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I recently attended an informative class on Japanese Maples at a local garden center. I did so because I would like to grow a Japanese Maple in a large container and wanted to know a little more about these trees properly called “Acer Palmatum”. The name includes hundreds of named cultivars with countless forms and colors ranging from white to green to reds. They come in many leaf types and sizes. Japanese Maples have been cultivated in Japan for centuries. With shapes ranging from Bonsai-looking to a straight shaped tree, they are a beautiful and popular addition to the landscape.
Popular varieties include:
‘Blood Good’ grows 15 feet tall with a 15 foot wide canopy, a brilliant scarlet red leafed tree. This one is so spectacular it could add thousands of dollars to the value of your home. But do also think about winter interest with these trees and explore the many varieties with red, yellow or orange bark.
Coral Bark- ‘sangokaku’ is a beautiful tree (15 to 20 feet tall) that has brilliant coral bark on young branches. The color intensifies in winter. Its deeply cut light green leaves display attractive margins and turns golden in the fall. Or try ‘Winter Flame’ a rare variety. It is a dwarf ‘sangokaku’ growing only 8 to 10 feet tall and great for a ‘Bonsai’ looking specimen. ‘Bihou’ is in this coral group and widely sought after. Its chartreuse leaves appear edged in red before turning green for summer. The bark turns a yellow orange in winter and seems to glow.
My favorites are the lace leaf varieties that come in leaf colors of deep purple, reds or greens. ‘Red dragon’ would be a nice choice for growing in a container or rock garden.
Growing tips: Japanese maples are less fuss to grow than you think. The most important tip is to choose trees that have been grafted onto ‘green Japanese root stock’ verses from seed. You pay a good price for these but they are a stronger tree and can get through a winter like we had with seven feet of snow. When grafted, they do not need to be sheltered and can grow in full sun.
The instructor in the class I attended, recommended growing in ‘Stay Green soil’ (available at Loews) or a soil mix called ‘FAFARD3B’ for best results. Insect pests for Japanese maples are the Japanese beetle.
For Further reading and reference a good book to purchase is “Japanese Maple” by JD Vertrees.