There are more than 1,000 species of Japanese maple trees, ranging from dwarf maples to ornamental varieties such as lace leaf maples. The Japanese red maple tree is distinguished by its foliage, which remains green in summer and turns a bright, showy red in the fall. Japanese red maples have a compact root system that does not compete with its neighbors. This makes it a good tree to plant in groups or as a companion tree. But because the roots are delicate, special care must be given to the tree to establish it and get it to thrive.
Select a site for your tree that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight and evening shade daily, and has loamy, well-drained soil.
Dig a planting hole that is the same depth as the root ball, and twice as wide.
Scratch deep furrows into the sides and bottom of the planting hole with a cultivating fork. Place compost and a balanced (10-10-10) granulated fertilizer into the hole and work it into the furrows by combing the soil with your cultivating fork.
Water the planting hole to work the compost and fertilizer into the soil approximately 24 hours before planting the tree.
Place the tree’s root ball into the planting hole. Fill in the space around the root ball, but do not cover the roots at the soil line.
Mix a solution of root stimulator according to package directions and pour on the roots to ease the shock of transplant.
Mulch over the roots with straw or pine straw to help hold in water.
Water your tree approximately 5 gallons weekly, or until soil is as damp as a wrung-out sponge, to help establish roots.
Fertilize once each spring with a balanced fertilizer before leaves emerge.
Prune in late fall with the branch loppers after the tree goes dormant. Remove any spindly, diseased or broken branches as well as branches that rub. Remove undergrowth to open up the canopy and reveal the structure of the tree.