The Japanese maple (Acer japonicum) is a small tree or shrub that, as the name suggests, comes from Japan. It can be up to 10 meters high. The autumn color is striking. The leaves then change colors, becoming bright yellow, orange and red. But the flowers are not without it either. They are not big, but they are still noticeable. They are umbels (10 to 15 flowers, long stalk). The flowers have purple sepals and pink petals.

Acer japonicum

The Japanese maple has two other special features, a special leaf shape and a very unique growth shape. The plants are well suited as solitaires, this is how they achieve the best effect. Many varieties are also ideal for keeping in planters. There are usually several Japanese maple trees in typical Japanese gardens. That also gives a harmonious picture.

Many suppliers combine the special Japanese maples (Acer japonicum) and the Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) into one species. Sometimes the golden maple (Acer shirasawanum ‘Aureum’) is also added. There are around 400 to 500 varieties. All of them stand out for their foliage, their growth habit and many for their spectacular autumn colors. The colored trees develop a special effect in front of a green background, i.e. in front of a hedge. All Japanese maples can be planted under quite well. The roots are rather loosely branched and have a small proportion of fine roots.

Particularly beautiful varieties for the home garden

  • Cristatum – curled leaves, bizarre growth, narrow, upright, great autumn colors in strong orange, also suitable for plant troughs, grows about 15 cm per year
  • Orangeola – orange-red leaf shoots, brown-red in summer, bright orange-red in autumn, broadly spreading growth, fountain-like drooping branches, solitary, bucket-keeping possible, grows about 10 cm a year, but becomes wide, about 150 to 200 cm
  • Osakazuki – dark green leaves lined with reddish brown, great autumn colors in bright red, upright growth, needs a lot of space, grows about 13 cm per year
  • Bloodgood – deep red leaf shoots, later dark red-brown, no special autumn color, needs a lot of space to the side, solitary, grows 20 cm a year
  • Englishtown – purple foliage color, no special autumn color, grows broad and funnel-shaped, weak-growing, but becomes wider than high, good for buckets
  • Nicholsonii – cinnamon-red leaves, intensely green in summer, distinctive growth, funnel-shaped, grows about 13 cm a year
  • Oridono nishiki – great foliage – irregular creamy white, flamingo pink and frog green, the bark is also colorful, autumn color is yellow-orange to purple-red, fast-growing, stiffly upright, grows about 22 cm a year, good as a solitary or in a tub
  • Sango kaku – leaves green, young twigs coral red, autumn color golden yellow, stiffly upright habit, grows approx. 18 cm a year, beautiful contrasts

Japanese maple – care

Japanese Maple Care

The Japanese maple is quite easy to care for. The right location, the preparation of the soil when planting and the right watering are important for good growth and a healthy tree. Otherwise there is not much to do. The cut is limited to cutting out sick or dead shoots. It is only fertilized once a year. Most of the maples are sufficiently hardy. Only potted specimens need some protection. All in all, a wonderful garden wood that does not take up much time.
The location, substrate and planting are largely responsible for the great color of the leaves. Only when the plant feels comfortable does it bring out the great colors.


The location is of the utmost importance. The individual varieties have very different requirements. You should know and fulfill these, otherwise you will not enjoy your Japanese maple very much.

  • Sunny to light-shady location
  • Many varieties tolerate bright sun, they really need it to develop the beautiful colors.
  • However, some of the maples do not tolerate the sun well. When buying, pay attention to the variety name and then definitely look up what the location should be.
  • In the first few years the leaves can be burned, but this will resolve itself over time.
  • A sheltered place is recommended for everyone so that the leaves do not tear apart.
  • In addition, a draughty location is often responsible for burned leaf tips (leaf tip drought).
  • Pond or water proximity brings a higher humidity, helps the trees to feel more comfortable.

Plant substrate

When it comes to the substrate, you should also meet the trees. The soil must be loose and very permeable. Although many of the maples like slightly damp soil, waterlogging is poison for them.

  • Freshly moist, acidic to neutral, nutrient-rich, sandy to loamy-humic soil
  • Heavy clay soils need to be mixed with sand or peat.
  • Mixing in rotted leaf compost is good for normal garden soils.
  • Drainage in the bottom of the pot is important when keeping a bucket.
  • Waterlogging is not tolerated!
  • Burns on the leaves can be avoided by increasing the humidity. Therefore, a layer of mulch over the earth is recommended.
  • Use the potted plant substrate for potted plants.


