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 fall when the leaves warm up to dazzling shades of golden-yellow, red-purple and bronze, before shedding to the ground.
- Easy to grow, Acer palmatum varieties are cold-hardy, remarkably adaptable to soil and climatic conditions, require little maintenance and are worthy of featured positions such as lawn specimens or near patios where their spectacular leaf color changes throughout the year can be admired.
- Acer palmatum varieties enjoy a rounded to broad-rounded habit, with a layered branching structure, and typically grow up to 10-25 ft. tall and wide (3-8 m). There are however countless dwarf Japanese Maple varieties which do not exceed 4-15 ft. (1.2-4.5 m). Some Japanese Maples have an upright form (Acer palmatum) while others enjoy a weeping habit (acer palmatum dissectum) with strong cascading weeping branches. Since most Acer palmatum are slow growers, they are perfectly suited to small gardens or large containers.
- Small pretty (but not showy) reddish flowers appear in umbrella-shaped clusters in spring and give way to small winged fruit (samaras) which ripen in early fall before being scattered by the wind.
- The foliage of palmate leaves resembles an open hand with outstretched fingers, with 5, 7 or 9 pointed serrated lobes. Based on leaf forms, Acer palmatum are divided into 5 groups:
Each leaf is divided more than three-fourths to the leaf base
Each leaf is divided into lobes, which are dissected into sub-lobes
Each leaf is divided from the tip to the base into narrow, straplike lobes
- Full sun or part shade lovers, Japanese Maples are easily grown in moist, organically rich, slightly acidic, well-drained soils. Best leaf color in partial shade, although full sun can be tolerated. The green varieties of Japanese Maples take full sun very well although 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. Leaf scorch can be caused by excessive exposure or lack of soil moisture. Mulch helps retain soil moisture and keep roots cool.
- Japanese Maples are widely used as specimen plants in cottage gardens, city gardens, rock gardens, as companion plants in mixed borders, or planted in large containers.
- Japanese Maples need little pruning. If pruning is necessary, prune during the dormant season and avoid pruning in spring when the sap is running. Fertilize in spring before the leaves emerge.
- Japanese Maples are easy to plant. They are shallow rooted and will readily transplant during the dormant season. They are not serious competitors with companion shrubs
- May be affected by horse chestnut scale, aphids, verticillium wilt.
- Propagate by grafting or softwood cuttings
The rich diversity of shapes, sizes, leaves and colors make Japanese Maples invaluable additions to the landscape, whether as specimen plants, complementing container plants, mixed with bedding or border plants, in shady courtyards or sunny patios.