Grafting Japanese Maples


Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) is a small tree that grows well in shaded or semi-shaded areas of the garden. In areas with cool summers, the Japanese maple can be grown in full sun. The unique feature of the Japanese maple is the intense orange and red feathery foliage. They are often seen in Japanese style gardens and prefer rich moist soil. Grafting Japanese maples is done to combine two desirable characteristics into one tree, for example, disease resistance and foliage color.

Grafting Japanese Maples

Step 1

Choose a time to graft your Japanese maples in late winter when the Japanese maple trees are about to come out of dormancy and tiny new buds are visible on the leaf nodes or areas along the branches where the leaves will appear.

Step 2

Define the place you want to make the graft on the base plant and where you want to cut the branch off the plant with desirable top growth characteristics. Both the area that you cut from the base plant where the graft will be made and the branch you cut from the top plant (the scion) should be as close to the same size as possible because you want them to grow together and produce one plant. The area just inside the bark is called the cambium, and these areas must match almost exactly when the scion is placed into the cut section of the base plant. Select stem sizes no bigger than a pencil, if possible.

Step 3

Cut the scion from the top growth plant and immediately place in water. Cut the area of the base plant where you want the graft to be attached and discard branch that was removed from the base plant. Use a very sharp clean knife to prevent damage to the cut areas.

Step 4

Cut a "V" section, or "saddle," into the top end of the branch located on the base plant where the scion will be attached. Then, cut the scion into another "V" that will fit inside the "saddle." Carefully trim the scion so the cambium or layer just below the bark sections will match up exactly. Insert the scion into the saddle as quickly as possible. Be sure that the area inside the saddle is clean with no cutting residue inside the bottom of the "V."

Step 5

Cover the graft or area where the scion and the base plant are now attached with grafting wax to seal the area and wrap with a layer of foil so you can easily tell where the graft is located while working around the plants. The Japanese maple tree will begin to sprout as weather warms and you should see new growth from the scion.

Things You'll Need

  • Very sharp knife or blade
  • Japanese maples
  • Grafting wax
  • Container that holds water
  • Source of water
  • Foil


  • Japanese Maple Tree Care
  • Grafting Fruit Trees and Ornamental Plants
  • Japanese Maple
Keywords: japanese maple, grafting japanese maple, how to graft

About this Author

Based in Rockdale Texas, Jim Gober has been writing garden-related articles for 25 years. His articles appear in several Texas newspapers including The Rockdale Reporter, The Lexington Leader, The Cameron Herald and The Hearne Democrat. He is a Master Gardener and Certified Texas Nursery and Landscape Professional. He holds bachelor degrees in English Writing from St. Edward's University and Finance from Lamar University.