Planting Japanese Maples


The Japanese maple (Acer palmatum), named after its country of origin, grows to about 25 feet wide and tall. The leaves can be pink, deep green, red or almost black with a reddish tinge. Japanese maples can be planted in spring or fall. Because of their unique spreading habit, Japanese maples are planted as points of interest in the landscape, often near the entry to a house or garden. Japanese maples can also be grown outdoors in pots.

Step 1

Choose a well-drained location with at least six hours of sun each day for planting Japanese maples. The optimum location will have shade in late afternoon. Japanese maples can also grow in partial shade, but the lack of full sun may affect leaf color.

Step 2

Dig a hole the same depth as the rootball and 2 1/2 times as wide. Mixing 50 percent compost with the bottom 2 inches of soil will help to nourish the roots, but it is not required.

Step 3

Position the root ball in the center of the hole, with the top of the ball 1 to 2 inches above ground level.

Step 4

Backfill the hole, forcing out air pockets by pressing on the soil as you add it.

Step 5

Water the newly planted Japanese maple slowly to allow the water to seep to the roots and not run off. Water the tree every two weeks through the summer if there is no saturating rainfall.

Step 6

Spread a 3-inch layer of mulch around the base of the tree. Japanese maples like moist soil, so replenish the mulch annually or as needed. Keep the mulch at least 6 inches away from the trunk of the tree.

Step 7

Apply a fertilizer for acid-loving plants in late May and again in early September. Apply it according to the manufacturer's instructions and at the drip line (a circle on the ground below the tips of the widest branches).

Step 8

Prune to remove dead or broken branches as they occur. Cuts should be on a 45-degree angle. A broken branch can be cut about 6 inches from the break to ensure all of the injured area is removed.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel or spade
  • Compost (optional)
  • Mulch
  • Fertilizer
  • Pruners


  • Japanese Maples Care Guide
  • Virginia State University Cooperative Extension
  • Washington State University
Keywords: Japanese maple, maple trees, Japanese maples

About this Author

Barbara Raskauskas is a certified e-learning specialist and certified Microsoft Office specialist. She has written web content, technical documents and course material for a decade. Raskauskas now writes how-to's, product reviews and general topics published on several websites, including Demand Studios.