How to Choose Japanese Maple Trees

Опубликовал Admin
3-12-2020, 16:30
Japanese maples are prized for their beauty and the diversity of their size, color, and leaf structure. The slow-growing trees are especially beloved by gardeners, who use them for landscaping, decoration, and even botanical art like shaping. If you’re considering bringing in a Japanese maple to beautify your yard or garden, your selection will depend primarily on the growing conditions in your area and your intended use for the tree.

Assessing Your Growing Conditions

  1. Determine whether a Japanese maple is well suited for your climate. Japanese maples are delicate trees, and prefer temperate climates. Most species do best in places with warm, mild year-round temperatures. If you live in a region that experiences particularly harsh summers or winters, drastic fluctuations in temperature may make it harder to keep your tree alive.
    • Look for species with a cold hardiness rating that corresponds with the climate in your area.
    • As a rule, Japanese maples hold up better to heat than they do to cold.
  2. Make sure you have adequate space. Before you rush out to buy your first sapling, make a note of how much room the tree will have to grow in your yard or garden. Towering upright species like Osakazuki can reach heights of up to 20–30 feet (6.1–9.1 m) in just a few years, while others like green cascade more closely resemble low shrubs that spread out to cover areas 12–15 feet (3.7–4.6 m) wide.
    • Size should be a major factor in your decision, as you don’t want your tree to outgrow its plot or fail to spread out over an area where it was meant to provide cover.
    • Because of how much Japanese maples are affected by different sun, soil, and temperature conditions, it can be difficult to predict exactly how big they’ll grow.
  3. Plant your Japanese maple in a container to conserve space. You can still enjoy the tranquil beauty of a Japanese maple even if there’s not much available room in your yard or garden. Smaller species, such as a miniature beni-maiko or katsura, can be potted in modest-sized planters and moved around at will.
    • Japanese maples like a snug fit. For best results, choose a container that’s no larger than twice the diameter of the root ball.
    • Most species are capable of surviving indoors or outdoors equally well, giving you even more freedom over how you choose to display your selection.
  4. Evaluate your growing soil. Japanese maples thrive in moist, nutrient-rich, woodsy soil. However, they’ll typically get by just fine with the little help of an amendment supplement, even if the patch of land you’re planting on is less than ideal. You can amend dry or sandy soil by mixing in a generous amount of organic matter during the planting process.
    • Leaf mulch, manure, peat moss, and garden compost are a few of the organic materials you can use to encourage the growth of your Japanese maple.
    • Trees planted in containers can be grown in a mixture of quality potting soil and organic amendments.
  5. Take the sun exposure of your planting site into consideration. While Japanese maples are generally tolerant of warmer conditions, they don’t do well with prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. If possible, plant your Japanese maple on the east side of your home or fenceline. There, it can receive plenty of light in the morning and get some much-needed shade during the hottest part of the afternoon.
    • Your Japanese maple should get no more than about 6 hours of direct sunlight per day, especially during its first few years of growth.
    • Intense sunlight can scorch delicate leaves when the temperature outside climbs to 90 °F (32 °C) or higher.

