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Red Dragon Japanese Maple Care Guide

Red Dragon Japanese Maple reaches 10 feet in height and width. It has bright red, deeply dissected leaves, and a slow growth rate. This maple is hardy and can be grown in zones 5 through 9.

Red Dragon Japanese Maple Care Tips

  • Plant Red Dragon in a place where it will get 4-6 hours of direct sunlight a day.
  • Provide drained soil with enough organic nutrients.
  • Water the maple as soon as the soil surface has dried 2 inches from the top.
  • Put a 1-inch layer of mulch around the trunk.
  • Apply granular fertilizer in early spring.
  • Spray the leaves with neem oil to get rid of pests.
  • Prune maple tree in spring or fall.
  • Plant Red Dragon 10 feet apart from other plants.
red dragon japanese maple care

Red Dragon Japanese Maple

Plant profile

Care/requirements Red Dragon Japanese Maple
Species: Acer palmatum
Hardiness: USDA zone 5-9
Size: Height 10 ft. and width 10 ft.
Shape: Mound.
Type: Deciduous, tree.
Light requirements: 4-6 hours of direct sun per day.
Soil: Loam or amended soil.
Soil pH: 5.5-7.0 Grow best in slightly acidic soil.
Watering: When the soil is 1-2 inches dry. Don’t water in the winter.
Growth rate: Fast
Leaves color: Red
Pots: Needs a large pot and frequent watering.
Best time for planting: Early spring and early fall.
Pruning: Fall
Spacing: 15 feet apart (center to center).
Transplanting: Early fall or early spring.
Fertilizer: Balanced NPK formula, once per year.
Deer resistant: No
Problems: Pests, diseases.

Planting and soil

The best soil for Red Dragon Japanese maple is loose soil with lots of compost. It is important that the substrate be well-draining as stagnant water can lead to root rot. Also, no surface water should collect near the maple planting site.

Check the pH before planting. You can do this with a soil ph test kit. Make sure that the soil is slightly acidic (pH 6.2 to 6.5) since Japanese maple does not tolerate alkaline soil. If the soil pH is above 7.0, buy a soil acidifier.

Dig a hole twice the size of the maple root ball. Fill the bottom of the hole with 1-2 buckets of disease- and pest-free compost and mix with native soil. Add soil acidifier if needed. Place the tree in the hole, the top of the root ball and the surface of the garden soil should line up.

Mix the native soil with the compost one to one and fill the entire space around the roots, do not bury the trunk of the tree. Afterward, water the maple with 1-2 gallons of water.

Sunlight requirements

Red Dragon Japanese maple needs at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day. From zones 5 to 8 this tree can grow in full sun all day and will not burn. Only in zone 9 is the best place to plant in the morning sun and afternoon shade, because in full sun in this climate the leaves can become crispy or get burned.

If this maple grows in full shade, it will have a negative effect on its development. Leaves and branches will be less than usual, the tree will be sick and sooner or later die. The only time this maple needs full shade is right after planting, but only if it is done in the heat of summer. By fall, the shade needs to be removed.

If you plant Red Dragon in dappled shade with no direct sunlight at all, the leaves will not be bright red, but rather greenish-red.


Red Dragon should be watered as soon as the soil around it is 2 inches dry. Use at least 1 gallon of water when watering; if the tree is large, use 2 gallons or more. This is especially important for newly planted trees. In the first year after planting, it is best not to let the soil dry out more than 1 inch.

Once the tree is established (after 1-2 years), you can stop watering. The tree will draw water from the ground on its own. But if you want your maple to thrive, it’s best to water it all the way through. But only do this when it is not raining and during droughts.

As for a potted Red Dragon, it needs to be watered regularly. Don’t let the soil in the pot dry out more than 10%. Be sure to use containers with drainage holes. Use enough water to get all the soil in the pot moist and any excess water should drain out.

red dragon japanese maple care

Red Dragon Japanese Maple

Fertilizer and mulching

The most suitable fertilizer for Red Dragon Japanese maple is one with a balanced formula. This means that the fertilizer should contain equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It is also good if the product contains magnesium and iron.

As for the form of fertilizer, slow-release pellets are best. In this case, you have to apply it once a year in spring and the tree will receive nutrients all season long. Also in this case you will avoid a potential over-fertilization.

In addition to mineral fertilizers, maple can also be fed with organic matter. You can do this by mulching the soil with compost. The layer of compost should be no thicker than 2 inches. Also, do not cover the trunk of the tree with compost, otherwise, rot may occur.

Common Problems

One of the major problems of Red Dragon Japanese maple is leaf spot. There are many pathogens that settle on young maple leaves and begin to damage them. As a result, after a while, brown spots appear on the leaves, which can turn into holes.

To avoid this you need to plant the maple in a place with good air movement and direct sunlight. Also, spray the leaves in the spring with an aqueous solution of fungicide with copper, it is very effective against fungal diseases.

The second potential threat is pests. The most common pests are insects that feed on the leaves or sap from young branches. If you see a large number of insects on your tree, spray it immediately with an aqueous solution of neem oil.

Red Dragon Japanese Maple vs Bloodgood Japanese Maple

The first difference between Red Dragon Japanese Maple and Bloodgood Japanese Maple is the shape of the leaf. Red Dragon has leaves dissected into 5-7 lobes, the lobes also have dissections. Bloodgood on the other hand also has the leaf split into lobes, but the lobes are not split. As a result, Red Dragon has much more beautiful foliage than its competitor.

red dragon japanese maple care vs bloodgood japanese maple

Red Dragon Japanese Maple vs Bloodgood Japanese Maple

The second difference is that Bloodgood is much larger than Red Dragon, it can reach up to 25 feet tall and the same width. Whereas Red Dragon only grows to 10 feet in height and width. Also, Bloodgood has a fast growth rate while Red Dragon has a medium growth rate.

A slight advantage of Red Dragon is its ability to grow in zone 9. Bloodgood, on the other hand, does not grow well in hot climates, so it is not recommended to grow it south of zone 8.

Inaba Shidare Japanese Maple vs Red Dragon Japanese Maple

Inaba Shidare Japanese Maple differs from Red Dragon Japanese Maple in the shape of the crown. Inaba Shidare grows up to 8 feet tall and 10 feet wide which means it has an umbrella shape. Red Dragon, on the other hand, grows 10 feet tall and wide, so its shape is more like a mound.

red dragon japanese maple care vs inaba shidare japanese maple

Inaba Shidare Japanese Maple vs Red Dragon Japanese Maple

Red Dragon also has bright red leaves which last almost all season. Inaba Shidare has leaves whose color tends to be burgundy or even purple rather than red.

In many ways these maples are very similar, they have a weeping growth habit and deeply dissected leaves. Both can tolerate most of the U.S. climate and grow well in full sun as well as partial shade.