Japanese maples have a variety of leaf colors ranging from green to purple during the growing season. Japanese red maples get their name from the color of the leaves during the autumn. Red maple leaves turn a bright red before falling from the tree. Japanese red maples range from bushy, short trees to tall trees with strong silhouettes.
There are over 400 varieties of Japanese maple tree, many with red foliage or red growth wood. One of the best known Japanese red maples is the Acer palmatum, often called the Bloodgood. Although considered a red maple, the leaves of the Bloodgood are more purple than red on red stems. The leaves turn bright red in fall. Another variety that produces spectacular red foliage in the fall is the Acer palmatum, or Osakazuki maple.
Japan ranges from sub-tropical at the southern end of the island chain, near Okinawa, to temperate in the north. Hokkaido is known for its snows, and paintings or block prints of snow covered maples are a staple of traditional Japanese art. Japanese maples tend to do best in climate zones 5 through 8. Temperatures much colder than minus 20 degrees Farenheit can severely damage the roots of a Japanese maple tree.
Japanese maple need adequate water to thrive. Underwatering is a common problem with maples. You should feel the soil about 1/4 inch below the surface. Give your tree several inches of water when the soil about 1/4 inch down starts to feel dry. Lack of water can cause the edges of the leaves of your Japanese maple to look burned.
The proper amount of light for your tree will depend on the type of tree you have. All trees will do well in partial sun and partial shade. Some varieties of Japanese red maple will suffer from leaf burn if exposed to direct sun. These types do better in shady locations. Other varieties require full sun to thrive. If you are selecting a variety to plant, select one that will work with the light in the desired location.
Fertilize your Japanese red maples in the early spring. The best time to fertilize is after the first new growth has begun. Use compost or a balanced, slow release tree and shrub fertilizer. Be careful not to overfertilize when using chemical fertilizers. Japanese red maples can be susceptible to root burn with some types of fertilizers.