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How to Prune a Lion's Mane on a Japanese Maple

A Lion’s Head Japanese maple is similar in form to other Japanese maple trees but has curled, green foliage that fits tightly against the branches and resembles the hair of a lion’s mane. The entire crown of the tree, where the leaves are located, is considered the lion’s mane. Though you may assume the lion’s mane must be pruned to a specific shape, techniques similar to those used on other trees are acceptable.

Allow the lion’s mane on the Japanese maple to grow freely, if the limbs and foliage have no issues. A Lion’s Mane Japanese maple doesn’t require a lot of pruning to thrive. Don't prune the tree if it is in perfect health and in a location where it has plenty of space to grow.

Cut away problem areas during the dormant winter season, beginning in late fall of each year. Branches infested with insects, have signs of disease (spotting or oozing), or have dead wood should be cut from the tree. Small branches by the trunk can be removed with pruning shears. Larger branches can be sawed off with a pruning saw.

Remove very small branches that grow up inside the lion’s mane, or crown. These branches and their foliage can lead to disease, according to Washington State University. Cut them off while they are small enough to remove with shears.

Trim the tree when it becomes obtrusive. If allowed to grow unchecked, the Lion’s Mane Japanese maple's spread may widen, blocking sunlight from other plants in the landscape or shielding other features of the yard. Cut away the longest branches and those that are obstructing other items. Alternatively, trim back an entire side of the tree. Cut back every limb in that area back by one-fourth of its length.

Maintain the natural shape of the Lion’s Mane Japanese maple. According to the University of Illinois, the natural flow of the tree is a vase-like shape. Trim the mane to keep a more vertical than horizontal shape.

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