How to Care for a Dwarf Red Japanese Maple Tree


The dwarf red Japanese maple tree is a deciduous variety planted in home landscapes as an ornamental feature. This maple variety is desirable for home gardens due to the eye-appealing red foliage that turns purple and yellow in color during the fall leaf change. The leaves have a long pointed lobe with a lacy appearance, not typical of other maple varieties. Dwarf red Japanese maple trees are hardy to plant in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 through 8 where they reach a height and spread of 20 feet.

Step 1

Prepare a planting location for the dwarf red Japanese maple that receives full sun to partial shade and a well draining soil. Dwarf red Japanese maple trees require a minimum of six hours direct sunlight to maintain the red foliage color. Test the soil pH to verify it is acidic with a 3.7 to 6.5 pH.

Step 2

Amend the soil pH by working ground rock sulfur into the planting soil to lower the pH or limestone to raise the pH. Add 2 to 3 inches of organic compost to the soil and work it in at the same time making pH amendments. Apply 1/2 inch of water to the soil and let it rest for two weeks.

Step 3

Plant the dwarf red Japanese maple in a hole that is 2 to 3 times wider and slightly deeper than the root ball. Amend the removed soil by mixing in even amounts of organic compost. Add a layer of organic compost to the bottom of the hole so the top of the root ball is at ground level when set into the hole.

Step 4

Apply 1 inch of water to the soil area over the dwarf red Japanese maple root ball. Provide supplemental water at least once a week to moisten the soil to a depth of 10 to 14 inches. Dwarf red Japanese maple trees grow best when the soil remains moist during the growing season.

Step 5

Place a 3-inch layer of bark mulch over the root ball area of the tree leaving a 3- to 6-inch gap between the start of the mulch and trunk of the tree.

Step 6

Fertilize the dwarf red Japanese maple tree with a shrub fertilizer each spring after the first growing season. Follow the fertilizer instructions based on the size of the tree.

Step 7

Prune the dwarf red Japanese maple tree in early fall to remove dead, damaged or diseased branches. Remove branches that cross to prevent rubbing. Prune branches to remove those with a narrow angle or are twisted and growing in the wrong direction. Do not remove more than one-third of branch growth each season.

Step 8

Monitor the tree for an infestation of aphid insects. Control aphid problems by spraying the tree with water to remove the insects and applying an insecticidal soap.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil pH test
  • Ground rock sulfur
  • Limestone
  • Water
  • Organic compost
  • Shovel
  • Bark mulch
  • Shrub fertilizer
  • Pruning clipper
  • Insecticidal soap


  • University of Florida: Japanese Maple
  • Arbor Day Foundation: Japanese Red Maple
  • Tree Help: Japanese Maple Tree
Keywords: grow Japanese maple, dwarf Japanese maple, plant dwarf maple

About this Author

Jennifer Loucks has over 10 years of experience as a former technical writer for a software development company in Wisconsin. Her writing experience includes creating software documentation and help documents for clients and staff along with training curriculum. Loucks holds a Bachelor of Science major from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls specializing in animal science and business.