A Japanese dwarf maple is a charming and colorful addition to your garden landscape. Japanese maples are slow-growing trees that will remain small throughout their life. This cool-weather, deciduous tree grows well in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 9. Placement is crucial for a healthy Japanese maple. Pick a spot that gets some morning sun but is shaded from the hot afternoon sun. Properly located, the Japanese maple will get along quite well if left alone, and a little extra care and maintenance will give you a healthy flourishing tree.
Prepare the soil at your chosen planting site by adding pine bark mulch. If the soil in your area is already sandy loam, you can skip this step. If you have a small struggling tree and heavy wet soil, carefully dig up the tree, add pine bark mulch to the soil and replant the tree.
Water your Japanese maple weekly in dry weather. If it is raining at least once a week you can discontinue watering. Because of the shallow root system, Japanese dwarf maples need consistent, even moisture. To get the most fall color from your tree, water half as much in the fall.
Spread a 2- to 4-inch layer of pine bark mulch at the base of your tree. This will keep the roots cool and damp during hot summer weather. In the winter months, the mulch will keep the ground from freezing too hard. Avoid spreading mulch right up to the base of the tree; keep it back 1 inch so that bugs and moisture do not collect around the trees trunk.
Heavy pruning should be done in the winter when the tree is dormant. Use clean sharp tools to prevent damage or the spread of disease during pruning. Take off any dead or unhealthy-looking wood and shape the canopy if desired. Light pruning can be done any time of year.
Fertilize your tree lightly once a year in the spring when new growth is beginning to emerge. Use rich compost or slow-release shrub and tree fertilizer. Pull the mulch back, fertilize and replace the mulch. Add more mulch if needed.