Japanese Maple Plant substrate

Planting a Japanese maple is not difficult. You have to dig a sufficiently large planting hole, loosen the soil well and prepare the substrate accordingly. A sufficiently large container is required when planting in pots. Drainage in the vessel is important.

  • Since the maple trees do not like wet feet, it is ideal to plant them on a small hill. This allows excess water to drain off easily.
  • Never plant a Japanese maple in a place where there was previously one with Verticillium wilt. No excavation and swap will help!
  • Before planting, loosen the soil over a large area, at least 30 cm deep, better 50 cm. This improves air circulation.

Watering and fertilizing

In contrast to the normal maple, the Japanese maple is a shallow root. That means a lot of water is evaporated. Older specimens cope with a lack of water quite well, young and freshly planted specimens do not.

  • The Japanese maple needs plenty of water in summer.
  • It is best to water both times in the morning or in the evening, if it is very hot.
  • Do not pour over the leaves, this will cause burns.
  • Fertilize in spring. Ideally with depot fertilizer, then this one-time dose is sufficient for the entire year.
  • In autumn you can fertilize with patent potash, this ensures that the maples survive the winter better.
  • Different fertilization is required in the bucket. It is best to use coated slow-release fertilizers. 1 g / l substrate should be sufficient.

To cut

Japanese Maple tree cutting

A cut would change the characteristic growth form and that would be a real shame. In most cases it is not necessary to cut. However, it is important to consider how big the maple will be when planting and to have enough space for it.

  • Only cut rarely and only to remove dead or diseased branches and shoots.
  • Only in the case of vigorous varieties is it advisable to shorten the shoot tips a little above a bud in June or July.
  • After winter, frozen shoot tips must also be removed.
  • We strongly advise against winter pruning, because the interfaces no longer heal. Fungal spores can penetrate there.


Most commercially available Japanese maples are sufficiently hardy. Only very cold easterly winds are dangerous. They can cause damage. That is why a sheltered location is so important.

  • Most Japanese maples do not require winter protection. Only planters should be wrapped up a little and placed on styrofoam or wooden strips.
  • It is important that the tree’s shoots mature well. For this reason, no more nitrogen should be fertilized after the end of July.
  • It is important to protect the plant from late frost when the leaves are already on or off. A cover with fleece helps against this.
  • In winter, water drainage is particularly important when it is kept in a bucket. The vessels should also be placed in a protected place. It is important to have a position facing away from the wind.


The Japanese maple can be propagated by cuttings, although of course the specialist nurseries do not like to see this.

  • You cut soft, not yet lignified or at least only slightly lignified cuttings and put them in lava granulate (grain size 1mm). Reduce the number of leaves to prevent evaporation from the leaves. Two to three leaflets are sufficient. Cut off the tip of the shoot.
  • So-called jiffy pots are suitable as containers.
  • It often makes sense to use a rooting hormone.
  • A warm, humid environment promotes rooting.
  • Place bright, but no sun.
  • Keep the substrate moist, but not wet.
  • Don’t forget to ventilate.
  • It takes about 8 weeks for small roots to form.
  • The best time to propagate cuttings is from the end of May to the end of June.
  • It’s actually very easy.

Diseases and pests

Japanese Maple tree Diseases and pests

The Japanese maple is threatened by verticillium wilt, a fungal disease. The pathogens are located in the earth and spread through the entire tree via the roots. The result is slack leaves and dead branches. As a rule, the wood can no longer be saved. There is no fungicide to control the fungus. Even a cut is of no help. One can only prevent it. That is why the right location is so important. The soil must also be well prepared.

Total failures can sometimes be prevented by generously cutting out diseased branches. Make sure to use clean cutting tools, preferably disinfect them.

Otherwise, the trees are quite healthy and are not particularly affected by pests.

The Japanese maple is a dream when it shows its colors and its special growth. There are varieties that are quite sensitive, not to say quite a mimosa, but many are healthy and less demanding. A Japanese maple is at the top of my wish-list, but they are unsuitable for this garden right now. It’s way too windy here. I always say we live in a wind tunnel. But it is reserved, although I don’t yet know which variety I would choose. Maybe there will be two.
In any case, such a tree is a real eye-catcher. It doesn’t need a lot of maintenance either. Cultivation in a planter is ideal. Then you can take it out of the midday sun in summer, which is often not so well tolerated and in winter it is very sheltered. I just think these trees are great.

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