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Japanese Red MapleAcer palmatum

  • Japanese Red Maple - Acer palmatum var. atropurpureum
  • Japanese Red Maple - Acer palmatum var. atropurpureum
  • Japanese Red Maple - Acer palmatum var. atropurpureum
  • Japanese Red Maple - Acer palmatum var. atropurpureum
  • Japanese Red Maple - Acer palmatum var. atropurpureum

This little tree is the cornerstone of Japanese gardening, with its magnificent leaf color and shape. But don’t think it can’t work well in your yard. The Japanese red maple lends a sense of grace to any space. The dash of red is a welcome addition in yards and parks across the U.S.

The first specimen of the tree reached England in 1820 and was named Acer palmatum after the hand-like shape of its leaves. Today there are hundreds of Japanese red maple cultivars on the market, and Acer palmatum 'Atropurpureum' (meaning "dark-purple") is one of the most popular.

Hardiness Zones

The japanese red maple can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 5–8. View Map

Tree Type

This is an ornamental tree, typically planted for the visual interest and beauty it can bring to landscape.

Mature Size

The Japanese red maple grows to a height of 15–25' and a spread of around 20' at maturity.

Growth Speed Slow to Medium Growth Rate

This tree grows at a slow to medium rate, with height increases of anywhere from less than 12" to 24" per year.

Sun Preference

Full sun and partial shade are best for this tree, meaning it prefers a minimum of 4 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

The Japanese red maple grows in acidic, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, silty loam, well-drained and clay soils. It prefers moist, well-drained soil conditions but has some drought tolerance.

Attributes

This tree:
  • Produces attractive, reddish purple foliage, especially in spring and fall. (Summer leaf color is often green.)
  • Features simple leaves that are up to 4" in length. 5 or 7 lobes spread symmetrically from a central point like fingers from the palm of a hand.
  • Can be grown as a small tree or multi-stemmed shrub.
  • Yields red, winged seeds (samara) joined in pairs. The seeds are ½–1" in length, and the wings are ¼– ⅜" long.
  • Grows in a rounded shape.
  • Works well as a specimen, accent, shrub border, grouping or bonsai.
  • Should be watered during dry periods, keeping soil consistently moist.
  • Will need protection from high winds and late spring frosts for its young leaves.

Wildlife Value

Squirrels and chipmunks are very fond of these maple seeds. The seeds, buds and flowers are also eaten by grouse, quail and many songbirds.

History/Lore

The Japanese word "momiji" is sometimes applied to this tree in its native land. The word is said to have two meanings, both of them appropriate for the description of this wonderful tree: "baby's hands" and "becomes crimson leaves." 'Atropurpureum' means dark purple. The Japanese red maple is a tree that has been cultured intensively for over 300 years and retains a special place in the heart of all who love exotic trees.