Colorful to the point of being flamboyant, Japanese maple is a very beautiful shrub thanks to the color and delicate shape of its leaves.
Key Japanese maple facts
Name – Acer japonicum
Family – Sapindaceae
Type – tree
Height – 26 to 32 feet (8 to 10 meters)
Exposure – part sun
Soil – ordinary, well drained
Foliage – deciduous
Planting japanese maple
Japanese Maple is planted in fall, but can also be planted in spring when purchased in a container.
- Japanese maple likes places that are partly shaded.
- Exposure in too much full sun could burn its leaves.
- Japanese maple despises chalky or limestone soil.
- It also shuns drafty locations that are subject to strong winds.
How to plant a Japanese maple
- Dig a hole 3 to 4 times as big as the soil clump.
- Provide a blend of one part planting soil mix and one part heath.
- Place the clump at the bottom of the hole.
- Backfill with the blend without burying the base of the trunk.
Potted Japanese maple
Growing Japanese maple in pots is more than just perfectly possible: this is an ideal shrub for the purpose.
- Use a good-sized pot.
- Check that the bottom of the pot has a hole in it (never use a pot that retains water).
- Pour a bed of clay beads or gravel at the bottom of the pot to form a layer 1 to 1½ inches (3 to 4 cm) thick to ensure proper drainage.
- Fill the pot with a blend of one part planting soil mix and one part heath.
Both in pots and in the ground, support the tree’s growth with mulch at the base of the tree to retain soil moisture.
Caring for Japanese maple
If properly settled in and with proper growing conditions, Japanese maple is easy to care for.
The most common mistake we’re aware of is about watering.
How to water Japanese maple
- Keep the soil moist in summer while avoiding excessive watering.
- Potted Japanese maple must be watered as soon as the surface soil is dry.
- The slightest lack of water might burn the the leaves.
- In case of elevated temperatures, misting the foliage in the evening helps cool the Japanese maple off.
Pruning Japanese maple
It isn’t really recommended to prune it.
Your Japanese maple doesn’t like pruning, and only the oldest specimens will need some trimming to remain small.
If pruning must be done, then perform it in winter, whenever the weather isn’t freezing. Never prune anytime other than between November and March.
- Start with properly disinfecting your pruning equipment.
- Eliminate old wood and dead branches.
- Apply pruning paste to avoid all risk of disease.
Diseases and parasites of Japanese maple
Japanese maple is a favorite host of aphids. Those little green or black bugs can colonize leaves and weaken your tree.
If you notice that some Japanese maple branches turn black, cut them off at the base and destroy them.
Indeed, many maple trees are infected by a disease called Verticillium which is a fungus capable of devastating an entire tree within months.
As soon as you see the disease on your tree, burn the dry branches. If the spots are only on the leaves, it may not be the same disease (black spots on leaves are harmless).
- Here is more on eliminating black spots on maple
Learn more about Japanese maple
As its name shows, this maple is native to Japan. Indeed, it comes from the underbrush of Japanese forests. Even though they’re in the same family as common maple, they can’t cross-pollinate because they’re too far apart genetically.
It has fiery hued foliage in fall, and a true festival of colors starts at the end of summer.
It’s common practice to group together under the title “Japanese maple”, all types of maple coming from that country. Included are Acer japonicum, Acer shirasawanum and Acer palmatum.
Smart tip about Japanese maple
It loves acidic soil. A blend of plant-enriched earth, soil mix and heath soil will suit it perfectly!
Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Dreamy red Japanese maple by ujeans under Pixabay license
Red Japanese maple against green by Ellen Chan under Pixabay license