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The Best Japanese Maples for Shade

japanese maple image by Kathryn Palmer from

There are hundreds of varieties of Japanese maple, according to the Utah State University Extension. Most of these are hybrids that must be purchased from specialty nurseries. Almost all Japanese maples grow best in full sun or partial shade. Those that prefer partial shade call for afternoon protection from the sun. There are a few species of Japanese maple that are especially good for shade.


Bloodgood is one of the most popular of the upright forms of Japanese maple, according to the University of Florida IFAS extension. The tree can grow as tall and wide as 20 feet. Bloodgood has bright red, palmate leaves regardless of sun or shade. The leaves turn slightly green only in summer heat. The trunk is silvery and muscular looking. Bloodgood leaves turn purple-red in the winter before dropping from the tree.

Crimson Queen

Crimson Queen is popular because of it's lacy leaf shape and color that remains bright red even in shade, according to Pacific Coast Maples. The margins of Crimson Queen extend deeply into the center of the leaf. The tree is a low grower that rarely gets taller than 10 feet and takes on a cascading form as it ages. Crimson Queen is recommended by the U.S. National Arboretum. It has received an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticulture Society.


Osakazuki is one of the oldest cultivars of the Japanese Maple around. Plant catalogs dating to the mid-1800s list Osakazuki. In contrast to most Japanese maples that have red foliage, Osakazuki has green foilage for most of the year. The canopy turns red in the fall before the tree loses it's leaves. At this point, the foliage turns bright red. The tree reaches 10 foot tall in 10 years and may reach 20 feet tall at maturity.

Glowing Embers

In 2005, the state of Georgia recognized Glowing Embers as a Gold Medal winner. The tree requires full shade but produces intense foliage. The name Glowing Embers comes from the fact that four or more shades of red may be represented in the leaf tones on a single branch of the tree. The overall effect of this is that the tree appears to be on fire. The tree can reach more than 30 feet tall and wide.

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