The Japanese maple, a landscape specimen widely grown for its broad-leaf foliage, comes in a range of colors. This durable tree adapts to many different climates. Of its more than 300 cultivars, ranging from dwarf varieties to towering shade specimens, most are slow-growing..
Japanese maple trees grow best in U.S. plant hardiness zones 5 through 8 (much of the country, except the hottest and coldest regions) in soil that is sandy or loam. It can tolerate a wide pH range, from 3.7 up to 6.5. The tree is also tolerant of different light conditions, growing well in either partial shade or full sun.
Pests and Diseases
While the Japanese maple tree is a hardy tree, it is susceptible to aphid infestations. Gardeners can control the pests with insecticidal spray or can allow predatory insects to control the population. Scales--cottony maple scale in particular--can present a minor problem for the Japanese maple tree, but is effectively controlled with an horticultural oil or spray. Japanese maple trees that are nutritionally deficient or that have sustained excessive exposure to the sun or wind are prone to the disease scorch.
A soaker hose can deeply and slowly water the tree during excessively dry periods. Otherwise, the soil should be kept moist during the summer months, and the base covered with mulch. The Japanese maple requires fertilization in the early spring and pruning annually in the late fall or winter, when it is dormant.
Gardeners who like the strong red foliage of the Japanese maple might prefer the Bloodgood cultivar. Likewise, Dissectum atropurpureum produces leaves that are deep red, but they fade over time. Some gardeners may find the bright green leaves of the Osakazuki appealing and dramatic, because the green leaves turn bright red in the fall.
Growth Rate and Use
Most varieties of Japanese maple trees grow up to 10 feet tall but can get as tall as 25 feet. If the tree is grown from seed, it will not produce red foliage in the summer. The Japanese maple can grow successfully as a container plant near a deck or in a landscape as a specimen plant.