The Japanese Maple Tree

The biological name of the Japanese Maple Tree is Acerpalmatum, meaning “bloodgood.”It is a very popular tree both in its native Japan and in North America, with between 800 and 1000 different varieties thought to exist. These are not indigenous varieties but cultivars which have been bred through grafting. It is a popular ornamental plant with many collectors, and it is well-suited to bonsai. The Japanese prefer green colored leaves which change to red in the fall while in the United States there is a preference for red leaves and other colorful varieties.

The Japanese Maple Tree comes in a great many different sizes as well as colors, and they do well in diverse settings. Sometimes the leaves have what we think of as a maple shape but many times they do not. Colors range from light to dark green and every shade of red--light, bright, medium, burgundy, and blackish. There are also several shades of purple leaves. The Japanese Maple Tree is not at all fragile, and is in fact, considered a hearty tree that grows well in a wide variety of environments. These trees very rarely have any damage from pests.

A Japanese Maple Tree, can be very small, such as the size you might want to grow in a pot on the deck or very tall, as in a 20-foot shade tree. Japanese Maples like fertile soil that is a little on the moist side. In very dry areas they should be planted where they will get shade in the afternoon. You should also wait to plant in the spring until there is no more danger of frost. Growing is best in zones 5-8. Young trees should be staked because a Japanese Maple Tree has extensive foliage which can bend the branches. Pruning is no problem and you can prune to whatever size or shape you like or is most convenient.  Although it is possible to start a Japanese Maple tree from seed, it is best done by grafting. It can take up to three years for a seed to sprout. The trees themselves also grow slowly--usually under a foot each year.

Being of the ornamental variety and quite colorful, Japanese Maple Trees are springing up all across America in front yards and in landscaped gardens. If you are thinking you’d like to plant one or several in your own yard, don’t let the number of varieties scare you off. Talking to the folks at a local garden store or nursery can give you an idea of which ones might be best planted in your area.

There are around 25- 35 varieties of the Japanese Maple Tree readily available at nurseries and gardening centers or on the internet. Among the most popular ones is the “Butterfly,” which has light green leaves with white edges, and can turn to pinks or red colors in the fall. It is of the shrub variety, growing only 4-5 feet tall. “Fireglow” and “Emperor One” are newer varieties, both of which were cultivated for their fiery, dark red leaves, which are even more beautiful in the evening light of sunset. Another Japanese Maple Tree which is now often seen in yards is the “Corollonim,” which is known for its spring leaf color--a remarkable orange-pink.