Japanese Maple Trees

Graceful, elegant, and near carefree to maintain, these vibrant showstoppers can't help but be the center of attention. Who said trees couldn't have egos?

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Japanese Maple Trees

Breathtaking blooms, waterfalls of color, cascading leaves, and nearly no maintenance required – it’s easy to see why the Japanese Maple is one of the most popular and worthwhile garden trees available today.

With dozens of varieties in height, width, leaf form, and color, no matter what your space restrictions might be, you’ll be able to bring the uniqueness of Japanese Maple trees to your outdoor space. Japanese Maples come in a variety of forms, while some grow upward in the form of tall trees with weeping branches, growing 20 feet tall or more with the traditional cascade of red or rich green leaves, others stay closer to the ground and grow as little as 5 feet tall, making them perfect for small spaces and yards.

What Are Japanese Maple Trees?

Available in a variety of sizes and beautiful shapes the Japanese Maple is a popular choice for those with small gardens and gardeners who want to bring a riot of color to their yard. The Japanese Maple can vary greatly from one type to another, with different leaf forms, colors, and tree shapes.

From an upright tree to weeping and cascading varieties, the leaf shapes of the Japanese Maple are also detailed differently, giving each tree a unique look and color. With varieties like the Crimson Queen boasting lacy foliage, or palm-sized like the leaf shape of the Purple Ghost Maple, with the right planting location and care, you can easily grow your own Japanese Maple tree either in the ground or in a large pot or container.

How to Plant Japanese Maples

In order for your Japanese maple tree to thrive, it’s important to plant your new tree carefully and in a way that will benefit the plant. It’s also important to know which conditions your young tree would prefer.

Many Japanese Maple varieties like afternoon shade, or thrive in the afternoon sun while others don’t like full sun at any time of day. The Japanese maple is a hardy tree, but following your tree’s specific needs and the steps outlined here will give it the very best start in life.

When to Plant Japanese Maple Trees

Japanese maple will grow in any type of soil and are regarded as hardy plants. However, if you want your Japanese Maples to grow during the Spring and Summer months then planting your tree in October is the best time.

Ideally, you should plant your Japanese Maple at least a month before the first frost, and the ground freezes. This gives your newly planted tree time to establish some root growth before Winter sets in. It is also possible to plant in the springtime, but be wary of Spring frosts.

Pre-Planting: Give Your Japanese Maple Some Care

Make sure you remove all the packaging from your Japanese Maple tree. However, it’s best to leave the tree in its pot until you have established the planting site and are ready to plant. If your Japanese Maple tree arrived wrapped in burlap leave the wrappings on. Remember to only pick up your young tree by the pot or the ropes attached – picking it up by the trunk or stems.

Place your Japanese Maple in a shaded place while you prepare the planting area, and give it a generous drink of water. Just remember that well-drained soil might sound good in theory but you must ensure that the soil around your Japanese Maple tree is moist and never allowed to dry out.

Choose the Right Planting Location for Your Japanese Maple

When choosing a location for your Japanese maple tree, there are multiple considerations. Japanese Maples grow well in the right conditions, so you’ll need to choose a location that won’t negatively impact already established trees or encroach on your neighbor’s property. As you can imagine the incredible foliage color of the Japanese Maple, from bright red to golden yellow, makes for fantastic focal points, so consider an area where your young tree can be seen and appreciated.

Consider the Japanese Maples growing habits. Generally speaking most Japanese Maples prefer part shade or dappled shade and most do well in shaded spots rather than full sun. It’s these locations that really bring out the vivid colors of golden yellow, bright crimson, purples, and orange red that Japanese Maple trees are known for. Avoiding full sun also means protecting your Japanese Maple from leaf scorch.

Avoid overcrowding your Japanese Maple and plant it away from other trees, plants, hedges, or fences. You should also consider a place where it will be protected from strong winds as this can also cause damage and leaf scorch.

Prepare the Planting Site

Japanese Maple trees like organically rich, moist but well drained soil, preferably slightly acidic. Remove all grasses and other plants from the planting area and give the space a good rake. To allow the roots to spread out easily and to assist with drainage, cover the planting site with about 6- to 8 inches of well-rotted manure or compost and work it down and into the soil about a foot.

Dig the Hole

Dig a hole that is as deep as the pot the Japanese Maple tree came in but several times wider. This approach means there will be less stress on the tree and it will encourage natural growth, yielding the best results.

Get the Tree Ready and Plant

Ensure the root ball of the Japanese Maple is fully saturated before you plant. It’s recommended that you do this the evening before.

Place the root ball into the hole, then backfill the hole halfway with the soil. Make this soil firm with your hands or feet. Then, to help the tree and soil settle, you’ll need to water the hole, allow this to drain away, and then fill in the hole with the remaining soil. Ensure the soil is level and flat with the ground.

Caring for Your Japanese Maple Trees

To keep your Japanese Maples in excellent condition, to encourage leaf color, and the breathtaking foliage we associate with the Japanese maple, it’s important to care for your tree and provide some basic maintenance.


You should water your Japanese Maple regularly during the first year after planting. Remembering that these trees prefer moist well drained soil. So, water at least once a week from spring to fall and twice a week during hot weather.

If you’re planting in a container or pot, then you’ll need to create drainage holes to prevent the soil from becoming oversaturated with water and killing your Japanese maple.


During the early years of your tree’s life, you may want to add a liquid fertilizer to encourage growth, applying this in late spring and early summer is best. Refreshing the mulch around your Japanese Maple tree in Spring is also recommended.


Heavy pruning your Japanese maples is not recommended. Unless you’re growing in a small space and want to grow a small tree in a pot or container – pruning and trimming can harm the natural growth of your tree, so this form of plant maintenance isn’t specifically needed.

However, if you want your Japanese Maple to have a more mature look, then trimming your tree in winter during the dormant months is recommended. If you see any crossed branches or small ones rubbing against each other then these can be removed. If you want denser growth then shortening long stems is ideal.


What color are Japanese Maples? There is an incredible variety of Japanese Maples all with breathtaking leaf colors that you’ll see throughout summer and fall. These colors range from the bright red of the Crimson Queen and Bloodgood varieties to the green and golden yellow of the Coral Bark Japanese maple. Other colorful Japanese maples include the purple red Emperor variety and the cherry pink red of the Red Dragon. So you’re sure to find a variety that you love.

Can Japanese Maple trees be planted in full sun? As Japanese Maples are prone to leaf scorch when exposed to full sun, or in excessively sunny environments, these beautiful trees will always thrive and are generally easy to grow in cool, shaded areas or areas with dappled sunlight. While other Japanese maples can tolerate full sun, to get the most out of your plant, a shaded and sheltered area is best.

How big do Japanese Maple trees get? The height of a Japanese maple tree will differ depending on its variety and growing conditions. But generally, they can grow to between 2 and 25 feet tall. Depending on growing conditions these trees will grow at a rate of 1-2 feet annually. While they are slow-growing, deciduous trees it’s important to consider the amount of space your Japanese Maple tree will need as it establishes itself.

Do Japanese Maple trees lose their leaves? As Japanese Maples are deciduous they will lose their beautiful leaves in the winter months. As the colder months set in you’ll begin to see a change in the vivid leaf color of Japanese Maples before they eventually fall off.

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