Crash course: The art of Japanese maple care

Spring is in full bloom, and with it comes a warm rainbow of Japanese maples. Acer Palmatum is known in Japan as kaede, (“frog’s hands”) and momiji (“baby’s hands”) because of their foliage. Growing widely across northeast Asia, these maples are now exported to western countries as well.

The Japanese maple is a tree packed with history—from its regular appearance in Japanese art to its inclusion in poetry. With its ability to adapt to different climates, it’s also commonly used in the art of bonsai, or growing miniature trees.

If you haven’t planted your own Japanese maple yet, have no fear! While fall is typically the best time of year to plant, spring can work just as well. Consider planting in an area that will have sun only part of the day and will be protected from strong winds. Keep in mind that these stunning leaves are delicate! Water your maple well to begin, and then continuing with regular watering as time passes.

So what’s the best way to care for your Japanese maple throughout the year?

Spring. Spring can sometimes be a vulnerable time of year for your early-leafing maple due to the possibility of late frosts. If a late frost is on the horizon, keep your Japanese maple covered and cut back on watering until warm weather creeps back in.

Summer. It’s important to keep your roots insulated throughout the summer to avoid water evaporating too quickly. Two and half inches or so of hardwood mulch should keep your roots protected. Water deeply at least twice a week, depending on your climate and how young your tree is. If leaf-tip burn occurs, it could mean your Japanese maple is getting too much or too little water.

Fall. Early fall is a great time of year to prune your maple as well as plant new maples. This gives their roots a chance to fully establish themselves before winter arrives and the ground freezes. Keep your maple mulched throughout the fall to protect the roots for winter.

Winter. Keep watering your Japanese maple throughout late fall and until the ground freezes in the winter. Three inches or so of mulch will help protect your maple’s roots throughout winter as well. If you experience heavy snowfall, gently brush it off of your maple’s branches to take weight off.

Need help picking out a Japanese maple for your garden and finding the perfect spot to plant it? Stop by GSCO. We’ll be happy to help!