Dwarf Japanese maple trees come in a variety of beautiful and striking types that add visual interest and color to your garden.
They’re compact and stay small, so they’re ideal for use as a statement plant in the garden.
Japanese dwarf maple trees, known as Acer Palmatum, are miniature trees that are great for smaller gardens. While regular-sized maple trees can reach a height of up to 30 feet (9.1m), dwarf varieties are much more compact without lacking any of their spectacular foliage.
In this article, I’ll explore everything you need to know about Japanese dwarf maple trees and how to care for them.
How Are Dwarf Japanese Maples Used in Landscaping?
There are various ways to display Japanese dwarf maples, such as in containers, rock gardens, or bonsai gardens.
They’re versatile and easy to maintain, which will surely inspire you to be creative with how you grow them.
Why Do People Love Japanese Dwarf Maples?
Ease of maintenance is just one reason why so many people love Japanese dwarf maple trees. They have gorgeous, bold foliage in various colors, such as orange, auburn, and green, which can turn any dull garden into an absolute heaven.
Moreover, Japanese dwarf maples come in various heights and become as wide as they are tall. So, expect your tree to become a centerpiece of your garden.
Japanese maple trees give you many options for how to grow and display them, which is another reason why they’re so popular.
For example, while some Japanese maples are naturally small in size, others are grafted onto the rootstock, enabling them to remain small for many years.
Therefore, you can grow them in different places, such as in containers or a small garden area if you don’t have a large property.
If you love dwarf plants and want to purchase more of them, you should read our guide, “10 Dwarf Plants For Your Garden.”
How Big Does a Dwarf Japanese Maple Get?
Dwarf Japanese maples are compact and stay small, reaching a height of between three and eight feet (0.9-2.4m) in height. While they have small leaves and stay compact, they do branch out a lot, which is why they look so full and beautiful.
A dwarf Japanese maple will grow approximately six inches (15.24cm) or less annually, so you won’t worry about running out of space for it quickly.
That said, be careful about mature Japanese maple tree sizes when purchasing them. These are usually the sizes you can expect the trees to reach after ten years, and they might therefore become taller, as SFGate reports.
What Types of Japanese Maples Exist?
It’s not clear exactly how many Japanese maple trees exist, but there are, for certain, over 1,000 varieties available. Some of the most popular types of Japanese Maple trees include the following:
- Bloodgood (Acer palmatum atropurpureum). This tree has purple-red leaves that become green when the tree is planted in an area of the garden that gets full sun. During the fall, its leaves become true to the plant’s name because they turn bright red. Bloodgood reaches a height of about 20 feet (6m). But, if you want a smaller tree that looks similar, you should check out the pixie Japanese dwarf maple, which looks like a smaller version of Bloodgood.
- Red Dragon (Acer palmatum dissectum). This tree also has reddish-purple leaves that are put on display in the fall, but it’s a smaller variety as it can reach a height of approximately seven feet (2.1m).
- Golden full moon (Acer japonicum). This Japanese maple displays a variety of leaf colors, such as yellow, gold, orange, green, and red. It can reach a height of approximately 16-20 feet (4.9-6m).
- Seirya (Acer palmatum). This is a lace-leaf Japanese maple, so it’s dome-shaped with a cascading habit. It has thin leaves that turn light green in color. The tips of its leaves become pink, which darkens to a reddish-brown color in the fall. Seiryu can reach a height of approximately 10 feet (3m).
When Do Japanese Maples Change Color?
Japanese maple trees usually change color during the fall. Depending on the tree variety, its foliage will be a bold red color in the summer, but then it will change into colors such as orange during the fall.
The tree’s growing conditions can also cause its foliage to change color and become green. For example, the tree’s leaves will become greener if it’s not situated in a lot of sun or exposed to chemical fertilizers or heat. But, some Japanese maples will naturally be greener than others.
Another colorful tree that changes color is the dwarf smoke bush. Read our guide, “How To Grow and Care For Dwarf Smokebush,” to learn more about it.
Are There Multi-Color Variants of Japanese Maple Trees?
There are multi-color variants of the Japanese maple tree. An example of a common and colorful variety is Beni Schichihenge.
It has blue-green leaves that display pink and cream colors. These become orange and gold in the fall.
Here are other types of multi-color variants of Japanese maple trees:
- Caperci Dwarf: This Japanese maple tree has pink-green foliage that becomes a bright yellow-gold in the fall.
- Coonara Pygmy: This variety has green leaves that take on a yellow hue in summer before becoming a dark red in the fall. It’s one of the most dramatic maples with lots of colors. It looks even more beautiful when combined with yellow plants, such as sunflowers. Read our guide, “Dwarf Sunflowers: A Care Guide For Gardeners.”
- Garnet: This maple has orange-red leaves that last throughout the tree’s growing season. Late in the summer, its foliage becomes green and purple.
- Peaches and cream: This maple has cream-colored leaves that are streaked with dark green veins. During fall, the leaves become yellow in color.
How to Plant a Japanese Dwarf Maple
If you want to plant a Japanese dwarf maple in your garden, first make sure you choose the correct site.
It should be an area of the garden that gets a minimum of six hours of sunlight daily. All varieties of Japanese maple need full sun to thrive.
The planting site should be rich in organic materials while draining well, as both of these are important for Japanese maple trees. Once you’ve ensured you’ve located the best site, you should follow these planting tips.
- Dig a hole for your Japanese dwarf maple. You should add a 50/50 blend of compost and soil to encourage better drainage. Make sure the hole is about 1 ½ times the depth of the tree and twice the circumference of its root ball to ensure that the tree will have enough space to grow.
- Place the tree into the hole. Make sure it’s a bit above the soil line.
- Add slow-release fertilizer into the hole. Carefully backfill it, making sure to firm it up with your hands.
- Water the tree thoroughly. After planting the tree, you must ensure you water it regularly, so it remains a bit moist for the first year of its life.
- Mulch the tree. This will keep the tree’s roots cool and preserve moisture in the soil, as the University of New Hampshire reports. About two inches (5.04cm) of mulch, which can be made up of chopped leaves, will work effectively.
How to Trim Japanese Maple Dwarf
Trees and plants can benefit from being trimmed regularly to maintain their appearance or encourage their growth. You can trim your dwarf tree at any time of the year except in the spring, as this is when the tree contains the most amount of sap.
If you need to excessively prune your Japanese dwarf tree, you should do this in the winter so that it will have some time to recover before its growing season.
Here are some important tips to bear in mind when trimming a dwarf Japanese maple tree so that you don’t cause it too much stress:
- Don’t remove more than one-fifth of the tree’s crown. This will cause it to struggle to get enough nutrients it needs.
- Use sharp pruners. These will reduce damage to the tree while making it easier to trim than if you try using scissors.
- Avoid cutting directly above another cut you’ve made because this can cause decay.
- If your Japanese maple tree dwarf isn’t doing well, you want to prevent giving it more stress by making too many cuts. Make minimal cuts, or just remove deadwood from the tree.
- Cut close to the trunk but never make your cuts flush with the bark. If you struggle to cut through the branch, use a handsaw instead of pruning shears.
- Never cut many branches at once. Cut a few branches on the tree, then let it heal until the following year. This will prevent too much stress from being placed on the tree.
Japanese maple trees are popular for a good reason. They’re easy to look after and become statement trees in your garden because of their dramatic, colorful foliage.
Looking after them well includes:
- Planting them in areas of full sun.
- Adding mulch to the soil to maintain its moisture.
- Trimming them in the summer.