The rich colors and varied structural forms of Japanese maples make them a versatile pick for use in the landscape. They are a relatively small-growing tree--with most cultivars not exceeding 25 feet in height at maturity--and some dwarf cultivars reaching only 3 feet tall. This natural scale makes them good understory trees and ideal as specimen trees to bring color or draw attention to unique aspects of the landscape.
Site Japanese maples where they can enjoy well-drained soil and where water will not pool around the roots. Plant on mounds, burms, terraces, raised beds and borders in locations with clay or other poorly drained soils.
Intersperse red Japanese maples amongst larger trees to fill in the understory and inject focal points of color and varied leaf textures into partially shaded woodland landscapes. Japanese maples combine well with magnolia, linden, other species of maple and both ornamental flowering or fruit bearing trees such as plum or cherry. Plant at sufficient distances so the root balls do not touch and the tree canopies won't intermingle when they reach their mature size.
Use red maples in pots and planters at least twice the size of the root mass. For dwarf cultivars this can be a pot as small as 2 feet across. For larger cultivars large fixed wood, stacked stone or concrete planters 6 to 8 feet in diameter are appropriate. Use planters and containers to to flank entryways, porches, garden gates and around pools, fountains, ponds or other water features.
Plant Japanese maples in the center or back portion of garden beds and borders to add height contrasting color and texture. Surround the trees with flowering perennials, uniquely colored foliage perennials, ornamental grasses, small shrubs and annuals to create a lush and varied carpet below and around the red maple.