Acer Palmatum, or commonly known as the Japanese maple, comes in many distinct shapes and sizes, with a height, spread and colour for every garden. They are easy to grow and they are perfectly happy in either the ground or potted. The common requirement is that they do prefer a sheltered and shady location. No matter how small your garden or courtyard, these graceful Acers are a joy to grow. Generally the Acer palmatum is small and slow growing, always with beautiful foliage and a very graceful habit. New leaves can range in colour from yellow / light green / lime green through to bright pink. Generally Autumn leaf colour is often bright yellows through to orange/red. 

  • Small, compact deciduous trees. Usually only reached 1-2m in the UK garden, so perfect for a large container in a small garden.

  • Foliage commonly green, yellow, burgundy and autumnal colours. 

  • Best planted October to March in a lightly shaded cool spot. Early autumn through winter. 

  • A small bit of pruning needed each year, but an easy job. 

  • Usually bought as grafted trees, but sometimes can be picked up bare rooted from a specialist. When buying, check for drying edges of the leaves, and avoid! Possible to grow from seed if you have time.

  • Soil type can be quite varied, as long as it is well drained and contains lots of organic matter such as compost. 

  • Acer palmatum – More shrub like, broader than they are tall.

  • Acer japonicum – Small spreading trees

Types and varieties of Acer palmatum

Acer palmatum atropurpureum

Purple Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum Wattez’, Acer palmatum f. atropurpureum) ‘Atropurpureum’ is a small tree of bushy habit, with deep purple leaves divided into about 7 lobes, and becoming red in autumn. Inconspicuous red-purple flowers in spring may be followed by winged, purple fruits.

Acer palmatum dissectum

Japanese maple ‘Dissectum’ – ‘Dissectum’ is a low-growing, mound-forming shrub to around 2m tall and 2.5m wide. Its deeply-cut leaves emerge green in the spring before turning shades of yellow, orange and red in the autumn. Purplish-red spring flowers are followed in autumn by bright red winged fruits.

Acer palmatum orange dream

Japanese maple ‘Orange Dream’ – ‘Orange Dream’ is a medium sized bushy deciduous shrub, to 3m, with leaf colour varying at different seasons, yellow in spring, greenish in summer, orange-yellow in autumn. Bark is bright green. Redddish-purple flowers may be followed by red fruits

Acer palmatum osakazuki

Japanese maple ‘Osakazuki’ Acer palmatum ‘Taihai’, Acer palmatum (Heptalobum Group) ‘Osakazuki’ – ‘Osakazuki’ is a large deciduous shrub of rounded habit. Leaves are relatively large, 7-lobed, green but turning to brilliant orange-scarlet in autumn. Flowers and fruits small, red

Acer palmatum bloodgood

Japanese maple ‘Bloodgood’ – ‘Bloodgood’ is a large bushy deciduous shrub with deep red-purple leaves with 5-7 slender-pointed lobes, turning red in autumn. Small purple flowers are followed by red fruits. One of the best purple-leaved Japanese maples

Acer palmatum sango kaku

Coral-bark maple, Japanese maple ‘Sango-kaku’, Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Sango-kaku’, Acer palmatum ‘Senkaki’, Acer palmatum ‘Cinnabarinum’. ‘Sango-kaku’ is a large deciduous shrub or small tree to 6m, with coral-red young branches bearing 5-lobed leaves which open pinkish-yellow, becoming green in summer and yellow in autumn. Flowers small, reddish.

Acer palmatum garnet

Japanese maple ‘Garnet’, Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum Garnet’, Acer palmatum ‘Garnet’ – ‘Garnet’ is a medium-sized deciduous shrub. Leaves with usually seven deeply dissected lobes, deep brownish-red throughout summer, slightly brighter in autumn. Small purplish flowers are followed by red fruits

Acer palmatum katsura

Japanese maple ‘Katsura’ – ‘Katsura’ is a deciduous shrub of erect growth with 5- to 7-lobed leaves, yellowish-orange margined with pink in spring, becoming green in summer and turning bright orange in autumn

Acer palmatum beni maiko

Japanese maple ‘Beni-maiko’ – ‘Beni-maiko’ is a compact, bushy shrub growing to 1.5m tall. The leaves emerge a brilliant red in spring, turning a pinkish colour and then a green-red in summer. In autumn, the leaves turn yellow, orange and deep red before falling.

Acer palmatum little princess

Japanese maple ( syn. Acer Little Princess ) – Dense, compact habit, which makes it particularly well suited to pots and containers (provided they are kept well watered). Each spring, its new foliage emerges with an intense, claret-coloured flush that fades as the leaves mature. Throughout summer, the leaves retain a fresh green colour, then take on yellow and orange overtones in autumn before they fall.

Acer palmatum shaina

Japanese maple ‘Shaina’ – ‘Shaina’ is a compact, dense cultivar growing to a maximum height of 3m. Its bright red spring leaves deepen in colour through the summer before brightening again to a crimson-red in autumn

Acer palmatum taylor

New cultivar, with lime green and cream foliage, which emerges in spring with a vivid salmon pink hue.

Acer palmatum ukigumo

Japanese maple ( syn. Acer palmatum ‘Ukigumo’) – Highly patterned, appears almost white.

Acer palmatum butterfly

‘Butterfly’ is a rather upright shrub or small tree with 5- to 7-lobed leaves irregularly margined with creamy-white and often tinged pink. Occasionally has small red flowers in spring

Acer palmatum dissectum garnet

Japanese maple ‘Garnet’, Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum Garnet’, Acer palmatum ‘Garnet’ – ‘Garnet’ is a medium-sized deciduous shrub. Leaves with usually seven deeply dissected lobes, deep brownish-red throughout summer, slightly brighter in autumn. Small purplish flowers are followed by red fruits.

