Everything You Need to Know About Growing a Japanese Maple Tree (2022)

A Japanese maple is one of the most easily recognizable trees thanks to its lovely red hue. These four-season trees fit well in practically any yard! Here’s everything you need to know about how to grow, plant, and even propagate a Japanese maple tree.

Everything You Need to Know About Growing a Japanese Maple Tree (1)

The Japanese maple is ideal as a tree that fits well in a small-space garden. And, yes, youcan grow a Japanese maple tree in a container!There are many varieties of Japanese maples with brilliantly colored leaves, architectural branching structure, and interesting shapes.

With so many to choose from, you’re sure to be able to find one or two that would be a strong focal point in your garden.

How to Pick the Right Japanese Maple

When shopping for a Japanese maple, there are several things you will need to consider. Since there are thousands of varieties of this beautiful tree, here are a few tips to start narrowing it down.

Choose the Right Habit

Read the plant tag thoroughly to determine it’s habit, or what the final size and shape of the mature tree will be. There are three main types to choose from:

  • If you want a smaller tree to be grown in a small garden or large container, choose a dwarf variety like ‘Red Dragon’ or ‘Little Princess’ that max out at 8 feet and 5 feet respectively. Read more about how to grow trees in containers here.
  • A weeping variety like ‘Crimson Queen’ will do well if you would like a tree to perform as a shrub in your garden, taking up width and acting as a decorative garden feature.
  • If you want a statement piece, look for a tall, colorful, upright Japanese maple that will range between 10 and 20 feet tall like ‘Bloodgood,’ ‘Purple Ghost,’ and ‘Coral Bark.’

Be sure to follow the planting instructions on the label that comes with your Japanese maple to ensure that it transitions well into your garden.

(Video) How to Grow Japanese Maple Trees Successfully

Choose the Correct Shape

Once you know the right variety of maple for your garden, it’s time to pick out the right shape of the individual tree. Pull the plant away from its brothers and sisters and look at it from all angles.

Make sure that the shape is attractive to you. A tree will naturally grow into that shape as it gets larger. It could have some pruning to help direct the shape, but the best practice is to choose a tree that you like the shape of when young rather than trying to fix it as it grows older.

Try to envision what the little tree will look like when it’s grown to full size with the same basic shape but thicket branches and trunk. If you like the shape, it’s the right tree for you.

Everything You Need to Know About Growing a Japanese Maple Tree (2)

Growing Japanese Maple Trees

Japanese maples are beauties all year long with their attractive branch structure in the winter, little helicopter seeds and flowers in the spring, gorgeous full maple leaves in the summer, and brilliant neon-bright color in the fall.

When it comes to small trees, Japanese maples really are the king. Here’s what you need to know about growing Japanese maples that thrive.

Everything You Need to Know About Growing a Japanese Maple Tree (3)

(Video) All About Japanese Maples | Ask This Old House

What Zones do Japanese Maple Trees Grow in?

A Japanese maple may be a fair-weather friend, but for those who have the right conditions, you’ll get months of beauty from one small tree.

Japanese maples do well in zones 5 through 8 and like a temperate climate without deep winter freeze or blistering summer sun. They grow perfectly in my Vancouver, BC garden.

In fact, within my small urban garden, I have four Japanese maples. It’s probably one (or three) too many for such a small space, but I’m at peace with my penchant for plant hoarding. Let’s not invite any of the other members of my family to weigh in on it though!

Everything You Need to Know About Growing a Japanese Maple Tree (4)

Do Japanese Maples Prefer Sun or Shade?

These trees do well in either a sunny location or one with dappled shade. They do need some sun to thrive and give off that pretty red fall hue, so they are best kept in a location with at least some sunshine.

Just keep in mind that a Japanese maple in a container in the hot sun can dry out quickly. Without enough water in the soil to keep it hydrated, the leaves can quickly turn crispy.

How to Prune a Japanese Maple Tree

When you pick out the right tree, it won’t need a lot of pruning. It will grow and fill in the space that you’ve provided for it without needing to be cut down for size. It should also have a gorgeous branching structure that’s natural and organic.

(Video) Why Isn't My Japanese Maple Growing? - JAPANESE MAPLES EPISODE 143

Everything You Need to Know About Growing a Japanese Maple Tree (5)

If you find that the Japanese maple is getting too dense then it’s best to go into the maple and thin out branches rather than head cutting the branches. The more you go in and remove branches as close to the trunk as possible and keep the organic structure, the more you will be able to see and enjoy the true beauty of a Japanese maple as it grows in your garden.

