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How To Plant Japanese Maple Trees?

Proper planting of trees is the key to their successful growth for many years. This issue has many pitfalls that you should be aware of.

Plant a Japanese maple in a planting hole that is twice the size of the root ball. Mix the native soil with a soil conditioner and fill the hole partially with this soil mix. Next, place the Japanese Maple in the hole 1 inch above the garden surface.

Fill all the voids with soil and tamp down the soil a bit. Water the Japanese Maple with 1-2 gallons of water. Mulch the surface with 2-3 inches of organic matter.

This is a short algorithm for planting, but we’ll go over the steps in more detail below. I also encourage you to read the main article Growing Japanese Maples In The Garden to be aware of all the details.

How To Plant Japanese Maple Trees

The Japanese maple is planted correctly.

When to plant?

The best time to plant Japanese Maple is early spring or late winter. The ground should be thawed but the tree should not yet be in growth. By planting a tree that is still without leaves you will avoid possible trouble.

A second good time is early autumn. This is when the weather is mild enough to promote rooting. The main thing is to have at least 30-40 days before the first frost.

To plant better, choose a cloudy day instead of a sunny one. Better if it rained the day before, but if not then water the maple 1-2 days before planting. Also, the morning or evening is better than the middle of the day.

What you definitely don’t want to do is plant a Japanese Maple in the heat of summer. Conditions may be too harsh during that period and the tree just can’t handle extracting water from the ground and delivering it to the leaves.

As a result, the risk of losing the plant increases many times over.

Where to plant?

The best place to plant a Japanese Maple is in partial sun. It should get about 6 hours of sun in the morning. The rest of the time it can spend in the shade and receive only reflected sunlight.

Although most varieties can tolerate planting in full sun as well as full shade. But this will require specific care so it is better still to provide a few hours of direct sun during the day.

As for the soil, it is better that it be well-drained. If you have clay in your yard, be sure to improve it with a soil conditioner. In general, though, most soils are suitable for growing this species of maple.

Avoid planting the Japanese maple too close to a pond or stream as this can cause root disease. For this very reason, do not plant it close to where the water drains from the roof.

How to plant?

Before planting, dig a hole twice as deep and wider than the current root ball. Mix the soil you removed from the hole with the same amount of soil conditioner.

The best soil conditioner is a fine fraction of pine bark. But compost or peat also works well. The main thing is that the materials are of good quality.

How To Plant Japanese Maple Trees

The Japanese maple is planted too deep.

Return some of the improved soil to the planting hole. Next, place the maple so that the top edge of the rootball is 1 inch above the garden surface. Add more soil to the bottom of the hole if needed.

This is to make sure that the place where the roots and trunk connect is always a little higher than the ground level.

Fill the empty space in the hole with the prepared soil mix and lightly compact it. Do all planting steps as gently as possible to avoid damaging the roots.

After the job is done, water the maple with 1-2 gallons of water. After an hour, pour another gallon of water to soak in the soil.


If you planted a Japanese maple when it was already leafy and the sun was shining too hard, shade it. You can do this by using a garden umbrella. This will reduce the effect of the sun and increase the chance of rooting.

The shade over the maple should remain for at least a few weeks. If spring and summer are very hot then leave the shade until fall.

Be sure to mulch the root zone immediately after planting. This will reduce water loss from the soil and prevent the roots from overheating in hot weather.

The best mulch is pine bark, wood chips, pine straw, or compost. The layer of mulch should be about 3 inches. Avoid pouring mulch on the maple trunk, that is, volcanic mulching.

How To Plant Japanese Maple Trees

Avoid volcano mulching.

For the first two years after planting, constantly monitor soil moisture using a finger test. As soon as the soil is 2 inches dry, water the maple immediately. After this time, it will take root and watering can be stopped.

Avoid fertilizing the Japanese Maple at the time of planting. In the vast majority of cases, maples bought in a nursery have a whole year’s supply of fertilizer.

Adding more fertilizer is not doing the tree any good. Do not start fertilizing until the next year.

Also, never prune the tree in the first year after planting. Any pruning is additional stress and the tree is already suffering from transplant shock. So don’t make it worse.