Although native to Japan and named "Japanese," Japanese maples are actually native to China and Korea as well. Japanese maples are grown as ornamental or specimen trees in many landscapes. The variety of species allows them to fit into many unusual landscape niches. Cultivating Japanese maples is, in many ways, similar to cultivating native maples.
There are many varieties of Japanese maple trees. Tree forms can range from rounded weeping maples to tall, upright maples. Different varieties have different colored leaves and shaped leaves. One variety, the coral bark, or Sango-kaku, has red bark that becomes brighter red as winter temperatures turn colder.
Japanese maples grow in a wide range of light. Although some Japanese maples grow in full shade, many also do well in partial sun. Many Japanese maples, especially smaller red leafed varieties, can be susceptible to leaf burn, as a combined result of a lack of water and too much sun.
Japanese maple trees are very tolerant of soil types. It can deal well with predominantly clay soil, high sand content, and primarily loam soils as long as the soil drains well. These trees can grow both in slightly acidic and slightly alkaline soil.
Leaves on Japanese maples are one of their most unusual features. Some leaves are deeply lobed and look much like a hand with fingers. Many varieties have red leaves, with some having leaves that turn purple in the summer. Many varieties, however, also have green leaves.
Japanese maples can range in size from around 6 feet tall to 25 or 30 feet tall. Dwarf maples often include rounded weeping maples, with upright maples often being taller. Many Japanese maples have a spread that is almost the same as their height, so a 6 foot tall weeping maple might have a spread between 5 and 7 feet.
Cultivation and Hardiness
Japanese maples grow in USDA hardiness zones 5b thorough 8. Japanese maples need a period of winter dormancy to remain healthy. However, extended temperatures below 20 F can damage root structures and kill these trees.