Acer palmatum (Japanese maple): cultivation requirements

We can call it by many names: Acer palmatum (its scientific name), Japanese maple, polymorphic maple, etc. It is a type of plant that has Asian origin (hence its name), although not only from Japan. We can also see it grown in parts of China and South Korea. 

Due to the shape it generates when it grows, it is considered by many shrubs. However, the concept of shrub size that we have is not fulfilled in Acer palmatum , as it can grow over 5 meters in excess.

Although it comes from Japan, a climate quite different from that of Europe and America, there are already varieties adapted to these areas and you can introduce it in your garden without problems.

Keep in mind that there are quite a few varieties of this tree, and therefore, size, shape and color (which we will see now) must be studied among different subspecies:

  • A. palmatum subsp. palmatum
  • A. palmatum  var. pleasantness
  • A. palmatum subsp. matsumurae

In addition, it is also very fashionable to choose A. palmatum for bonsai cultivation, both the red-leaved species (bloodgood) and centuries-old varieties, such as the one from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, in New York.


Although in our title we have mentioned bringing a splendid red to your garden with Acer palmatum , not all varieties of this tree have red leaves.

So that you can see it carefully, here we have different versions of sheets:

A. palmatum wild type, A. palmatum ‘Amoenum’, and A. palmatum ‘Matsumurae’

As you can see, the leaves have a great resemblance to those of the marijuana crop , with 7 leaflets. However, in the case of Acer palmatum, the leaflet widens in the center considerably more than in those of  Cannabis indica  and  Cannabis sativa.


Assuming that you have been able to get your Japanese maple in specialized nurseries, and precisely the variety that interests you the most, we are going to give you some advice on its care.

When planting Acer palmatum, you must have enough space, as it occupies a significant volume. As it produces a lot of foliar mass and covers the lower parts with lower branches, you will not be able to grow anything in the radius that the tree occupies.


Acer palmatum is always said to be a shade tree, but it should not be taken at face value.

Due to the agroclimatic conditions of Japan, there are usually higher humidity and more cloudy days than, for example, in a Mediterranean climate.

For this reason, the adaptation of the Japanese maple in this type of climate, especially at the beginning of the crop (when it is a seedling), is that the contiguous trees generate some direct shade in the first years.

Over time and as it grows, the maple will be fully adapted and will be able to enjoy large doses of Sun.

Acer Okushimo


The exploratory capacity of its roots allows it to enjoy deep soils. Therefore, when planting it in your garden, it is recommended that you make a deep planting hole and eliminate any possible stones that appear in your way.

Over that hole, cover a lot with decomposed compost and / or coconut fiber (if you have one) and mix it well with the excess soil.

This will allow your Japanese maple to have good nutrient availability (fertile soil) and a loose and soft soil with improved drainage to develop its first roots.

[alert style = »green»] The ideal date for planting Acer palmatum is in October, after the summer where temperatures are no longer so high and the solar radiation is not so powerful, and just before spring, where it has not yet developed new shoots. [/ alert]


The Japanese maple is not a tree adapted to a dry climate because moderation and frequency of watering is appropriate.

In the hot months (from spring to late summer), set a 20-40 min watering every 2 or 3 days, so that you water up to 3 times a week.

In winter, if the precipitations are very low, an irrigation to the week of 20-30 minutes. If the rainfall is medium, you may not have to water in any case.


Fertilization dramatically improves the growth of Acer palmatum . We accelerate the thickening of the trunk, the increase in the diameter of branches and the production of new shoots.

In bonsai crops, the contribution of fertilizers must be highly optimized, in our garden, contributions from spring to autumn are sufficient.

As method 1 , covering the soil with all the volume that the leaves occupy with organic matter, is enough to maintain a minimum nutrition.

As organic matter you can use any source, compost, animal manure, etc. Go for those who manage to acidify the soil if your pH is excessively high (above 7).

As method 2 , the combination of inorganic fertilizers mixed with organic matter more than meets all the needs of Acer palmatum .

In this sense, you have several options, from liquid fertilizers to integrate into your drip system to solid fertilizers in the form of degradable balls. Provides a complex rich in nitrogen after winter and increases the concentration of potassium a few months later.


The pests and diseases in the Japanese maple are usually common in many other trees. We always talk about the aphid-spider-mealybug triad, depending on the climate where the tree is planted.

In dry areas, with low relative humidity practically throughout the year, the appearance of mites, such as the red spider, are more common.

On the new shoots, the aphid, located on the underside of the plant, and the cochineal, on leaves, petioles and even on branches.

Among the most common diseases, special attention must be paid to those that are neck or root, such as Phytophthora .

This disease is common in many other crops and appears endemically when there is high humidity in the soil, such as puddles, excessively clayey soils, with little oxygenation, etc.

Hence, irrigation and drainage management is very important.

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