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Japanese Maple Care Guide

The leaves of the Japanese Maple are one of the most mesmerizing things in the plant world. This is the main reason why Japanese maples are so popular. In this article, you will learn everything you want to know about this wonderful tree.

Japanese Maple Care Tips

  • Plant the Japanese Maple in well-drained and nutritious soil.
  • Provide 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
  • Water after the substrate is 2 inches dry.
  • Prune off dead branches in early spring.
  • Fertilize Japanese Maple once a year with slow-release pellets.
  • Spray the leaves with fungicide for fungal diseases.
  • Transplant in late winter when the tree is dormant.
Japanese Maple Care

Inaba Shidare Japanese Maple

Plant profile

Care/requirements Japanese maple
Latin name Acer palmatum
Hardiness: USDA zone 5-9
Size: Height 25 ft. and Width 20 ft.
Lifespan: over 100 years
Shape: Wide canopy
Type: Deciduous, tree.
Light requirements: 4-6 hours of direct sun per day. Partial sun.
Soil: Loam or amended soil.
Soil pH: 6.0-6.8 Grow best in slightly acidic soil.
Watering: First 1-2 years after planting when the soil is more than 2” dry.
Growth rate: Medium (1 foot per year)
Leaves color: Red, green, yellow, purple.
Best time for planting: Early spring.
Pruning: Spring
Spacing: 20 feet apart (center to center).
Transplanting: Early fall or early spring.
Fertilizer: Balanced NPK, slow-release.
Deer resistant: No
Problems: Pests, diseases.


The best place to plant Japanese maple is where there is no stagnant water. This means that it should not be planted close to a pond or a drainpipe from a roof, etc.

Also, be sure that your yard does not have a high water table and that the ground is well-drained. If the soil is clayey, it should be improved with organic matter.

There should be at least a few hours of direct sunlight per day at the planting site. There should also be at least 5 feet from the planting hole to other plants or buildings.

The best time to plant is in early spring. The tree may still be in hibernation or already out of it, but the important thing is that the leaves have not yet begun to emerge.

Dig a hole twice the size of the maple’s root system. Add a few buckets of compost or peat to the dug soil and mix well. Fill the planting hole by half with this mix.

Gently pull the maple out of the pot and place it in the hole so that the surface of the potting soil is level with the garden soil. Do not deepen into the ground where the trunk connects to the roots.

Fill all the empty space in the hole with the prepared potting soil and lightly compact it. Water the newly planted Japanese Maple with 2 gallons of water.

Read more: How To Plant Japanese Maple Trees?

Light requirements

Regardless of the variety, Japanese maple needs at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day. In this case, the tree will develop properly and the color of the leaves will be bright and saturated.

But the best is when the tree receives direct sun during the first half of the day. Then it can remain in light shade and receive reflected sunlight.

Japanese Maple can also tolerate direct sun throughout the day. Not all varieties will tolerate full sun in the same way, but in general, they can withstand it. The exception is zone 9, where some varieties need afternoon shade.

What you don’t want to do is plant maples in full shade. If the tree doesn’t get direct sun at all, its crown will be less branched.

Also, the leaves will not have the bright color that Japanese maples are so famous for. Moreover, diseases will affect the tree much more often.

Read more: How Much Sun Does A Japanese Maple Need?

Japanese Maple Care

Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Filigree’


Japanese maple adapts easily to different types of soil and does not have any special requirements in this regard. The main thing here is good soil drainage.

Since a large part of the soils are clayey, they should be improved before planting. To make the soil more suitable, organic matter should be added to it.

You can use soil conditioner, compost, or peat. All of these materials work well as long as they are of good quality. Use organic matter from reliable suppliers.

Before planting, mix the native soil in the planting hole with the organic matter you have chosen and then plant the Japanese maple. The amount of improver for one maple should be at least 1-2 buckets.

As for sandy soil or loam, this type of soil does not need improvement. A Japanese maple will have enough water in such type of soil as it does not like wet feet.

Read more: What Is The Best Soil For Japanese Maples?


Water the Japanese Maple when the soil is more than 2 inches dry. Use at least 1-2 gallons or more of water for each tree, depending on variety and size.

Avoid watering maple trees on a schedule as this can lead to overwatering. Check the soil moisture with your finger and if it is a few inches dry, water the tree.

The best way to water is with a drip hose. This will allow the water to slowly penetrate to the roots and there will be no loss of water.

If you water too often, or if you use too much water, the roots can get soft. This will result in root rot, which can lead to the loss of the plant. To avoid this, allow the soil to dry a few inches between waterings.

Newly planted Japanese Maples are most sensitive to underwatering. For the first two years, constantly monitor the moisture content of the soil and water as recommended above.

After 2-3 years, watering may be reduced. Water only in the summer heat and drought. Also, reduce watering in winter.

Read more: How Do You Know When A Japanese Maple Needs Water?


