Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) is a small, spreading tree much loved for its vibrant autumn leaf colour. This deciduous tree, which can grow 4.5-6m high and 3-4m wide, is native to Japan, Korea and China. The leave colours are of yellow, red and maroon in autumn and some varieties, including ‘Bloodgood’ also have colourful spring growth.
As well as upright multi-branched trees, there are also weeping Japanese maples and varieties with highly dissected leaves. Check with your hardware or garden centre for advice and varieties that suit your local conditions. Here are a few to consider.
- Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’ A popular deciduous tree ideal as a feature tree in a small garden. It has a compact habit and dainty leaves that start of rich crimson-red in spring, turning to bronze-green in summer, and then finally to rich crimson-red in autumn.
- Acer palmatum ‘Bonfire’ As name suggests this tree is planted for its brilliant bright crimson foliage in spring gradually changing to mid-green, then scarlet in autumn. A small round habit tree which grows to around 3 metres.
- Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki‘ An excellent vase shape maple growing to around 5 metres. Its foliage is considered as one of the best autumn-toned maples with its green foliage turning fiery red in autumn.
- Acer palmatum ‘Oshio Beni’ A great tree to contrast against green foliage. It has brilliant red-orange foliage in spring, which darkens throughout summer and turns garnet-red in autumn. A fast growing deciduous tree to 5m with an arching habit.
- Acer palmatum Dissectum ‘Green Globe’ A great tree for a pot or as a feature tree in a small garden. A decorative rounded maple, it has bright green lace-like foliage that changes to yellow in autumn.
- Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum Orangeola’ A small maple (2m x 2m) full of character with its dense mounding habit and cascading branching structure. It has finely dissected foliage in bright orange/red in spring, turning green/red in summer and a fierce orange/red in autumn.
- Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum Inaba Shidare’ If you are looking for a dark foliage colouring this is it. It has deep purple foliage in spring and summer turning crimson/orange in autumn. A small robust maple known for its lacy, dissected leaves that make a stunning feature in any garden.
Japanese maples grow well in large containers and are well suited to growing in a pot in a sheltered courtyard. They team well with other Japanese plants including azaleas, hydrangeas and hostas.
Aspect Japanese maples need a sunny to partially shaded location with shelter from hot afternoon summer sun. As the leaves are fine and easily damaged, they can be burnt in hot sun or by hot, gusty winds especially in spring and summer, select a sheltered location to keep the leaves in good condition.
Soil These trees grow in a wide range of soils, having shallow roots they need reliable moisture but good free-drainage soil. They prefer a slightly acidic soil. Before planting add home-made compost and organic matter and/or Seasol Super Compost. In a container use good quality premium potting mix such as Seasol Advanced Potting Mix. Use organic mulch over the root area to help keep the soil cool and moist.
Climate Temperate to cold zones. In warm temperate they can be grown if given a suitable microclimate.