Japanese Maple

Japanese Maples are small, deciduous trees that are grown as ornamental specimen trees in many gardens in the UK. They have beautiful shape, form and colour. Many acers such as Japanese Maples grow very slowly and stay small, so they are perfect for gardens where space is at a premium. If you don't think you have the space for a tree in your garden, this could perhaps be one that you could squeeze in.

Growing Japanese maples:

Japanese maples grow slowly and will usually be between 1.2 and 8m wide and high, depending on cultivar. Smaller varieties can be grown in rather small spaces and even in a large container. As long as they are given a sheltered location and protected from late frosts and cold winds, they are hardy trees and can survive in most gardens that are not too exposed.

Japanese maples are fairly tolerant when it comes to soil pH and conditions but they prefer a slightly acidic, sandy, well-drained, humus-rich loam and will not come well with very wet, very dry or alkaline conditions.

The cultivars that have red or purple-hued leaves will need some sun to fully develop their dark and vibrant colours, while variagated varieties need partial shade to prevent their foliage from being scorched. Green forms tolerate a position in full sun but they will be best in some light dappled shade.

The root systems of most acers are close to the surface and quite delicate so you should take care to avoid damaging them and try to keep competition to a minimum. If you are growing more than one, try not to place them too close together. Mulching every couple of years with a well-rotted manure or garden compost is a good idea.

Smaller varietals are perfect for growing in containers. Plant in loam-based compost with a good percentage of organic matter yet allows good drainage. You should try to keep the compost evenly moist but not soaking wet. You will need to re-pot every two or three years to a bigger container. The ideal times to do this are either April or September. Wrap the containers in bubble wrap to keep the roots from freezing in the winter months.

If pruning is required, this must be done when the trees are fully dormant between November and early February. Maples bleed sap from pruning cuts at other times of year.

Why grow Japanese maples in the garden?

Japanese Maples are great for adding interest as an under-storey for deciduous trees in a wilder garden, or as individual specimen pieces suitable for even the very smallest of spaces. There is a great variety of colours and foliage types and shapes available and so there will be an acer suitable for almost every planting scheme.

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Acer palmatum