How to Care for Japanese Maples


Japanese maple trees (Acer palmatum) come in about 400 different varieties and are native to China, Japan and Korea. The Japanese maple is a deciduous tree prized for its attractive red, green and two-toned foliage. Most Japanese maple trees grow best outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 9, enduring minimum winter temperatures down to minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit. The Japanese maple enjoys partial shade, moist but well-draining soils and some protection from high winds. Despite their delicate appearance, Japanese maples are easy to maintain and care for.

Step 1

Water your Japanese maple deeply three times each week during the first growing season after planting it or if the tree is planted in a container. Water established Japanese maples deeply twice each week throughout the spring and summer.

Step 2

Keep a 4-inch layer of bark mulch around your Japanese maple tree. Spread the mulch on the ground around the tree so that it's about 2 inches away from the trunk.

Step 3

Feed your Japanese maple tree once each year in the spring with a slow-release 10-10-10 NPK (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) fertilizer. Spread the fertilizer granules on the ground over the tree's root zone at the dosage rate recommended on the label.

Step 4

Prune to shape your Japanese maple tree in the early fall or late summer, thinning out crowded growth by making cuts just above a healthy bud. If you're removing an entire branch, cut it off just in front of the collar, which is the raised ridge on the base of the branch where it meets the trunk. Prune from the center of the tree outward to the branch tips.

Step 5

Reduce but don't stop watering your Japanese maple tree in the fall. Gradually reduce watering to once each week in the fall, continuing to water the tree up until the first hard frost.

Tips and Warnings

  • Avoid fertilizing your Japanese maple tree when it's stressed by drought, over-watering, disease or pests. Doing so will stimulate the tree and can harm it even more.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden hose
  • Bark mulch
  • Slow-release 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer
  • Pruning tools


  • Blue Ridge Bamboo LLC: Planting and Care of Japanese Maples
  • Eastwoods Nurseries: Care of Japanese Maples

Who Can Help

  • Garden Action: Japanese Maple Care
Keywords: Japanese maple tree care, grow Japanese maples, Acer palmatum

About this Author

Sarah Terry brings 10 years of experience writing novels, business-to-business newsletters, and a plethora of how-to articles. Terry has written articles and publications for a wide range of markets and subject matters, including Medicine & Health, Eli Financial, Dartnell Publications and Eli Journals.