The best time to prune Japanese Maple is early spring. As soon as the buds begin to push, it’s pruning time. This time of year is good because by the end of the season you won’t even see that the tree has been pruned.

It is most common to remove the central leader to reduce the height of the tree. Sometimes small side branches need to be removed to make the crown more regular. And finally, the deadwood also needs to be removed.

When pruning a Japanese maple keep in mind that you should not remove more than a third of the whole crown in one year. If you decide to trim a Japanese maple a lot, do it over a couple of years.

Always use a sharp, good-quality tool to make the cuts as neat as possible. Also, be sure to treat the tools with alcohol before pruning.

Read more: How Do You Trim A Japanese Maple Tree?

Japanese Maple Care

Acer palmatum ‘Ukigumo’


Japanese maple is not too often affected by the disease. But sometimes problems can occur. Most of the time it is a leaf disease.

The first common disease is leaf spot. Various pathogens can cause diseases that leave brown or black spots. Small holes may also appear on the leaves.

The second disease of maple is powdery mildew. It is also a fungal disease that causes the leaves to darken and become covered with a light gray coating.

To get rid of the disease, spray the maple with an aqueous solution of fungicide that contains copper. Repeat the spraying after a while, but this time use a multi-purpose fungicide.

Also, regularly remove some of the smaller branches inside the crown so that air can easily pass through. And never overwater Japanese maples.

Read more: How Do You Treat Fungus On A Japanese Maple?


The most common pest of Japanese maple is aphids. They are small insects that are spread by ants and feed on the sap of the tree.

They usually parasitize on the upper young leaves and leaf petioles. Their secretions fall on the lower leaves, resulting in fungal disease.

To get rid of the aphids, spray the leaves with an aqueous solution of horticultural oil or neem oil.

The second pest is caterpillars. They often create cocoons on the leaves that cause them to curl. They are also very damaging to young leaves.

To get rid of this pest, use a biological pesticide. For example, Bacillus therengiensis works well; it can kill the caterpillars in a few days.

Read more: How To Get Rid Of Bugs On Japanese Maple?


The best fertilizer for Japanese Maples is a slow-release multi-purpose fertilizer. Such products are usually made in the form of granules.

It is best to choose a product that has a 6 month release period. In this case, one fertilizer per year is enough and the maple will be supplied with minerals for the whole growing season.

As for the composition, avoid fertilizers that contain a lot of nitrogen. It is better if the three basic elements (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) are approximately the same amount.

The best time to fertilize is the first half of spring. By fertilizing with slow-release pellets at this time, the maple will have enough nutrition for the rest of the year.

Do not fertilize later than May, as the maple may become active over the winter, resulting in frost damage. For this very reason, do not fertilize in summer or fall.

Strictly follow the directions on the label and apply only the recommended amount of pellets. Over-fertilizing can cause root damage and leaf shedding.

Read more: What Is The Best Fertilizer For Japanese Maple Trees?

Japanese Maple Care

Acer palmatum ‘Okushimo’


The most suitable way to propagate Japanese Maple is by grafting. Although this is a complicated method, you can get a strong plant that will be a complete copy of the mother plant.

Cuttings can also be used to produce new plants that will have all the characteristics of the variety. But such trees are usually quite susceptible to disease. This means that a Japanese maple can be lost after a while if it is propagated by cuttings.

Propagation of Japanese Maple by seeds does not provide for the inheritance of varietal characteristics by seedlings. Most young maples will be common trees seen in the wild. Only a small proportion will inherit some of the characteristics of the mother tree.

Read more: Can You Propagate A Japanese Maple Tree?


The best time to transplant Japanese Maple is late winter or early spring. It is important that the tree is in a dormant state.

Replanting during the growing season or in the summer can cause the plant to die.

Dig up the maple as gently as possible to avoid damaging the roots. Step back from the trunk as many feet as the branches extend and only then dig.

The planting hole in the new location should be ready before you start digging the maple.

Quickly move the tree to the new location and place it in the hole at the same level as it was in the old location. Backfill the entire empty space with soil and fill it with 2 gallons of water.

Avoid pruning or fertilizing the maple after transplanting as this can cause additional stress.

If you have severely damaged the root system, shade the maple with netting. The netting should remain in place until fall.

Read more: How Do You Transplant A Japanese Maple Without Killing It?


Saturday 8th of July 2023

My Japanese Maple is about 27 years old. Seems to be shedding leaves as early as June. The bark has green mold. Not all over, but splashes of it on several thick branches. Will spraying with vinegar and water mixture work?

Igor Viznyy

Sunday 9th of July 2023

Hi Rebecca,

Avoid spraying maple with vinegar. Instead, spray it with a multi-purpose fungicide. Treat the leaves, bark, and where there is mold. Repeat the spraying after two weeks using copper fungicide.

Also, avoid overwatering the maple.