How to Plant & Grow a Japanese Maple Tree

Updated April 17, 2017

Japanese maple trees (acer palmatums) are easy to plant and grow, provided you apply thought to their location in the garden. They will grow well in USDA zones 5 through 9, and withstand winter temperatures of around -6.67 degrees Celsius. Choose from different types of Japanese maple tree. The Palmate group, such as the "Bloodgood" variety, has upright branches and deeply divided leaf lobes. The Dissectum group, also known as the "lace leaf," includes the popular "Crimson Queen" variety and normally has a weeping or cascading form.

Choose the right growing spot for your Japanese maple tree. Pick a site that offers adequate drainage and is slightly acidic for best results.

Dig a hole two to three times wider than the container the Japanese maple came in, and two to three times deeper than its root ball. Put the removed soil from the hole around the outside.

Mix 1/3 to 1/2 part organic soil, such as mushroom or tea compost, with the soil you removed from hole, making sure to disperse any clumps.

Remove your Japanese maple from its container and gently scratch the surface of the root ball with a knife to loosen the feeder roots, taking care not to damage the root system.

Put the rootball into the planting hole, ensuring that the top third of it is above ground level. To achieve the correct height, you can add or take away soil mixture at the bottom of hole. By stepping back from the tree you will be able to work out if it is in the right position.

Backfill the planting hole with the soil mixture making sure you remove air pockets. Soak the area with water when the hole is half full, then carry on backfilling until you reach the top edge of the rootball. Taper the mixture to existing ground level.

Build a water retaining boundary around the outer perimeter of the hole, to catch water from rainfall during the first two growing seasons and allow the plant to establish itself without overwatering. You can remove this boundary after this stage.

Water the plant thoroughly, then apply a layer of shredded wood mulch or bark (around two inches) around it. An alternative is pine straw (around four inches). Leave a space of at least two inches between the mulch and the trunk to reduce the risk of damage and disease.

Stake your tree if necessary; this is normally only required for taller tree varieties. Use one long stake driven firmly into the ground crossing the trunk of the tree at an angle a foot or two above ground level. Use a piece of cloth or section of rubber water hose to tie the stake loosely to the trunk. For very tall trees, use the triple stake method; drive three shorter stakes at a 45 degree angle into the ground, evenly spaced beyond the outer perimeter of the hole. Use wire or nylon string to tie the stakes to the trunk.

Ensure that your Japanese maple receives the right amount of sun and shade; their natural habitat is at the edges of woodlands, in forest sunlight. Watch out for leaves burning in extremely hot summers.

Maintain the health of the tree with careful watering; a consistent water supply is required in the first few years after planting, but avoid over-watering. During dry periods, check the moisture levels of the soil.

Use an organic compost to fertilise the Japanese maple following springtime growth.

Prune the Japanese maple during the winter months, if desired. Stick to trimming any stray or unsightly branches; don't overdo it. Japanese maples are supposed to have a natural rather than a formally pruned appearance.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Organic soil
  • Gardening knife
  • Water
  • Watering can
  • Shredded wood mulch or bark
  • Stake, cut to desired length (optional)
  • Piece of cloth or section of rubber hose (optional)
  • Wire or nylon string (optional)
  • Pruning knife (optional)
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About the Author

C. Giles is a writer with an MA (Hons) in English literature and a post-graduate diploma in law. Her work has been published in several publications, both online and offline, including "The Herald," "The Big Issue" and "Daily Record."