under 6″ I, as a buyer, would not want you to sell me.  I want something a lot more sturdy than that.  I buy thousands of Japanese Red Maple seedlings and I really like the 12″ to 18″ size because they are strong enough I can just plant they out in a bed and they do fine winter and summer.

You can buy Japanese Red Maple seedlings and re-sell them.  Many of our Backyard Growers buy them and pot them up and sell them at their plant sales for $4.97.  They are a powerful item to include in your plant sale advertisements because they attract customers like a magnet at only $4.97.  You can buy them for right around $1.35 each as of this writing.

You can buy Japanese Red Maple seedlings in quantity and re-sell them immediately to other backyard growers.  I see a lot of them sold that way on the Buy/Sell board in the private website.  Most are sold for around $2.25 to $2.75.  But other backyard growers are happy to get them because when they buy on the Buy/Sell Board they can buy in smaller quantities.  Usually if you buy them from a large wholesale grower like I do you have to meet a minimum dollar amount before you can order.  Usually $250.00 to $400.00 plus shipping.  And that’s why some of our members order enough to meet the minimum order then sell off the extra ones that they don’t need at a nice little profit.

You can buy really rare varieties of Japanese maples and re sell them.  I’ve been buying a lot of the rare varieties lately.  Thousands and thousands of dollars worth.  I haven’t sold any yet, because I want to grow them a few years before I sell them.  But as soon as people find out I have them they want to buy.  But I know I can easily get $150.00 to $300 for many of the ones that I have if I grow them for a few years.  So that’s what I’m doing, I’m letting mine mature and increase in value.

But you see, that’s part of the problem.  I can buy (and so can you now) really rare Japanese maples for as little as $8.00 each and rarely do I ever pay more than $18.00 for the ones that I buy.  The general public would love to be able to get their hands on these trees and would be delighted to buy them for $50.00 or so.  They’d go crazy over the chance to do that!

And that’s just one of the holes in the market that you can fill.

Another hole in the market are the Japanese Red Maple seedlings for $4.97 each.  There are never enough of those to go around.  Many of us buy them and advertise them along with the rest of our plants at $4.97 each, but it’s usually those $4.97 Japanese Red Maples that sell out first.

And if you are going to do that, it’s always a good idea to have larger, more expensive Japanese maples on hand as well, because people come to your plant sale looking for the $4.97 Japanese Red Maples, but they often fall in love with one of the larger, more expensive Japanese maples that you have on hand.  Usually the end up buying two or three of the little ones and at least one of the larger ones.

Japanese Red Maple seedlings are a great plant to grow onto a larger size because they cost you so little upfront, usually around $1.00 or $1.50, and if you grow them onto to a larger size they will quickly and easily fetch $50.00 to $90.00.  Just four years in good soil and you can have a really nice 44″ tree with deep red leaves in the spring.  Hot!  Hot!  Hot Sellers!!!

You can also learn how to graft Japanese maples and sell them as bench grafts or larger plants for more money.  We have a member in Tennessee that has gotten really good at grafting Japanese maples and she is telling me that by summer of 2012 she should have several thousand available on the Buy/Sell Board.

You can buy and sell grafted Japanese maples.  We have several members that have done this in the past and sold them on the Buy/Sell Board.  I am writing this article on March 9, 2012 and just two days ago Duston and I heeled in $3,000 worth of grafted Japanese maple that I bought from one of our members on the Buy/Sell Board.  In just four days I’m expecting another shipment of grafted Japanese maples that I bought from one of the wholesale sources listed in the directory that you got with my system.  I don’t exactly remember now what I ordered, I placed the order early last fall, but I know I’ve got 2,000 Japanese Red Maple seedlings coming from them and at least $5,000 worth of grafted plants coming from them

You have to ask yourself.  Mike McGroarty has been in this business his whole life, would he be investing that kind of money in Japanese maples if he didn’t believe in how strong the market is for them?

Buying and selling (brokering) grafted Japanese maples is a fun business because there’s no shortage of people who want what you are selling.  Finding wholesale suppliers for grafted Japanese maples isn’t always easy, they often sell out quickly.  But I’m going to give you a little hint.  There are a lot of growers in Oregon who specialize in Japanese maples of all kinds.  You can get a directory of all the wholesale growers in Oregon for just a few dollars.  You can either get their association directory, but better yet would be a list of all the licensed growers in the state.  Not everybody belongs to the association, but they are all licensed by the state.  The list of licensed growers is public record.

Get the list, pick up the phone and just start calling.  But when they tell you they don’t sell small grafted (bench grafts is what they are called) Japanese maples, ask them if they know anybody that does.  Eventually you’ll turn up some sources that the rest of us don’t even know about.

Here’s another secret.  Let’s say that there is a large wholesale grower who specializes in grafted Japanese maples in anywhere, America.  I promise you, surrounding that large wholesale grower there are at least a few smaller growers who also sell grafted Japanese maples.  How do I know that?  Because, over the years a lot of people have worked in that big nursery and they learned how to graft Japanese maples.  They also saw first hand how many of those grafted maples the big nursery could sell, and how much they sold them for.  And they say to themselves; “I could do that.”  And they do.

After all, that’s how I got into this business.  I started out as a 16 year old kid pulling weeds in a large wholesale nursery.  Here I am 40 years later with a nursery and a large Internet presence because of what I learned working in that nursery.

I can assure you, there are small growers out there that sell grafted Japanese maples but you won’t find them on the Internet and you won’t find them at trade shows and you won’t find them advertising in trade magazines.  For the most part they probably sell to just a handful of customers.  But now, with the weak economy that we’ve had for the past few years, many of these long time wholesale buyers are now suddenly buying less.

That’s a good thing for you and I.  We get to buy up the deals and with good marketing we can sell them.  Most wholesale growers have never had to learn anything about marketing because up until now, the customers have found them.  And that’s where you and I have an advantage.  Not to brag, but I’ve been a student of some of the best marketers in the world since 1985.  I know how to market, off line as well as online.  And I constantly share that information on the Backyard Growers Board.

So how do you go about finding retail customers for your Japanese maples?  Newspaper ads, Craig’s lists ads, Ebay,,, and other social networking sites.  Oh yeah, an eventually

Okay, that any number of different ways to get make money with Japanese maples.  Now get to work!  -Mike McGroarty