Varying in size from large shrub to small tree, Japanese maple is a species with many variations. Many cultivars are available with different characteristics such as finely dissected leaves and weeping branches. Not all cultivars are fully hardy in zone 5 and may need protection in winter.
This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.
All common names:
- Residential and parks,
- Under utility lines
Tree or Plant Type:
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Mixed border,
- Small tree (15-25 feet),
- Compact tree (10-15 feet),
- Large shrub (more than 8 feet),
- Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8
- Acid soil,
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Alkaline soil
- Moderately Tolerant
- Moderately Tolerant
- Fall color,
- Attractive bark
Seasons of Interest:
- late spring,
- early summer,
- late summer,
- early fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
- Insect pollinators
Tree & Plant Care
Avoid pruning maples in spring as they are bleeders and will lose a large amount of sap.
Japanese maples do best in a partly shaded site with a consistent supply of water. Dry soils can lead to leaf scorch.
Disease, pests, and problems
Susceptible to leaf scorch, verticillium wilt, and anthracnose.
Scorch can be a problem in dry, sunny sites.
Native geographic location and habitat
Native to China, Japan and Korea.
Bark color and texture
The bark of the main trunk is usually smooth and gray. Younger stems are often shiny and may be red, green or purple and can be very ornamental in winter.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Leaves are in pairs (opposite) and simple. The leaf is deeply divided into 5 to 9 lobes They can vary a great deal by cultivar. Some cultivars have green leaves, while others have red or purple foliage. Leaves may be finely dissected, even to the point of appearing to be compound. Fall color will also vary by cultivar.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Small flowers open in late spring and may be red or purplish. Ornamental when viewed close up.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Fruit are winged seeds in pairs (samaras); 1/2 to 3/4 inch long.
Green, often maturing to red in fall. Mildly ornamental.
Cultivars and their differences
There are literally hundreds of cultivars of Japanese maples. They vary quite a bit in hardiness, size, leaf color and leaf type. The cultivars mentioned here are known to be successful in zone 5.
Bloodgood Japanese maple (Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood'): Rounded form growing 18 feet high and wide. Summer foliage is purple-red, changing to red in autumn. Leaves are the non-dissected type.
Crimson Queen Japanese maple (Acer palmatum 'Crimson Queen'): This is a weeping or mounded form, growing 6 feet high and 8 feet wide. Summer foliage is purple-red, changing to scarlet in autumn. Leaves are dissected (cutleaf) type.
Emperor I Japanese maple (Acer palmatum 'Wolff'): An upright, rounded mid-sized Japanese maple, growing to 18 feet high and 16 feet wide. Foliage is purple-red in summer, changing to scarlet red in autumn. Late to leaf out, so more tolerant of late frost.
Lion's Head Japanese maple (Acer palmatum 'Shishigashira'): Vase shaped, with deep green summer foliage, this compact cultivar reaches 15 fee high by 10 feet wide. Autumn color is golden to orange-red. Crinkled leaves make the foliage particularly interesting.
Orangeola Japanese maple (Acer palmatum 'Orangeola'): Highly dissected leaves are orange in spring, green during the summer and bright orange in autumn. A weeping form, this Japanese maple grows to 8 feet high and wide.
Tamukeyama Japanese maple (Acer palmatum 'Tamukeyama'): Another weeping or mounded form, growing 10 feet high by 12 feet wide. New foliage emerges crimson red then deepens to purple-red. Leaves are dissected (cutleaf) type.
Viridis Japanese maple (Acer palmatum 'Viridis'): A weeping form, growing 8 to 10 feet high and 8 feet wide. Foliage is cutleaf (dissected) and green. Fall color is gold to orange-red.