Acer palmatum seiryu

Japanese maple ‘Seiryu’, Acer palmatum dissectum seiryu – Medium-sized deciduous shrub of broadly columnar growth, with light green leaves, the lobes deeply incised; autumn colour orange, yellow and red. Flowers small, red.

Acer palmatum shindeshojo

Japanese maple ‘Shin-deshojo’ – compact, bushy shrub with lobed leaves that open red, becoming green speckled with white in summer, and turning reddish-orange in autumn.

Acer palmatum skeeters broom

Japanese maple ‘Skeeter’s Broom’ narrow, upright, deciduous shrub to 2m tall with five-lobed leaves that emerge bright red in spring, maturing to a deep purple-red in autumn before turning ruby-red in autumn.

Acer palmatum emerald lace

Emerald green leaves appear on the arching branches, creating a softly rounded crown, which turns dazzling shades of red and orange in autumn

Acer palmatum phoenix

compact, broad shrub or small tree to 5m tall with palmate leaves which emerge pink with yellow-green veins, gradually turning to yellow and then to shiny green before becoming orange, red and yellow in autumn.

Acer palmatum var dissectum

Japanese maple ‘Dissectum – low-growing, mound-forming shrub to around 2m tall and 2.5m wide. Its deeply-cut leaves emerge green in the spring before turning shades of yellow, orange and red in the autumn. Purplish-red spring flowers are followed in autumn by bright red winged fruits

Acer palmatum bonsai

Deep red Acer Palmatum

Acer palmatum deshojo

Japanese maple ‘Deshojo’ – upright, rounded, deciduous shrub or small tree to 2.5m high and wide. Slender-pointed, lobed leaves are brilliant red in spring before maturing to bright green and then turning shades of red and orange in autumn. Small reddish spring flowers may be followed by winged fruits in autumn.

Acer palmatum fireglow

Japanese maple ‘Fireglow’ – large, bushy, deciduous shrub ultimately reaching 4m in height. The leaves have 5-7 slender, pointed lobes, opening pinky-red in spring, developing to dark green heavily-flushed with dark red in summer, and turning purple-red in autumn. Small purple flowers are followed by red fruits

Acer palmatum trompenburg

Japanese maple ‘Trompenburg’ – Deep red-purple in spring, becoming greener in summer, and orange-red in autumn

FAQ – Acer Palmatum Care & Tips

When should I plant Acer palmatum?

Acer palmatum should be planted from October through the winter to March ideally.

Where should I plant Acer palmatum?

Plant Acer palmatum in a sheltered spot, and ideally away from direct wind / strong wind. Some require more sun than others so do check. Green leaves are fine in full sun, but brighter colours can burn.

What kind of soil does Acer palmatum grow best in?

Ideally Acer palmatum grow best in slightly acidic and humus rich well drained soils. Although they are fine in ‘most’ soils, they really can grow much better with a richer soil. 

Can Acer palmatum be planted around other plants?

Ideally leave the Acer some space around as the roots do better if they are not competing with other plants. The roots are very shallow, so don’t plant them more than an inch deep. 

How do I plant Acer palmatum?

Mulch with lots of rich well rotted manure, you can use mulching or just normal compost. Just make sure they don’t dry out in the summer hotter weather, they don’t like it!
Well water before and after planting of course. 

Can I grow Acer palmatum in containers or pots?

Yes, Acer palmatum can really thrive when planted in pots and containers. Keep compost / soil moist but not dripping wet. Ideally feed in early spring and then again in early summer with liquid feed or slow release fertilisers. We would suggest using a peat free compost such as John Innes No. 2 potting compost, or if you prefer you can use a peat free ericaceous compost with about quarter added sharp sand for extra drainage. 

When should I repot Acer palmatum?

Every 2 years should be sufficient, and advise to do this in April or September for best results. If the acer is permanently in a pot, then root pruning is ideal every two or three years also. Use a saw to slice off 2 inches of the root ball and repot into fresh compost. 

Are Acer palmatum hardy and over winter?

Small acers are prone to frost damage over winter, so either place somewhere frost free, or wrap the pot in bubble wrap to give more protection raised off the ground. Larger trees are usually fully hardy. 

How often should I water Acer palmatum?

Water well in the first year, or when getting established. Generally once a week should be sufficient. In the height of summer ideally once a day. 

Should I feed Acer palmatum?

They don’t need to be, but a general fertiliser can be used late February if you want a larger tree!

How do I prune Acer Japanese Maples?

Very little pruning is required for these, other than removing winter dieback at the end of shoots. Young trees may produce vertical shoots which can be removed in Autumn. Best pruned November to January as they are dormant at this stage. I prefer to just leave my trees to do their own thing, they look great grown naturally. I just remove crossed shoots. 

Can I propagate Japanese maple Acer palmatum?

Acer palmatum can be grown from seed, but won’t breed to form, Collect the winged seeds, and sow ASAP. 

What problems do Acer Palmatum have?

Why does my Acer Japanese Maple have leaf scorch?

It has Leaf scorch due to Too much sun, move to an area of more shade. Can also be caused by frost, so protect with fleece. 

Why does my Acer have no colour or weak colour?

Usually lack of colour means a lack of light. 

Do Acer palmatum get pests?

Yes they can get Vine weevil, which can eat the roots.  They can also get phytopthora root rot and verticillium wilt. 

More Acer Palmatum plants and feed