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How to Propagate Japanese Maple Tree Cuttings

By Jennifer Loucks ; Updated September 21, 2017
Red maple leaves.
Japanese maple image by Horticulture from Fotolia.com

Red Japanese maple trees are classified as a deciduous broadleaf and planted in home landscapes as an ornamental feature. The tree reaches a height of 20 feet and is hardy to plant in USDA growing zones 5 to 8, where it produces an attractive fall foliage color that turns from green to yellow and purple. Propagate red Japanese maple trees by taking softwood stem cuttings in late spring or semi-hardwood stem cuttings in midsummer.

Cut a 6- to 8-inch new growth stem section from the Japanese maple tree with a sharp knife. Softwood and semi-hardwood stems propagate best for this tree variety. Softwood cuttings are immature branch growth that snaps when bent in half. Semi-hardwood cuttings are branch growth beginning to mature and harden.

Prepare a rooting soil for the Red Japanese maple by mixing equal quantities of peat moss, coarse sand and perlite to make a well-draining medium. Add enough water to the medium to moisten it without oversaturating. Fill a rooting tray with the moist soil mixture.

Remove all leaves from the bottom half of the red Japanese maple cutting and dip the lower cut end of the stem in powdered rooting hormone to stimulate root growth. Stick the cutting into the rooting tray soil to a depth of 3 inches. Firm the soil around the cutting to hold it in place. Space the maple stems in the tray so the leaves do not touch.

Mist the cuttings with water and cover the tray with a clear plastic bag to create a humid greenhouse environment. Place the cutting tray in a warm location with filtered sunlight. Do no set the tray in direct, bright sunlight.

Open the covering each day to refresh the air. Mist the cuttings to keep the humidity level high. Monitor the soil moisture to make sure it does not become too dry or wet. Grow the cuttings in the covered tray until the roots reach 1 inch in length.

Transplant the Red Japanese maple cuttings to individual growing containers filled with a well-draining potting soil. Grow the container uncovered in a protected environment for a minimum of one year before transplanting outdoors.


Things You Will Need

  • Sharp knife
  • Peat moss
  • Course sand
  • Perlite
  • Rooting tray
  • Rooting hormone
  • Water mister
  • Plastic bag
  • 4-inch growing containers
  • Potting soil
  • Isopropyl alcohol


  • Wash a sharp knife with isopropyl alcohol before each use. Do not make propagation cuttings with a pruning clipper, as this might crush the stem and lower the rooting success rate.

About the Author


Jennifer Loucks has been writing since 1998. She previously worked as a technical writer for a software development company, creating software documentation, help documents and training curriculum. She now writes hobby-based articles on cooking, gardening, sewing and running. Loucks also trains for full marathons, half-marathons and shorter distance running. She holds a Bachelor of Science in animal science and business from University of Wisconsin-River Falls.