Propagating Japanese Maples

Have you ever been curious about how to propagate a Japanese maple tree? It’s actually a fascinating process that I got to see in detail during a trip to the Monrovia Nursery in Dayton, Oregon.

Everything You Need to Know About Growing a Japanese Maple Tree (6)

The Japanese maples Monrovia grows are all grafted on the same rootstock. This means that no matter what the branches and leaves look like in the end, they all started off with the same seed, Acer palmatum. The rootstock is grown from seed and once they are large enough, different varieties of maple branches will be grafted onto them.

How to Graft a Japanese Maple

When the saplings are old enough, they are fused with a branch cutting from a different decorative Japanese maple.

Everything You Need to Know About Growing a Japanese Maple Tree (7)

(Video) 5 Tips For Growing Japanese Maples - JAPANESE MAPLES EPISODE 150

Grafting is both an art and a science. It is done by slicing a notch in a tree branch and inserting another branch into the notch. The two are bound together until they fuse together and grow as one. If you have a Japanese maple at home, look to see where this grafting took place on the base of the trunk. There should be a “collar,” or ring, around the grafted branch.

It can be handy to know where a tree has been grafted because if a branch grows from below the collar it will have the characteristics of the original rootstock. I occasionally notice a rogue branch with leaves that are different from the rest of the tree on one of my Japanese maples. This is a result of the grafting process. The branch has some of the characteristics of the rootstock.

Everything You Need to Know About Growing a Japanese Maple Tree (8)

Next, the little sapling with the graft is potted and grown for another few years. Japanese maples take very well to pruning and they are shaped regularly to keep them uniform as they grow large enough to be shipped to the garden centers.

How to Propagate a Japanese Maple Tree at Home

Now that you know how commercial growers propagate this tree, you may be wondering if you can do the same at home. The answer is yes! The process is a bit time-consuming but simple enough for most gardeners to do. It’s best to do this in the springtime as the branches are soft and more pliable.

  1. Fill a container with potting soil, and create a hole about 4″ deep in the centre.
  2. Take a cutting from your tree. Look for one that is about 6″ long and has leaves at the end. Make sure to use sharp shears for a clean cut!
  3. If there are any leaves on the branch beside the ones on the end, remove them.
  4. Soak the cutting in liquid rooting hormone for about 1 minute.
  5. Insert the cutting into the soil you prepared, and set it in a sunny location.
  6. Mist it twice daily. The branch should start to sprout roots in about 3-4 weeks.

You’ll want to keep your propagated Japanese maple in a pot for about a year. Once spring rolls around again and temperatures are above freezing, you can plant the tree directly into the ground.

Everything You Need to Know About Growing a Japanese Maple Tree (9)

(Video) Tips for Growing Japanese Maples In Cold Climates - JAPANESE MAPLES EPISODE 142

Once you have your Japanese maple tree planted in your space, you’ll be able to enjoy its beautiful foliage year after year. If you choose the right tree and care for it, you’ll be rewarded with decades of beauty.

More Posts to Read:

  • Learn how to Prune like a Pro! Pruning 101
  • Want to Know WHEN to Prune? This will Answer all of Your Questions
  • How to Remove Suckers from Trees (And Why They are There in the First Place)
  • How to Grow Trees in Containers

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FAQs

How easy is it to grow a Japanese maple? ›

Them where they're getting all day sun or they're getting afternoon sun the real key is if you can

What does a Japanese maple need to grow? ›

Japanese maples grow best when planted in well-drained, acidic soil that is high in organic matter. While they can be grown in poor soil, their growth rate is much slower and trees are more likely to experience stress.

What do I need to know about Japanese maple trees? ›

It may also have a weeping shape. The Japanese maple tree is renowned for its striking foliage. The leaves have five to nine palmate lobes. They may come in green or red (or both).
...
How to Grow and Care for Japanese Maple.
Common NameJapanese maple
Mature Size10-25 ft. tall and wide
Sun ExposurePartial
Soil TypeMoist, well-drained
Soil pHAcidic
7 more rows
19 Jul 2022

How long does it take for a Japanese maple to grow to full height? ›

Red maples may reach a mature height of 40 to 60 feet tall in 20 to 30 years, while a Bloodgood Japanese maple will reach a max height of 35 feet tall in 15 to 20 years.

