Tree of the week: Acer palmatum – Japanese maple

The beautiful Acer palmatum is a deciduous small tree well known for its changing colourful foliage. Native to the East (Korea, Japan and China), the deciduous Japanese maple can withstand very cold conditions. In Japanese culture, Japanese Maple trees are said to signify great blessings, and any place in which they are planted is recognised as a peaceful retreat. Acer is Latin for sharp and palmatum means shaped like a hand, referring to the leaves.

There are different varieties of Acer palmatum, some are weeping while others have a more upright growth habit. The growth rate for this tree is slow to moderate, and it has a layered look with a low, dense, rounded top and spreading branches. Red and purple leaved varieties need some sun to fully develop their dark hues, but variegated Japanese maples need protection from the hot midday and afternoon sun, to prevent their leaves from scorching. Green-leaved varieties tolerate full sun however too much sun may cause leaf scorching.

This tree has a spreading natural shape hence it requires very little pruning. Any pruning should be carried out in the dormant season as Japanese Maples bleed during other times of the year. Because they are slow growers and can be planted in containers, they are perfect in a smaller garden; and excellent accent plants for city courtyards and patios. This tree makes a beautiful bonsai subject.

Information sourced from Sun Gardens