Skip to Content

Red Dragon Japanese Maple Care Guide

The Red Dragon Japanese Maple grows to a height and width of about 10 feet. It features vibrant red, intricately cut leaves and grows slowly. This sturdy maple thrives in zones 5 to 9.

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 ideal soil for a Red Dragon Japanese Maple is airy and rich in compost. Ensuring good drainage is crucial, as standing water can cause root rot. Make sure no water pools around the planting area.

Before planting, test the soil’s pH using a pH test kit. Aim for a slightly acidic environment (pH 6.2 to 6.5), as Japanese Maples struggle in alkaline conditions. If your soil’s pH is over 7.0, consider applying a soil acidifier.

Prepare a planting hole that’s double the size of the maple’s root ball. At the bottom, add 1-2 buckets of compost that is free from disease and pests, blending it with the local soil. When placing the tree in the hole, ensure the root ball’s top is even with the ground level.

Combine the local soil with an equal amount of compost and fill the space around the roots carefully, avoiding covering the tree’s trunk. Finally, water the maple with 1-2 gallons of water.

Sunlight Requirements

The Red Dragon Japanese Maple requires 4-6 hours of direct sunlight daily. In zones 5 to 8, it can thrive in full sunlight throughout the day without the risk of leaf scorch. However, in zone 9, it’s best to plant it where it gets morning sunlight and afternoon shade, as the intense sun in this region can cause the leaves to crisp up or burn.

Growing this maple in full shade will adversely affect its growth. The tree will produce fewer leaves and branches, become unhealthy, and may ultimately perish.



Water the Red Dragon as soon as the top 2 inches of soil around it feel dry. Start with at least 1 gallon of water for each watering session; for larger trees, you might need 2 gallons or more, particularly for those that are newly planted.

After the tree has been in the ground for 1-2 years and is well-established, you can ease up on the watering. At this point, the tree will be able to source water from the surrounding soil on its own.

For Red Dragons grown in pots, consistent watering is crucial. Ensure the soil never dries out beyond 25%. Always use pots with drainage holes to prevent waterlogging. Water thoroughly until the soil is fully moist, allowing any excess to drain away.

red dragon japanese maple care

Red Dragon Japanese Maple

Fertilizer and Mulching

For Red Dragon Japanese Maple, the ideal fertilizer is one with a balanced mix, meaning equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It’s beneficial if the fertilizer also includes magnesium and iron.

Slow-release pellet fertilizers are the top choice. With these, you only need to apply once at the start of spring, and your tree will be nourished throughout the season. This method also minimizes the risk of giving the tree too much fertilizer.

Beyond mineral fertilizers, you can nourish your maple with organic materials. Applying a compost mulch around the soil is a great way to do this. Just ensure the compost layer is no more than 2 inches thick and keep it away from the tree’s trunk.

Common Problems

A common issue with Red Dragon Japanese Maple is leaf spot, caused by various pathogens that infect young leaves, leading to brown spots that may evolve into holes over time.

To prevent this, ensure the maple is planted in an area with good air circulation and plenty of direct sunlight. Additionally, treat the leaves in spring with a copper-based fungicide solution, which is highly effective against fungal infections.

Pests pose another risk, with insects that feed on leaves or sap from young branches being the most prevalent. Should you notice a significant insect presence, promptly treat the tree with a solution of horticultural oil to protect it.

Red Dragon Japanese Maple vs Bloodgood Japanese Maple

red dragon japanese maple care vs bloodgood japanese maple

Red Dragon Japanese Maple vs Bloodgood Japanese Maple

The first key difference between the Red Dragon Japanese Maple and the Bloodgood Japanese Maple lies in their leaf structure. Red Dragon’s foliage is finely dissected into 5-7 lobes, with further subdivisions in each lobe, making its foliage exceptionally intricate and visually appealing. Bloodgood’s leaves also feature lobes but lack further divisions, presenting a simpler appearance.

Size and growth rate mark the second notable distinction. Bloodgood can tower up to 25 feet in both height and width, significantly larger than the Red Dragon, which typically reaches up to 10 feet in both dimensions. Additionally, Bloodgood grows more quickly compared to the medium growth pace of the Red Dragon.

An added benefit of the Red Dragon is its adaptability to warmer climates, thriving in zone 9 where Bloodgood might struggle. This makes Red Dragon a more versatile choice for gardeners in hotter regions, as Bloodgood is less suited to areas beyond zone 8.

Inaba Shidare Japanese Maple vs Red Dragon Japanese Maple

red dragon japanese maple care vs inaba shidare japanese maple

Inaba Shidare Japanese Maple vs Red Dragon Japanese Maple

The Inaba Shidare Japanese Maple is set apart from the Red Dragon Japanese Maple by its distinct crown shape. The Inaba Shidare reaches heights of up to 8 feet and spans 10 feet wide, creating an elegant umbrella-like silhouette. The Red Dragon, in contrast, grows to a height and width of 10 feet each, resulting in a more mound-like form.

Another difference lies in the foliage color. The Red Dragon boasts vibrant red leaves that maintain their hue for most of the season. The Inaba Shidare, however, sports burgundy to purple leaves, diverging from the Red Dragon’s red palette.

Despite these differences, the two maples share several characteristics. They both exhibit a weeping growth pattern and have deeply dissected leaves. Additionally, they are versatile in the U.S. climate, thriving in both full sunlight and partial shade.