Do Japanese maples need a lot of water? ›

These trees are quite drought-tolerant when mature, but like most young trees, they need regular deep waterings during the first few years. Plan to water heavily twice a week during normal weather and three or even four times weekly in periods of drought.

What fertilizer is best for Japanese maples? ›

I recommend using a slow or controlled release type fertilizer. Commercially known as Polyon or Osmocote, these are the most common and both work very well on Japanese maples.

Are coffee grounds good for Japanese maple? ›

So maintain a humus-rich soil by applying coffee grounds. Coffee grounds are free at Starbucks. For a 4-foot-tall Japanese maple, I recommend applying 4 pounds of coffee grounds per tree per season.

Is Japanese maple hard to maintain? ›

Japanese maples naturally maintain a nice shape and so rarely require pruning. If you do want to prune then do so mid to late winter when the plant has dropped its leaves. Remove any dead wood and old or straggly growth. Feed in spring and autumn with some manure or a certified organic pelletised fertilizer.

What happens to Japanese maple in winter? ›

For Japanese maples, the leaves will change color in October and November and start to drop in late November or December. You'll start seeing buds and fresh new leaves in February and March. These trees drop their leaves in the winter because the weather is cold and dry.

How long does Japanese maple live? ›

Japanese maples typically grow just one to two feet per year (which is why it might be wise to buy the largest one you can afford). That said, under the right conditions, they can live to be over one hundred years old.

What month do Japanese maples bloom? ›

Flowers bloom between May and June and are insect pollinated. Fruit is a winged seed called a samara; they are green to red and ½ to ¾ inch long. Samaras ripen between September and October and are scattered by wind. The bark is green to gray and smooth.

How tall is a 10 year old maple tree? ›

To plant a sugar maple is to invest in the future: The tree grows just 1' to 2' per year, and a 10-year-old tree is typically about 15' tall.

How tall is a 3 year old maple tree? ›

25 Feet

How do you speed up a Japanese maple tree? ›

Most Japanese maples grow at a slow to moderate rate of 1 to 2 feet per year. They typically grow fastest when they are young and slow down as they reach maturity. Planting them in a spot where they are happy and caring for them well helps maximize their growth rate.

What is the best fertilizer for maple trees? ›

The best fertilizers for maple trees contain nitrogen. Nitrogen is one of the essential nutrients for growing and sustaining maples, so high nitrogen fertilizers are critical for fast and healthy growth. In truth, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are ideal for a maple tree fertilizer.

What is the best time of year to plant a Japanese maple? ›

Planting in very early spring or well into fall suits these trees just fine. But consider your climate. Planting in late fall may be just fine in the South where winter doesn't arrive with such a fury, but for you Northerners a hard freeze too soon after planting can prove fatal to unestablished trees.

Can Japanese maple be in full sun? ›

Their undeniable beauty leads many people to want to plant them as a focal point or specimen tree, often in full sun. Unfortunately, many Japanese maples are less tolerant of full sun, developing leaf burn in the summer heat.

Is Epsom salt good for Japanese maple? ›

Epsom salts also appear to help Japanese maples struggling through the summer season. Some experts believe that it is not the heat that hinders these plants, but months of watering with salty municipal water.

What do Japanese maple trees need to survive? ›

Soil with good aeration that is also nutrient rich is the goal! Follow the light guidelines for your particular variety of maple, being especially careful not to plant them in full sun unless it specifically enjoys that much light and heat. Maple trees are prone to leaf scorching if their shade requirements aren't met.

How do I keep my Japanese maple red? ›

One factor to consider when you place your red Japanese maple is that they do need a little sunlight to maintain their brightest-red color. Too much shade minimizes the red shades. The leaves will not be as striking in the shade as they would be if the tree was planted in another area with more sunlight.

How do I keep bugs off my Japanese maple? ›

To get rid of bugs on a Japanese maple, spray the leaves with an insecticide soap. Also, remove severely infested leaves and branches. In some cases, a systemic pesticide should be used. This is a short recommendation for removing pests from your tree.

Do Japanese maples need fertilizer? ›

Protect your tree at least until it has established a mature root system. Fertilizing Japanese maples is an important part of the nurturing process. However, a little Japanese maple fertilizer is enough, so exercise discretion in Japanese maple feeding.

