How do you care for a Japanese maple tree?

The Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) is a deciduous Asian tree whose leaves turn a spectacular red or golden color in the fall. Some varieties can grow up to 25 feet (7.5 meters) tall, but there are smaller types available, including dwarf maples. The different types have a variety of leaf shapes and silhouettes. Japanese maples can be successful and eye-catching bonsai plants. They grow easily and do not require a great deal of care.

Japanese maples are best planted after the last frost of spring. The full-sized tree or shrub varieties will be happy in your garden, but smaller maples can be grown successfully in a planter or pot, as they have shallow roots. They need a partially shaded area and should be protected from the wind. These trees can grow even in poor soil, but they'll do best in loamy earth which contains a mixture of clay, sand and silt. Ideally, the soil should have a pH between 3.7 and 6.5.


Mature Japanese maples don't need to be watered much unless conditions are very dry (their shallow roots can't reach to deeper damp soil), although young plants may need extra water in the summer months. On the other hand, they don't like too much moisture around their roots, so be sure the soil has good drainage.

You may find that Japanese maples attract aphids, which will mottle their leaves. If you don't want to spray against the pests, you can try companion planting: petunias or nasturtiums tend to keep the aphids away.

Be patient; Japanese maples grow slowly, and it will take some time before they become full, wide-branched trees. Nonetheless, you can expect to have a beautiful autumnal display in the first fall after planting.