How to Grow Japanese Trees


Japanese trees are a small species from the maple family that grow well in the USDA Hardiness zones of 5 through 8. Many homeowners plant the tree as an ornamental feature, since they stay small with a maximum height and spread of 20 feet. The tree foliage is bright red during the summer growing season and turns to purple or yellow in the fall prior to the leaf drop date. Choose to plant Japanese trees during the dormant months to prevent root stress or damage.

Step 1

Plant the Japanese tree in an area that has a well draining soil and receives morning sunlight or filtered afternoon sunlight to prevent leaf burn in areas where the sun is scorching during the summer months. Test the soil pH prior to planting since Japanese trees grow best in an acidic soil of 3.7 to 6.5.

Step 2

Amend the soil two weeks prior to planting the Japanese tree by applying ground rock sulfur according to the package instructions to lower the pH, if needed. Work 2 to 3 inches of organic compost to a depth of 10 inches to increase the nutrient value and water draining properties.

Step 3

Dig a planting hole that is slightly wider than the depth of the root ball on the Japanese tree. Set the tree into the hole and pack the soil around the root ball so no air pockets remain.

Step 4

Water the root ball immediately after planting through a drip irrigation system. Continue to water the tree two to three times a week for the first month after planting. Provide supplemental water when the weekly rainfall is less than 1 inch to prevent stress on the tree.

Step 5

Apply 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch over the root ball area. Start the mulch 6 inches from the trunk to prevent moisture buildup that promotes stem rot. Refresh the mulch layer each spring to maintain an adequate layer.

Step 6

Apply a balanced ornamental tree fertilizer to the soil over the root ball each spring. Follow the package application rate based on the size of the tree.

Step 7

Remove damaged and dead branches in late fall once the Japanese tree becomes dormant. Use a clean pruning clipper or branch saw to remove the branches close to the trunk. Remove branches that are rubbing on each other or are growing in the wrong direction.

Step 8

Monitor the Japanese tree for the presence of an insect problem. Spray the branches with water and apply an insecticidal soap to control small aphid pests. Apply a chemical insecticide to control wood boring insects or scale insects forming cotton masses on the underside of branches.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil pH test
  • Ground rock sulfur
  • Organic compost
  • Shovel
  • Water
  • 5-Gallon bucket
  • Drill
  • Organic mulch
  • Balanced ornamental tree fertilizer
  • Pruning clipper
  • Pruning saw


  • University of Florida: Acer palmatum Japanese Maple
  • Arbor Day Foundation: Japanese Red Maple
  • Tree Help: Japanese Maple Tree
Keywords: grow Japanese trees, grow Japanese maple, plant Japanese tree

About this Author

Jennifer Loucks has been writing since 2000. She previously worked as a technical writer for a software development company, creating software documentation, help documents and training curriculum. She now writes hobby-based articles on topics including cooking, gardening, sewing and running. Loucks holds a Bachelor of Science in animal science and business from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.