How do you winterize a Japanese maple? ›

Tips For Winterizing Japanese Maple Trees
  1. 1) Choose sites out of the wind as much as possible. ...
  2. 2) Do not fertilize into late summer. ...
  3. 3) Water heavily just prior to freeze-up. ...
  4. 4) Mulch to insulate the roots with a 3-4 inch-deep pile of mulch built around the base of the tree.

What do you put around Japanese maples? ›

Japanese Maples are easily grown in moist, organically rich, slightly acidic, well-drained soils. Great companion plants are those sharing the same cultural requirements. Among the acid-loving plants are Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Kalmia latifola (Mountain Laurel), and dwarf conifers.

Do Japanese maples attract birds? ›

Japanese maples are monoecious, having both male and female flowers on the same plant. Flowers and seeds provide ecosystem services. The small, inconspicuous flowers attract many birds, including grouse, quail and other songbirds.

Should I put mulch around my Japanese maple? ›

Whether you are planting a new Japanese maple, or caring for an established tree, you'll want to add a layer of composted mulch or another organic material around the base of your tree in the spring and fall. Not only does this look great, but it prevents weeds, gives them essential nutrients, and insulates the roots.

Should you trim dead branches off Japanese maple? ›

1) Remove dead, diseased and damaged branches

Remove any dead or dying branches with discoloured or flaking bark with a clean cut. Go slowly to prevent inadvertently slicing into an adjacent branch. Weeping varieties can have thin, brittle bark - you may wish to use a keyhole saw to make more precise cuts.

Should Japanese maple be covered in winter? ›

The answer is yes. If you have container plants, winter protection for Japanese maple can be as simple as moving the containers into the garage or porch when icy weather or a heavy snowfall is expected. Potted plant roots freeze much faster than plants in the ground.

What kind of potting soil does a Japanese maple need? ›

The ideal soil mix for a maple in a container is one-half EB Stone Azalea Mix blended with one-half Edna's Best Potting Soil. If you can't mix, use straight Edna's.

What time of year do Japanese maples lose their leaves? ›

Do all Japanese maples lose their leaves? Yes! Japanese maples are deciduous trees. During October and November maples provide a lovely show of fall color. Then in late November, or December, the leaves drop.

Why are the leaves falling off my Japanese maple? ›

Foliage loss in summer happens due to drought. Japanese Maple tree loves to be in moist soil, it requires abundant water to thrive. If the soil is dry, the tree loses leaves to keep up with the loss of water. This is because the loss of water occurs via foliage.

How deep are Japanese maple roots? ›

A root system of a mature 6-8 foot Crimson Queen Japanese Maple allowed to develop naturally without any restrictions can spread out over 12 feet wide and up to 3 feet deep. This is a huge root ball and probably not anything a home owner without heavy equipment would be able to tackle.

Can you cut the top off a Japanese maple? ›

To avoid causing stress or stimulating unsightly growth, never remove more than one-fifth of a Japanese maple's crown; you should also not prune a branch that is more than half the diameter of the parent stem. In addition, don't remove more than a quarter of the foliage of any given branch.

How tall does a Japanese maple get? ›

Mature Size. The Japanese red maple grows to a height of 15–25' and a spread of around 20' at maturity.

How do you make a Japanese maple bushy? ›

How to Prune Japanese Maples - Instructional Video w/ Plant Amnesty

Why does my Japanese maple not turn red? ›

If your maple is planted in partial sun and not getting at least 6 hours of sunshine per day, it may not change colors. Poor soil and overfertilization may cause your maple tree to not change to red colors in the fall.

What does an overwatered Japanese maple look like? ›

While Japanese Maples can definitely appreciate wet soil especially during its first few years of being planted, over watering is definitely a common cause of decline. If your leaves are turning brown/black at the tips, this could be a sign of over watering.

Are Japanese maple trees hard to take care of? ›

Japanese maple care is easy. Caring for Japanese maples in summer is mainly a matter of providing enough water to prevent stress. Water the tree deeply in the absence of rain. Apply the water to the root zone slowly so that the soil can absorb as much water as possible.

What is the best time to plant a Japanese maple? ›

The best time to plant your new maple tree is in Spring or Fall. If you bring home a new Japanese maple tree in the Summer or Winter, just leave it in the grower's pot undercover until the season is over. Planting your maple in Spring allows the roots to settle before the busy growing season begins.

