How to Grow Japanese Maple Trees


Native to Asia, Japanese maple trees' shiny bark and lacy leaves provide year-round interest, but their bright red, yellow and purple leaves make a showy statement in fall. The trees work well as specimens or accent plants in yards, rock gardens and patio pots. They achieve 25-foot heights and develop round or irregular habits, depending on the cultivar, according to the UConn Plant Database. The Crimson Queen produces a weeping form, while Versicolor appears upright. Japanese maple trees are relatively disease and pest-free but remain susceptible to leaf scorch in high temperatures and high winds.

Step 1

Prepare a planting site that has well-drained, acidic soil. Japanese maple trees prefer sun, but will grow in partial shade.

Step 2

Remove the Japanese maple tree from its container. Use a shovel to dig a planting hole that is one-and-a-half times wider and deeper than the rootball. Place the rootball in the hole, then replace the soil. Build up the soil 3 to 6 inches above the grade to ensure the crown is not in wet soil.

Step 3

Spread a 3-inch layer of coarse, bark mulch around the tree's base, and keep it 4 inches from the trunk to prevent crown rot and insect damage. The mulch stabilizes the soil, regulates soil temperature and retains moisture.

Step 4

Water newly planted trees frequently and deeply with a soaker hose. Provide established trees with 1 to 3 inches of water each week during the growing season.

Step 5

Prune branches in late summer to maintain shape and health. Use shears to cut branches less than 1/2 inch in diameter with pruning shears and branches larger than 1/2 inch with loppers or a pruning saw.

Step 6

Remove and destroy twigs infested with leaf spot and tar spot. Trees infected with the bacterial disease leaf spot prevent spots, black veins and leaf-tip dieback. Trees infected with tar spots develop yellow spots that turn black.

Tips and Warnings

  • Japanese maple trees do not color as well in shaded sites. Do not apply nitrogen fertilizers. The added nitrogen promotes soft new growth susceptible to leaf scorch.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Mulch
  • Shears
  • Loppers
  • Pruning saw


  • UConn Plant Database: (Acer Palmatum) Japanese Maple
  • East Texas Gardening: Japanese Maples For Glorious Fall Color
  • Warnell School of Forest Resources: Watering Trees
  • University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Newspaper Articles: Pruning Japanese Maples
  • Oregon State University Online Guide to Plant Disease Control: Maple--Bacterial Leaf Spot and Dieback

Who Can Help

  • Ohio State University Extension: Leaf Diseases on Ornamental Trees and Shrubs
  • University of Missouri Extension: Leaf Scorch of Ornamental Trees and Shrubs
  • Virginia Cooperative Extension: Japanese Maple
Keywords: grow Japanese maple, Japanese maple trees, mulch Japanese maple, prune Japanese maple, tar spot maple, leaf spot maple

About this Author

Renee Vians has been writing online since 2008. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism and language arts certification from the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Her articles have appeared on eHow, Garden Guides and a variety of other websites.