Selecting a Species

  1. Specify the tree’s intended purpose. Think over your reasons for wanting to incorporate a Japanese maple into your landscaping. Are you looking for a unique import that will provide shade, or are you mostly interested in adding aesthetic appeal? Will your Japanese maple complement the shades of nearby plants or contrast them? Your answers will help narrow down the specific variety you ultimately settle on.
    • A majestic Emperor will draw a gaze when situated off on its own, while a low, sweeping dissectum atropurpureum may be perfect for keeping watch over a bed of wildflowers.
    • Since there are so many different varieties of Japanese maples, you’ll likely be able to find one that satisfies your more than one of your criteria.
  2. Plant an upright species to showcase its impressive height. Upright species like Lion’s Head, Coral Bark, and Purple Ghost are generally best for tall, narrow plots or planting in clusters. When set off on their own, they can serve as an awe-inspiring focal point for your gardening space.
    • Refer to the size descriptions listed for a particular species at your local gardening center or plant nursery to get a more accurate sense of its spatial requirements.
    • There’s also plenty of information on different Japanese maples available on the internet. Run a quick search by name if you have a specific species in mind, or browse articles about some of the most common species found in domestic settings.
  3. Use cascading species to enhance the look of your landscaping. Smaller trees like Garnet and Waterfall that have bushy, weeping shapes are useful for filling in flower beds and providing modest shade. Plant them near other low gardening fixtures like rocks, ponds, and fences for a picturesque effect. Kiyohime, viridis, and similar shrub-like maples can even be used to establish a natural border around your plant beds.
    • Since trailing species rarely get above 8 feet (2.4 m) tall, they won't overshadow or take attention away from your other flowering plants.
  4. Choose a palmatum for its strong leaf structure. Japanese maples are divided into two main types based on the shape of their leaves. Species classified as "palmatums" have broad, firm, waxy leaves, and are among the most common varieties found in residential gardens. Most of the hearty upright species are palmatums, including the popular bloodgood.
    • Palmatums like shaina and beni-maiko feature full-looking leaves with a distinct enough profile to make them a main attraction in the yard or garden.
    • There are dozens of different palmatums, each with their own unique growth patterns and color schemes. The exact species you go with will largely be a matter of your aesthetic preferences.
  5. Highlight the natural gentleness of a dissectum. The second type of Japanese maple is the elegantly drooping "dissectum." When most people conjure images of a stately Japanese maple, the slender blade-like leaves of dissectums are what they picture. A single graceful selection like inaba shidare or seiyu can transform a quiet corner of your property into a woodland sanctuary.
    • One of the things experienced gardeners love most about dissectums is their many different leaf sizes, colors, and textures. This variety allows them to be grouped together without looking busy or overgrown.
  6. Use bold color to accentuate your surroundings. Both palmatums and dissectums range in widely in their coloration, from fiery reds and shimmering golds to deep velvety purples. A crimson Sherwood Flame may be just the thing you need to break up the muted greens of a big backyard.
    • Some palmatums even have variegated leaves, with multiple colors that fade into one another. These can be a great option for those who are looking for something more dazzling, or are having trouble deciding on a single shade.
    • You can use color to complement as well as contrast. For instance, planting a sumi nagashi beside a brick wall will emphasize its warm tone.
  7. Add depth to your existing greenery. Subtle specimens like benikawa and higasayama blend in well with the other trees, shrubs, and grasses. Selections with a more neutral coloration, like the silvery Butterfly, are versatile enough to look natural wherever they’re planted.
    • Selecting a Japanese maple with green foliage is a good way to introduce an element of visual flair without forcing your seasonal flowers to compete.

Caring for Japanese Maples

  1. Mulch around the base of outdoor trees. Spread the mulch 4–6 inches (10–15 cm) thick and pat it down lightly to compact it. A thick layer of mulch will insulate the tree from freezing temperatures in the winter and prevent it from losing moisture in the summer. As such, it should remain in place throughout the year.
    • For best results, use a shredded hardwood mulch. These are more resilient to changing weather conditions and therefore don’t deteriorate as quickly as softwood varieties.
    • Get in the habit of reapplying mulch whenever the previous layer has eroded by more than half an inch.
  2. Fertilize weak soil with organic compounds. Generally speaking, it's not advisable to feed young Japanese maples using standard chemical fertilizers. If your soil is severely lacking in nutrients, mix in a small amount of balanced emulsion fertilizer, Milorganite, or kitchen compost prior to planting. Otherwise, you can trust it to adapt to its new home rather easily.
    • It shouldn't be necessary to fertilize your Japanese maple again after getting it in the ground.
  3. Water your Japanese maple provisionally. Most outdoor trees will get all the moisture they need from occasional rainfall. If you live in an especially dry climate, or you're raising your tree indoors, thoroughly wet the soil around the base of the tree as soon every 2-3 days as it begins to dry out.
    • When tending to thirsty indoor trees, water continuously until the liquid begins to drain out the bottom of the container.
    • Be careful to avoid overwatering your Japanese maple. Too much moisture could drown the root system, causing the tree to die.
  4. Cover your trees during late spring frosts. Early leafing can leave Japanese maples vulnerable if there are more freezing temperatures in store. Keep your trees protected by wrapping the trunks with insulated blankets at night. Once spring is in full effect, they will be hardy enough to withstand fluctuations in temperature on their own.
    • It should warm up enough during the day for you to remove the blankets.
  5. Prune the tree infrequently as needed. For the most part, Japanese maples don’t require much pruning—simply plant them and let them grow into their trademark silhouette. If you think it’s necessary to give an older tree some attention, clip a few inches from the outer branches and foliage that have spread too far. The occasional touch up will help maintain a more attractive profile and promote healthy new growth.
    • It’s a good idea to cut away any offshoots that look different from the rest of the tree. These could be evidence of disease or infection.
    • The best time to prune your Japanese maple is in midsummer (usually sometime between July-August), when removing branches won’t cause them to lose sap.


  • Japanese maples are remarkably low-maintenance plants. Once you get them in the ground, the best thing you can do for them is leave them alone.
  • Cultivars like orido nishiki and kihachijo can lend your yard a splash of rustic fall color year-round.
  • Use container-planted Japanese maples to spruce up a garden walkway, a screened-in porch or patio, or your home’s foyer.
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