How to Grow a Japanese Maple Tree


The Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) is an elegant garden tree that's available in dwarf and standard size, and in red, purple or green-leafed varieties. Japanese maples are not native to North America, but grow readily in hardiness zones 5B to 8. Plant a Japanese maple tree in the spring so the tree can adjust to its new environment before winter chills. The trees are hardy and require little care aside from watering and shaping.

Step 1

Select a site for your Japanese maple tree that offers part to full sun. These trees vary greatly in size; mature trees can reach 25 feet in height and spread, with much smaller trees available also.

Step 2

Dig a hole twice the size of the tree's root ball. Remove rocks, weeds and roots from the hole.

Step 3

Pull the Japanese maple tree from its container. Break apart the root ball with your hands, unwinding tangled roots. If you plant the tree with circled or tangled roots, they may strangle the tree by preventing nutrients from passing up to the trunk.

Step 4

Place the Japanese maple tree in the prepared hole so it sits in the same depth in the soil as it did in the container. Hold the trunk straight, and backfill the hole with soil.

Step 5

Water the newly planted tree until the soil compresses around the roots and becomes saturated with water.

Step 6

Create a watering ring around the base of the tree using bagged topsoil. Build a ring that's 4 inches tall by 4 inches thick. Water the newly planted maple tree by adding water to the ring. Apply 1 pint every day the first week, 1 quart every other day the second week, 2 quarts of water every three days the third week and 3 quarts of water once a week in the fourth week. Thereafter, water the tree only if its foliage seems limp.

Step 7

Prune the maple tree annually in the later winter or early spring, whenever frost danger passes. Clip off branches that crisscross other branches, those that grow downward or those that grow vertically up. Trim back the ends of long branches using anvil pruners, cutting off as much growth as you wish to maintain the tree's size.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Japanese maple tree
  • Water
  • Bagged topsoil
  • Anvil pruners


  • United States Forest Service: Japanese Maple
  • Texas AgriLife Extension Service: Planting a Tree
  • University of California: Japanese Maple Trees
Keywords: Japanese maple tree, growing trees, planting maple trees

About this Author

Based in Northern California, Elton Dunn is a freelance writer and nonprofit consultant with 14 years' experience. Dunn specializes in travel, food, business, gardening, education and the legal fields. His work has appeared in various print and online publications. Dunn holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English.