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How to Care for a Dwarf Red Japanese Maple Tree

By Jennifer Loucks ; Updated September 21, 2017
Leaves on a dwarf red Japanese maple tree

The dwarf red Japanese maple tree is a deciduous variety planted in home landscapes as an ornamental feature. This maple variety is desirable for home gardens due to the eye-appealing red foliage that turns purple and yellow in color during the fall leaf change. The leaves have a long pointed lobe with a lacy appearance, not typical of other maple varieties. Dwarf red Japanese maple trees are hardy to plant in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 through 8 where they reach a height and spread of 20 feet.

Prepare a planting location for the dwarf red Japanese maple that receives full sun to partial shade and a well draining soil. Dwarf red Japanese maple trees require a minimum of six hours direct sunlight to maintain the red foliage color. Test the soil pH to verify it is acidic with a 3.7 to 6.5 pH.

Amend the soil pH by working ground rock sulfur into the planting soil to lower the pH or limestone to raise the pH. Add 2 to 3 inches of organic compost to the soil and work it in at the same time making pH amendments. Apply 1/2 inch of water to the soil and let it rest for two weeks.

Plant the dwarf red Japanese maple in a hole that is 2 to 3 times wider and slightly deeper than the root ball. Amend the removed soil by mixing in even amounts of organic compost. Add a layer of organic compost to the bottom of the hole so the top of the root ball is at ground level when set into the hole.

Apply 1 inch of water to the soil area over the dwarf red Japanese maple root ball. Provide supplemental water at least once a week to moisten the soil to a depth of 10 to 14 inches. Dwarf red Japanese maple trees grow best when the soil remains moist during the growing season.

Place a 3-inch layer of bark mulch over the root ball area of the tree leaving a 3- to 6-inch gap between the start of the mulch and trunk of the tree.

Fertilize the dwarf red Japanese maple tree with a shrub fertilizer each spring after the first growing season. Follow the fertilizer instructions based on the size of the tree.

Prune the dwarf red Japanese maple tree in early fall to remove dead, damaged or diseased branches. Remove branches that cross to prevent rubbing. Prune branches to remove those with a narrow angle or are twisted and growing in the wrong direction. Do not remove more than one-third of branch growth each season.

Monitor the tree for an infestation of aphid insects. Control aphid problems by spraying the tree with water to remove the insects and applying an insecticidal soap.


Things You Will Need

  • Soil pH test
  • Ground rock sulfur
  • Limestone
  • Water
  • Organic compost
  • Shovel
  • Bark mulch
  • Shrub fertilizer
  • Pruning clipper
  • Insecticidal soap

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.