TREES & plants

Japanese maple

Japanese maple tree in fall color.

Varying in size from large shrub to small tree, Japanese maple is a species with many variations. Many cultivars are available with different characteristics such as finely dissected leaves and weeping branches. Not all cultivars are fully hardy in zone 5 and may need protection in winter.

Botanical name: 
Acer palmatum
All Common Names: 
Japanese maple
Family (English): 
Soapberry (formerly Maple)
Family (Botanic): 
Sapindaceae (formerly Aceraceae)
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub, 
  • Tree
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks, 
  • Under utility lines
Landscape Uses: 
  • Utility, 
  • Specimen, 
  • Massing, 
  • Mixed border, 
  • Patio/sidewalk
Size Range: 
  • Small tree (15-25 feet), 
  • Compact tree (10-15 feet), 
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet), 
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
Mature Height: 
15-25 feet
Mature Width: 
15-35 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7, 
  • Zone 8
Soil Preference: 
  • Acid soil, 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Intolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Intolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Intolerant
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Fall color, 
  • Attractive bark
Season of Interest: 
  • Late spring, 
  • Early summer, 
  • Mid summer, 
  • Late summer, 
  • Early fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Purple, 
  • Red
Shape or Form: 
  • Broad, 
  • Multi-stemmed, 
  • Round, 
  • Weeping
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
Transplants Well: 
  • Moderate
  • Insect pollinators
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

Avoid pruning maples in spring as they are bleeders and will lose a large amount of sap.
Japanese maples do best in a partly shaded site with a consistent supply of water.  Dry soils can lead to leaf scorch.

Disease, pests, and problems

Susceptible to leaf scorch, verticillium wilt, and anthracnose.

Scorch can be a problem in dry, sunny sites.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to China, Japan and Korea.

Bark color and texture 

The bark of the main trunk is usually smooth and gray.  Younger stems are often shiny and may be red, green or purple and can be very ornamental in winter.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Leaves are in pairs (opposite) and simple.  The leaf is deeply divided into 5 to 9 lobes  They can vary a great deal by cultivar.  Some cultivars have green leaves, while others have red or purple foliage.  Leaves may be finely dissected, even to the point of appearing to be compound.  Fall color will also vary by cultivar.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Small flowers open in late spring and may be red or purplish.  Ornamental when viewed close up.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fruit are winged seeds in pairs (samaras);  1/2 to 3/4  inch long. 
Green, often maturing to red in fall.  Mildly ornamental.



Acer palmatum or Japanese maple