Red Pygmy Japanese MapleAcer palmatum 'Red Pygmy'
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Acer palmatum 'Red Pygmy'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Red Pygmy Japanese Maple has unique leaves, arranged in long, thin segments that look like a willow tree. The weeping leaves give this tree a graceful form, as it grows from a mound of branches into an upright specimen 6 feet tall and almost as much across. In spring it is simply gorgeous, with glowing red foliage that is a beacon in your garden. After passing the summer a cool and calming olive-green, the leaves explode into gold and orange tones for the fall. This lovely tree is a stand-out specimen for any bed, especially in smaller gardens and Asian-influenced ones.
Protect the leaves of the Red Pygmy Japanese Maple from scorching by growing it in morning sun and afternoon shade. Some sun is beneficial to develop the best leaf colors. In containers use a well-drained potting soil. No pruning or training is required to develop this tree’s graceful form, and it is normally never bothered by pests or diseases. Moist, well-drained soil is best, enriched with organic material, and mulched each spring. Water regularly, especially during the first few years, to develop a deep root-system to sustain healthy growth.
While certainly wonderful in many ways, everyone agrees that at the heart of the beauty of Japanese maples is their leaves. Always divided into segments, there is enormous diversity in that basic pattern, from broad leaves like fans to narrower ones like an eagle’s claw. They may be deeply divided to the base, cut and twisting like lace, or as narrow as willow leaves. The variations seem endless, but they are all fascinating and beautiful. Growers and experts use terms to describe these variations, and one group is called linearilobum – plants whose leaves have long, narrow lobes that are smooth and very slender, like pieces of thin ribbon. One of the very best of this group, the Red Pygmy Japanese Maple, colors those delicate leaves rich red in spring, turns them gold and orange in fall and becomes a splendid small tree that never fails to win hearts.
The Red Pygmy Japanese Maple starts life as a rounded mound of branches, but in time it leaves behind its ‘pygmy’ status and grows into a broad, upright tree that reaches 6 feet or more in height, with spreading branches that make it almost as wide as it is tall. Because of the unique foliage, it has a weeping look, although the branches are in fact upright. At first look, you could be forgiven for thinking this tree was some kind of willow, because the ‘leaves’ are slender and smooth, and 2 to 3 inches long. Closer examination shows that they are in fact the multiple segments of a single leaf, with 5 or 7 slender lobes connected at their base to a single leaf stalk. They are smooth and thin, without the ‘teeth’ along the edges that is normal for Japanese maples, so they look very different. They grow out from the leaf-stalk horizontally but then arch downwards, which is what give the unique weeping character to this tree. It is dense and bushy, with many leaves all along the stems. Sometimes the new stems have leaves with much broader lobes, and this may make us think something is wrong. But everything is fine, and this is perfectly natural. The leaves that come next year from the same stems will have the characteristic slender leaves that make this plant so charming.
When the new leaves emerge in spring, they are a rich, bright red color, making a stunning display. As summer arrives, they become purple and then a warm olive-green, looking cool and elegant during the hottest days. In fall the Red Pygmy Japanese Maple pulls out all the stops and explodes into brilliant tones of golden yellow and bright orange, with every leaf a little different, bringing the season to a spectacular close. Whatever the season, this tree is beautiful, colorful, and a real asset in your garden.
Grow the Red Pygmy Japanese Maple as a specimen in a bed, surrounded by low plants and ground-cover. Especially when young it is a wonderful container plant, which you can move around to show off its features to their best. Consider starting it this way, and then when it is has grown taller, plant it out in the garden as an ‘instant feature’, and plant something new and interesting in the container. Because it is in a pot you will not disturb the root system moving your mature tree, and it will transplant perfectly. With its graceful and elegant yet exotic look, this tree is a wonderful choice if you are developing a Japanese or Asian-style garden, and in a stylish pot, it will look fantastic. Make sure the pot has drainage, and use a well-drained potting soil blended for trees or bonsai.
The Red Pygmy Japanese Maple should be planted in a spot with morning sun and afternoon shade, to both develop the colors of the leaves and to protect them from scorching. Grow it in well-drained, moist and rich soil. Amend the soil with plenty of rich organic material when planting, and mulch in spring with more, to keep the roots cool and moist. Watering is needed regularly, especially during the early years, and this tree is not drought resistant. It is normally not bothered by pests or diseases and it will grow steadily without any particular care or attention, once you have it positioned well, and attend to its watering needs.
Variations of the Japanese maple, Acer palmatum, has been collected for centuries in Japan, and more recently in America and Europe. This tree grows wild across the hills of Japan and Korea, and in some parts of China, but the wild tree is very different from the many garden varieties we grow. The variety called ‘Red Pygmy’ was discovered in a garden in Italy in the 1960s, and introduced to gardeners by the Esveld nursery, a large grower in the Boskoop region of the Netherlands. That area has brought us many beautiful plants, and when they introduced ‘Red Pygmy’ in 1969 it was immediately given the ‘Award of Garden Merit’ by the Royal Horticultural Society in England. Although widely grown in Europe, it took some time for this tree to be brought to America, but it has been greeted with great praise. We have a limited supply of this lovely and unique tree, so order now, because it will soon be gone.