Native to Japan, Korea and China, Acer palmatum is a species to which most Japanese Maples belong. It includes a rich variety of deciduous shrubs or small trees with graceful habits, elegantly cut leaves and extraordinarily colorful foliage, particularly in the fall when the leaves warm up to dazzling shades of golden-yellow, red-purple and bronze, before shedding to the ground.
- Easy to grow, Japanese Maples are cold-hardy, remarkably adaptable to soil and climatic conditions, require little maintenance and are worthy featured positions such as lawn specimens or near patios where their spectacular leaf color changes throughout the year can be admired.
- There are countless dwarf Japanese Maple varieties which are perfectly suited to container planting. Since many Japanese Maples are slow growers, medium-sized varieties could also be considered for container planting, provided you are aware that they will outgrow their pots after a few years and will need to move to the garden.
Japanese Maples - Container tips
- Most Japanese Maples are hardy to zone 5. However, when grown in a container, they are more sensitive to cold. If growing your Japanese Maple in zone 5, make sure you protect them in winter. The roots of maples in pots are vulnerable to frost over winter, so wrap your container with a sheet of bubble wrap, held in place with garden twine.
- Select a site that is sheltered from cold winds, where your Japanese Maple can enjoy morning or late afternoon sun. Usually the best leaf color is obtained in partial shade, although full sun can be tolerated. The green varieties of Japanese Maples take full sun very well, though they may slightly sunburn in particularly hot situations. Variegated cultivars prefer partial shade and need protection from the blistering afternoon sun. The red varieties need significant sunlight to color well while yellows require more shade.
- Plant your Japanese Maple in a loam-based compost, which enables good drainage and has a high level of organic matter. Keep the compost evenly moist, but not soaking wet.
- Minimum fertilization is required to keep a nice leaf coloration. Feed in spring and early summer with a slow-release fertilizer or liquid feed.
- Your Maple will need repotting into a slightly bigger container every couple of years. Mid spring or late summer are perfect months to do this.
- Japanese Maples need little pruning. If pruning is necessary, prune during the dormant season and avoid pruning in spring when the sap is running. Remove badly-placed or crossing shoots to encourage a lovely branch pattern. If you need to reduce height and width, follow long branches back to a side branch and pruning it out at this point.
When it comes to selecting the right Japanese Maple, the task may become daunting as there are many varieties to choose from. Below is a selection of the best or most distinctive Japanese Maples that could become the highlight of your containers. Many have been acknowledged by the Royal Horticultural Society as plants of outstanding excellence for garden decoration through its Award of Garden Merit (AGM).