The Japanese maple tree (Acer palmatum) grows to approximately 20 feet. Several varieties offer smaller sizes, and a few are grown as bonsai trees. Each fall the tree's green foliage turns brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow. Often grown as a single trunk or multi-trunked shrub, the weight of the tree's branches often give it an overall drooping appearance. A few cultivars have branches that droop almost to the ground. The tree offers durability and ease of care and makes an excellent ornamental landscape specimen. Japanese maple grows in zones 5 to 8---although a few cultivars thrive in zone 9 in partial shade.
Plant in full sunlight or partial shade. In zone 7 to 8, a planting location that offers partial shade is ideal because it helps shade the tree from intense summertime heat.
Choose a planting location with a soil pH of 6 to 8. Mix ample organic matter into the soil prior to planting. Use peat moss and aged manure. The soil should feel rich and crumbly to the touch.
Dig a hole twice as large as the root system of the Japanese maple tree. Place the tree into the hole. Plant at the same soil level the tree was originally planted in. Firm the soil and organic matter around the tree's root system.
Apply 3 to 4 inches of mulch around the tree's base to keep the soil moist and help keep weeds back. Use bark chips or peat moss.
Water the tree thoroughly after planting. Keep the soil around the Japanese maple tree moist. The tree enjoys moist soil and does not tolerate drought well. The Japanese maple is susceptible to a conditions called "scorch" when it does not receive enough water or is subjected to hot winds. The leaves appear dried. Apply water regularly to prevent or treat scorch on the tree.
Apply 1 cup of fertilizer in the spring after planting the Japanese maple tree. Use a well-balanced fertilizer, such as a granulated mix of 10-10-10. Fertilize the maple tree once per year. Water the fertilizer completely into the soil.
Prune the Japanese maple tree lightly each spring. Remove all dead or diseased branches. Shape the tree as needed to allow air flow. Remove lower branches that impede access under the tree.