Dwarf Coral Bark Japanese MapleAcer palmatum 'Little Sango'
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Acer palmatum 'Little Sango'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Dwarf Coral-bark Japanese Maple is a dwarf version of the familiar Coral-bark maple tree. It has the same striking coral-red winter twigs, but on a bushy plant hardly more than 6 feet tall. Its dense growth makes it ideal for shrub borders, smaller gardens, woodlands or container growing, and its glowing lemon-yellow leaves in fall are a wonderful sight. This tree is a great choice for warmer zones, and the foliage stands up well to heat and slightly drier conditions than most other Japanese maples. It would even make a beautiful natural hedge along a path or driveway.
Grow the Dwarf Coral-bark Japanese Maple in full sun, or morning sun with afternoon shade. Good sunlight will develop the best twig color. It thrives in moist, well-drained and rich soil, with limited resistance to dry conditions. Water regularly until it is well established and growing vigorously. It normally has no pests or diseases, and it requires no trimming to keep its compact, rounded, bushy form.
Winter bark is a valuable feature in trees, but it is one that is often undervalued. Among Japanese maples, there is a classic variety that is valued, and highly, for its outstanding winter bark, which is rich coral red. This tree, called ‘Sango-kaku’ in Japan, is known to us as the Coral-bark Japanese maple. Besides its striking winter bark, the tree has graceful green leaves, and magical pale lemon fall foliage, that glows more strongly as the garden fades into winter. It does however become large, reaching 20 feet quite rapidly, with an upright habit and a spread of at least 8 feet. Sadly, this beautiful tree is therefore often too large for smaller gardens and courtyards. Now though, we have sourced a gorgeous dwarf version of this tree, growing to just 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Not only does this tree, the Dwarf Coral-bark Japanese Maple, have the same glorious winter bark and magical fall coloring, but its small size also allows many new uses for it in the garden.
The Dwarf Coral-bark Japanese Maple forms a dense, bushy tree, with branches right to the ground, and many upright twigs. It is more a bush than a tree, although with pruning it would be possible to create a more tree-like form if you wish. For most of us, the rounded bushy shape is perfect. The leaves are 1 to 2 inches long, with five lobes cut two-thirds of the way to the leaf stalk, like slender fingers on an outstretched hand. In spring they are a delicious pale, soft green, with thin red edges around the unfolding leaves. In summer the tree is a lovely light green, looking charming and bright. As the colder nights develop in fall it slowly and almost imperceptible turns paler and yellower, until one morning you see it glowing in the garden wearing the most wonderful shade of pale lemon. The leaves hold for several weeks, depending on weather conditions, and when they fall, we see the rich coral-red bark of the stems and branches. That lovely bright color lifts the garden all winter long until the new leaves return in spring.
Grow the Dwarf Coral-bark Japanese Maple as a shrub in a mixed shrub bed, or as a feature in a small area of the garden. Plant it in an opening in a paved patio, or between evergreens around your home. Place it beside a pathway in a wooded or natural area, or in a courtyard or small urban garden. Plant in groups of 3 or 5, spacing 3 feet apart, in a larger bed, as you might for dogwoods or other colorful winter shrubs. Plant it beside a pond or stream. The possibilities are endless, depending on your gardening situation. It also makes a wonderful pot or planter shrub, giving height without taking up too much room. Plant it in an ornamental pot (make sure it has drainage holes) and place it on a terrace, patio, or on a balcony – you don’t even need a garden to grow this lovely plant.
For the best colors in fall, and for the reddest twigs, grow the Dwarf Coral-bark Japanese Maple in full sun in all but the hottest zones. Afternoon shade is beneficial in zones 8 and 9, unless you have good watering, or it is in a well-cared-for planter. This plant is excellent for warmer zones since the leaf lobes are wider than in many other Japanese maples, so they do not scorch and burn so readily. Moist, rich, well-drained soil is best, and regular watering is needed until the tree is well established, and during hot and dry weather. Pests and diseases are not normally problems, and once you take care of the light levels and soil moisture, your tree will take care of the rest. Some spring fertilizer is helpful, but not essential if the soil is rich and regularly mulched with organic material.
The Dwarf Coral-bark Japanese Maple was discovered by Talon Buchholtz, a well-known and dedicated grower of Japanese maples and other rare plants, at his nursery in Gaston, Oregon. It is likely that it was a seedling or unique branch from the classic Japanese maple, ‘Sango-kaku’, known as the Coral-bark Japanese maple. That name means ‘coral tower’ in Japanese, and it is an old variety whose origin in Japan has been lost. We do know it was introduced into both England and Ireland in the 1920s, and from there brought to America soon afterwards. Talon Buchholtz named his new plant ‘Little Sango’, in tribute to the parent tree. He introduced his new plant as part of his Flora Wonder™ Collection, earlier this century. We have obtained some wonderful young plants of this rare and unique variety, which we know is going to be a big hit with our customers. Order now, because unusual and valuable plants like this don’t stay with us very long at all.