What is the easiest Japanese maple to grow? ›

Pixie is one of Mendocino Maples favorite red leafed Japanese maples. Pixie will grow to about 6 -7' high and about 6-7' wide. Pixie can handle a lot of sun but give afternoon shade in real hot climates. Pixie is cold hardy and can handle down to zone 5, -15° F.

Are Japanese maple trees expensive? ›

It is somewhat expensive to buy and is slow to grow. Every garden should have one. Few other trees or shrubs create such an aura of grace and serenity in the landscape, especially when placed with care and groomed artfully. Set aside its inconspicuous red blossoms of early spring, and you find ornament in every season.

Are coffee grounds good for Japanese maple? ›

So maintain a humus-rich soil by applying coffee grounds. Coffee grounds are free at Starbucks. For a 4-foot-tall Japanese maple, I recommend applying 4 pounds of coffee grounds per tree per season.

How much water does a Japanese maple need a week? ›

Water every 2-3 days for the first month. After that, a good watering once a week should be sufficient, but monitor it often as windy days can dry out soil quickly. If the tree is fall planted, water once a week when no rain or snow cover is provided. Tip 2 Always provide a layer of mulch around Japanese maple trees.

Do I need to cover my Japanese maple in winter? ›

Applying a thick layer of mulch – up to 4 inches (10 cm.) – over the root area of the tree protects the roots from winter damage. Watering well before winter freeze is also a good way to help the tree survive the cold. That kind of winter protection for Japanese maples will work for any plant in the cold season.

Do Japanese maples need fertilizer? ›

Fertilizer. Japanese maples should only be fertilized after they're a year old, or during the second growing season. The best time to fertilize is late winter or early spring. Japanese maples are naturally slow-growing trees, so stimulating rapid growth with a high-nitrogen fertilizer should be avoided.

What month does Japanese maple bloom? ›

Flowers bloom between May and June and are insect pollinated. Fruit is a winged seed called a samara; they are green to red and ½ to ¾ inch long. Samaras ripen between September and October and are scattered by wind. The bark is green to gray and smooth.

What is the prettiest Japanese maple? ›

Aconitifolium. One of the most beautiful Japanese maples, 'Aconitifolium' offers deeply cut, fern-like green foliage that turns shades of red, orange, and yellow in fall. This tree, also called 'Maiku Jaku', changes up the beautiful texture you've come to expect from most Japanese maples.

Can Japanese maple be in full sun? ›

Their undeniable beauty leads many people to want to plant them as a focal point or specimen tree, often in full sun. Unfortunately, many Japanese maples are less tolerant of full sun, developing leaf burn in the summer heat.

What is the prettiest maple tree? ›

Most important of all, the Sugar Maple has amazing color. In the spring and summer, the leaves are a shade of rich green that develop shades of gold, orange and red during fall. This tree has three different traffic-stopping colors every spring, causing it to stand out as the prettiest tree on the block.

How long does a Japanese maple last? ›

GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO WAIT

Japanese maples typically grow just one to two feet per year (which is why it might be wise to buy the largest one you can afford). That said, under the right conditions, they can live to be over one hundred years old.

Do Japanese maples add value to your home? ›

For example, gum trees are fire-prone, and a type of plant some homebuyers (especially those living on the west coast) don't want near their home. Japanese maples, on the other hand, are known to add value to a home. These trees have colorful leaves which thrive in cooler climates.

What is the most popular Japanese maple tree? ›

1. Bloodgood. Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' is one of the most popular Japanese maple trees available, featuring deep purple leaves that turn bright red in the fall – making it one of the best trees for autumn color, too. 'With such spectacular foliage, Bloodgood is one of my favorite varieties,' says Sons.

Videos

1. How to Grow Japanese Maples In the Fall
(MrMaple Show)
2. Planting and caring tips for Acer Japanese Maple
(Vitax Garden World)
3. When Can I Plant A Japanese Maple? - JAPANESE MAPLES EPISODE 121
(MrMaple Show)
4. How to Plant a Japanese Maple Correctly | Step by Step for Beginners.
(Budget Plants)
5. How to grow Japanese maples
(Crocus.co.uk)
6. What soil should I use for my Japanese maple? - JAPANESE MAPLES EPISODE 102
(MrMaple Show)

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