Tips on Japanese Maple Tree Care

As is obvious from the name, the Japanese maple has its origins in Japan. It is so small that it rarely ever grows taller than 30 feet. It is identified by its leaf color – a deep red that shows up in the fall, making it really attractive as a decorative tree in this season. These trees usually grow in clumps rather than isolated trees. However, these trees need a lot of care. Mentioned below are a few tips on Japanese maple tree care in different seasons.


Over 1,000 varieties of this tree are in existence, each one distinct by its leaf variation. The most popular among them are Emperor, Butterfly, Burgundy Lace, Red Pygmy, Garnet and Tamukeyama.

Japanese maple

Tips on Japanese maple tree care in different seasons

While growers may know that Japanese Maple requires afternoon sun, not everyone who grows this tree knows that it needs specialized care in each season. Here are some pointers to the care you need to take in each season:


In the spring, maple trees are prone to the maximum damage. This is the time when it gives forth leaves with a slight warm weather aiding the process. In many regions where this tree is grown, after a warm period frosts occur, which can prove dangerous for this tree, particularly if young. To prevent frosts from affecting this tree, keep it covered when you know it’s going to frost. When the weather normalizes, begin watering and feeding it as before.

Humid or hot spring weather can also be dangerous for your Japanese Maple, as it brings with it fungal problems, like Fusarium, Botrytis and Pseudomonas. The ill-effects of frost can be countered by circulating good air, practicing good soil drainage and sanitation methods.


This is the only season in the whole year where you might see a host of pests, though harmless. If you experience an extremely hot summer, you will see the leaf tips of your Japanese Maple curling up and dying. Not only is this an ugly sight but it is an indication to you that your tree needs to have a little shade, after all this is a shade-loving tree. If you find it re-leafing in the same season, you know that the hot summer is nothing to worry about.

To beat the summer heat, do the following:

  • Mulch your trees using three inches of shredded hardwood bark so that the roots of your maple tree are kept warm and water does not evaporate from around it.
  • Water the tree heavily twice each week, particularly if it is newly-planted or is grown in a container.
  • Though you may be more than just a little concerned to see your maple leaves curl up and die, don’t panic. It could be due to a variety of reasons, such as: overwatering, under-watering, an underdeveloped root system, excessive fertilizer, among others. Though it helps to have the tree experience afternoon shade and water it well, yet often you might have to continue with it until the season ends. If the maple becomes absolutely bare, it means it is highly stressed, but don’t let this worry you. Their secondary lot of leaves will soon emerge. However, the message for you is that you are under-watering it. So, reach out and pour a lot more water into your maple tree.

During the summer, when your tree is completely stressed out, don’t assume you can ease the situation by fertilizing it. This is because fertilizer is a stimulant which your stressed out tree doesn’t need right now. Instead of this, why not give it kelp meal or something similar to trace elements? You should also check for other problems like disease or pests which are rampant in this weather. If you can nip these problems in the bud, it will help your maple lead a stronger life.

As the summer comes to an end, give your tree lesser water than before and see how this impacts its color.


This is the finest season to plant and nurture your Japanese Maple. Four weeks before the earth begins to freeze, you should plant the maple so that its root has enough time to grow before winter. Once planted, surround your plant with a lot of mulch–say, three inches–and water it adequately until winter arrives. This will help keep the roots warm during the winter and protect their growth in the early part of Spring.

Autumn isn’t just the right time to sow this plant but also the right time to prune your maple tree. Look for dead branches or any other ugly features and get rid of them now. If your tree is a bit too dense, use the time now to open it a little and let in more air and light. By doing this, you can see the branch structure and its tracings.

Japanese maple tree care

Get rid of small twigs that perhaps grow on the trunk and the larger branches along with dead wood. Work your way up from the base of the tree and once done, check the tree’s shape. If you don’t find it appealing, see what else you can do to improve its look. Before getting rid of any twig or dead wood, study the incision you want to make and imagine the tree without it. Choose to make an incision just above a bud or in front of the ridge where a branch is locked with another.

Only if your autumn becomes dryer than usual should you lessen the quantity of water your tree receives during this entire season. With the season ending, ensure that your maple tree has a lot of mulch around it. Also, take care to pluck all dead leaves off your maple tree.


The Japanese Maple is a hardy kind of wood, so it can withstand harsh winters. However, if it snows heavily, your tree may have to bear a lot of snow on its branches, causing them to snap. If you experience heavy snowfall, get rid of it gently if you see any of it on the branches of your Japanese Maple tree. You can prevent this by not letting the tips of the branches freeze till the ground or they will find it difficult to move and cause the branches to crack.

If your tree sports some ice, leave it in place as it freezes on the branches. if you tamper with them now, the entire branch may break, the tips may crack and the bark may be badly damaged. To reduce the impact of the harsh winter on these trees, get rid of dead leaves that cling to the tips of the branches before it begins snowing.

During the winter, ensure that your trees receive adequate water in the previous season and till the ground freezes. For better air circulation at this time, remember to mulch using three inches of shredded hard bark. Keep it a little away from the tree trunk for better air circulation.

If you live in an area that gets very gusty in the winter, take care of your¬†Japanese maple tree by ensuring that it is protected from strong winds by choosing a safe growing spot. Here’s a short video on how to prune it:

Japanese Maple furniture

In Japan, this variety of wood has many applications, such as chests, flooring, cabinet-making, furniture, decorative plywood, factory flooring, interior trim, figured and decorative veneer, paneling wooden shoes, spindles for railing and millwork. Its distinctive grain, color and texture render it excellent and outstanding for furniture.

Author: John Clax

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