The Japanese Maple is one of the most beautiful expressions of natural beauty and changes drastically through an exciting and flamboyant variety of colors throughout the year. A Japanese Maple provides a touch of flamboyant extravagance and eye popping serenity to your landscaping or patio.

The gracious beauty and elegance of the Japanese Maple have inspired the art and expression of countless artists, poets, and warrior poets for thousands of years of Japanese culture and history. In Japan, an annual pilgrimage is made to enjoy the beauty of the Japanese Maple arrayed in its finest fall foliage. “Momiji-Gari” is an event with deep spiritual significance and nourishment for the soul.

Although they are most known for their spectacular foliage during the fall season, the richly colored leaves will bloom in the spring and continue to evolve throughout their lifespan.

What Is a Japanese Maple Tree? 

The Japanese Maple, or Acer palmatum, is an ornamental family of trees that includes hundreds of individual varieties identified by their size, form, leaf types, colors, and more. Visit Thetreecentre.com for a variety of Japanese Maples. Certain varieties will fall into the weeping class of Japanese Maple, upright varieties that can reach a height of 35 ft. at full-grown height. Then there are dwarf varieties that will never grow higher than 2ft.-8-ft.  Some feature broad fanning leaves and others have small leaves with a delicate lacy feel. They also produce a small fruit called a Samara in the spring — but it is not an edible fruit.

The colors you can expect are from every corner of the spectrum. There are purples, pinks, oranges and reds and greens, and yellows in abundance. The deep red color of the “Bloodgood” is an especially iconic and common color for this tree. The Bloodgood produces small pink leaves in the early spring which will transform from a deep purplish red to a blood red and crimson color in the fall.

Where Do Japanese Maples Thrive? 

Japanese maples are best at home in regions where the temperatures are above -10°F, but some varieties can survive temperatures that drop to -30°F. Most varieties will prefer a partly shady location as their delicate leaves can become scorched by prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. In hotter regions, it is a good idea to keep your Japanese Maple in partial or dappled shade — such as beneath the shade of another tree. But some varieties, especially those featuring green leaves in the summer and spring, can survive the full strength of the sun, even in hot climates.  Strong winds are no friend to the Japanese Maple. Direct exposure to strong wind can cause a condition called ‘wind burn’, this is a bigger problem in hotter climates as well. Japanese maples are happiest in locations shielded from the strength of the wind.

Planting a Japanese Maple 

Japanese maples thrive in loose, draining soil with a fair amount of moisture and slightly on the acidic side. The best time for planting your Japanese Maple is in the Fall, just a couple of weeks before the first frost. It is also good to plant in the spring just after the last frost. The best location would be on an eastern side of the home where it can enjoy the morning sun, but avoid the strength of the afternoon heat.

Japanese maples can be planted directly into the ground or in other types of containers. When you are planting a Japanese Maple in the Ground, make the hole about three times the size of the root ball you are placing inside, then refill the hole with well-draining soil. If you are planting in a container, place the tree in a pot that is at least three times the size of the root ball.  But only the dwarf Japanese Maples should be planted in a container.

How to Care for a Japanese Maple 

Water. — After you have planted the Japanese Maple in the ground, water it twice a week to keep the roots firmly established in the ground. After this, water each time the dirt at the top begins to feel dry, this should be about once a week in the best conditions. Trees planted in containers will need to be observed more closely, they may need water at a greater frequency. Reduced watering in the fall will allow your Japanese Maple to achieve even more spectacular foliage.

Mulch. — lay mulch around the base of your Japanese Maple to improve moisture retention and consistent soil temperatures. This ring of mulch should be at least 4 inches thick and extend six inches from the base of the tree in all directions. Replace this mulch if you notice decomposition or discoloration.

Frost Protection. Japanese Maples will spread their leaves early in the spring and this can leave them susceptible to a late frost. If temperatures are expected to drop, consider moving your trees into an indoor location and cover those that must be left outdoors with a tarp or burlap to protect them from frost.

How to Prune a Japanese Maple Tree 

Japanese maples don’t require much pruning, but a little every so often can improve the health of the tree and improve its aesthetics. Choose the best time for heavy tree pruning, like when the Japanese Maples are sleeping in the late winter or early spring. Light pruning of dead branches can be done at any time of the year.

How to Propagate a Japanese Maple 

Japanese Maples can be propagated from softwood cutting that can be ready to be planted in the ground within one year. Begin this process after the last frost in the spring. Once the first leaves have formed, or sometime before mid-summer.

a. In a nursery pot, create an even mixture of perlite and peat moss. Moisten thoroughly with water.

b. Press the mixture down until it is fully compacted then create a four-inch hole in the middle.

c. Cut a section off the top of the maple tree, about 6”- 8” long and ¼” in diameter. This can be done right below where the leaf meets the stem at a 45° angle.

d. Expose nodes by pulling off the lower leaves.

e. Soak the cut end in a mild rooting hormone for just about a minute.

f. Now place the cut end of your leaf into the hole you have created at the center of the pot with the leaf nodes just above the surface. Compact the ground around the stem, but not too tightly, and drizzle water around to moisten the base of the cutting.

g. Place the pot where it will receive plenty of sunlight.

h. Use an atomizer to apply mist to the cutting twice each day, only water the plant if the top two inches of dirt are dried out.

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