The red Japanese maple is a deciduous broadleaf tree that is planted as an ornamental landscape feature. Red Japanese maple trees are known for attractive red-and-green-colored foliage that turns to yellow and purple in the fall season. The tree grows to a height and spread of 20 feet and is hardy to plant in USDA growing zones 5 through 8.
Choose a planting location for the red Japanese maple tree that is well-draining and partially shaded. The tree should receive a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight to maintain the red leaf color. Test the soil pH prior to planting as the red Japanese maple prefers an acidic soil with a pH of 3.7 to 6.5. If the pH is too high, amend the soil to lower it by adding ground rock sulfur two weeks prior to planting the tree.
How to Plant
Dig a hole that is twice as wide as and slightly deeper than the root ball of the tree. Mix equal parts of organic compost into the removed soil to increase the nutrient value and moisture-retaining properties. Place the root ball into the soil so the top of the root ball is even with the ground surface. Fill the hole with water and let it soak into the surrounding soil. Fill the hole with amended soil and gently pack to eliminate air bubbles around the root ball.
Care and Maintenance
Water the soil around the red Japanese maple tree several times a week to keep the soil evenly moist during the growing season. The tree does not respond well to alternating wet and dry soil conditions. Apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of coarse bark mulch around the tree to assist with soil moisture retention. Leave a 3-inch gap between the start of the mulch and the trunk of the tree. Fertilize the tree in early spring with a balanced tree and shrub fertilizer. No additional fertilizer applications are required.
Prune the red Japanese maple tree in late summer or fall to encourage a healthy growth structure. Remove broken, damaged or deformed branches as the first pruning step. Cut and remove crossing branches to prevent them from rubbing on each other, which causes damage. Prune to remove branches that are growing the wrong direction or have narrow-angled branches. Prune no more than one-third of tree growth in one growing season.
Monitor the red Japanese maple tree to prevent an aphid insect infection, which causes leaves to fall from the tree. An aphid infestation will also show signs of honey dew on the lower leaves of the tree. Honey dew is a sticky substance that is excreted by the insects as they suck sap out of the plant. Control an infestation by spraying the tree with water to remove the insects. Repeat spraying may be required. A heavy infestation can be treated with an insecticide application to kill the insects.