How to Protect Japanese Maples in the Winter


Japanese maples are prized for their small size and their foliage, which turns red when exposed to sun and bright red before dropping in late fall and winter. The tree may grow as tall as 20 feet, though dwarf varieties are treated as shrubs. Because a Japanese maple has a tendency to leaf out early, you may have to protect the tree from late winter frosts. You must also protect a young tree from harsh winters until it becomes established. The best time to wrap a tree is in the fall before the first hard freeze of the year.

Step 1

Measure the height of your Japanese maple with a tape measure.

Step 2

Cut a length of commercial tree wrap cloth to fit around the dimensions of the Japanese maple to insulate it.

Step 3

Wrap the bottom of the fabric around the trunk a few inches above the ground. Staple the tree wrap cloth together so that it will not trail on the ground. The wrapping should be loose enough that it will not cut off the circulation to the trunk, which is known as girdling.

Step 4

Wrap the cloth around the tree and over its top loosely. Take care not to break the branches or damage them. Staple the cloth closed every 6 inches.

Step 5

Measure the dimensions of your wrapped Japanese maple using a tape measure and cut a square of burlap fabric large enough to wrap around the wrapped tree.

Step 6

Wrap the bottom of the burlap around the trunk of the tree and staple the burlap together. The wrapping should be loose enough to avoid cutting off circulation through the tree trunk, but tight enough that it does not fall to the ground.

Step 7

Wrap the burlap around the tree and staple it together just as you stapled the first layer. Fold the top of the burlap over the top of the tree, and staple it together.

Step 8

Water your Japanese maple well before the first freeze to guard against winter water loss.

Step 9

Mulch around the base of the tree by spreading a layer of straw with a garden fork to protect tender roots from freezing.

Step 10

Remove the wrap in early spring by pulling the staples loose and unwrapping first the burlap, then the commercial wrapping cloth.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not leave the fabric on your Japanese maple too long. Doing so can restrict the tree's growth and create a sheltered environment for insect pests.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Commercial tree wrap cloth
  • Scissors
  • Stapler
  • Burlap
  • Garden hose
  • Straw
  • Garden fork


  • University of Minnesota Extension: Protecting Trees and Shrubs Against Winter Damage
  • Gardening Life Magazine: How to Wrap a Tree
  • University of Florida Extension Service: Japanese Maple

Who Can Help

  • Landscape Ontario: Japanese Maples
  • University of Missouri Extension: Wraps or guards can lessen winter damage to young trees
Keywords: overwintering Japanese maples, protect Japanese maple, Japanese maple tree, tree wrap

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."