LET’S TALK GARDENING – How To Select the Right Japanese Maple Tree


Are you awed by Japanese Maple trees? I sure am and have been for quite a few years. My first true exposure to Japanese Maple trees was as a buyer and doing buying trips to Oregon. I fell in love with them. In Portland, even some gas stations would use Japanese Maple trees in their landscape. They were everywhere and of all kinds.

My wife and I moved a couple of years ago and I left behind five Japanese Males trees – four different varieties in the landscape. They were huge and gorgeous. I moved one to the new house because I am growing it in a large container.

My mission with this blog is to make it easier for you to make the right choice of Japanese Maple trees for your landscape.

Basically, there are two types of Japanese Maple trees. There is the Acer palmatum, which is the upright growing variety, and there is the Acer dissectum, which is the weeping variety. Within each of these two types are hundreds, if not thousands of different named varieties, each having its own specific characteristic growth habits and leaf colors. Both types of maples offer interest year-round from the sculpture of the bare winter branches to the flush new spring growth. The upright varieties will grow 15’ to 20’ tall. The weeping varieties will grow 6’ tall and will be twice as wide as it is tall.


  1. First, decide where you think you would like to plant a Japanese Maple tree. This space will help decide your selection. It is all about “right place / right location” when it comes to making the selection. You want to do very little, if any, pruning on Japanese Maple trees. Too much pruning will destroy its natural beauty and graceful growing habit.
  2. Once you decided the location, then decide if you want an upright growing variety or do you want a weeping variety. Keep in mind the growing characteristics and make sure you have ample space for the chosen maple tree.
  3. Once you decide the type of maple then you want to decide on leaf color. Leaf color will vary depending on the variety. Many have red spring growth changing to green in the summer. However, some retain the red through the growing season. Some varieties have variegated leaves with white, cream, gold, or pink. Keep in mind, in Central Virginia, variegated leaves burn easily in the sun but can revert to all green in too much shade. Green leaves tolerate more sun than red. Then come fall, all Japanese maple trees put on a show of beautiful leaf color.
  4. Less important, but still need to be in your decision-making process, is the leaf shape. The variation Dissedctum or Laceleaf Japanese maple has leaves deeply cut and finely lobed giving a lace cutout look. These varieties generally grow best in some shade as the leaves easily will have leaf scorch on the tips. Leaves on the Palmatum are much less lacy. The leaves resemble the leaves on our shade tree maples but just smaller.

Like I mentioned earlier, there are many varieties to choose from with some being very dwarf which lends themselves to being grown in containers on patios, decks, or balconies, which is the case with the one that I moved with me to the new house.

Here is a short list of varieties of Japanese Maple trees to consider in your decision-making process:

  1. Bloodgood
  2. Crimson Queen
  3. Moonfire
  4. Emperor
  5. Sango Kaku
  6. Shishigashira
  7. Virdis
  8. Tamukeyama
  9. Red Dragon
  10. Oshio Beni

Take some time to look up each of these varieties on the internet. You will see their beauty. Then come see us and see these beauties in person. Now is a great time to plant!


To read more from Doug, visit our blog

16 thoughts on “LET’S TALK GARDENING – How To Select the Right Japanese Maple Tree”

  1. I too am a lover of the weeping Japanese Maple . I have had one at every house I have owned for over 30 years. BTW , I buy them from Meadows Farms each time.

    • Michael,
      Good Morning. Thank you for taking the time to share your opinion about Japanese maple trees. And, thank you for being a loyal customers. Happy Spring to you, Doug

  2. I hope this isn’t too late because I did a drastic prune on my sweeping maple tree in hopes it would grow back. YIKES!!

    • Marian,
      Good Morning.
      Only time will tell. It should be soon as we begin to warm up on a more consistent basis. Once you see new leaf growth then there may be more dead branches to remove. Again, not sure at this time. So, let’s be patient and let your weeping maple tree show you what is alive and growing and what is not. Doug

    • Frances,
      If you want to transplant this spring then I would recommend transplanting the maple as soon as possible, while it is still dormant and while our weather and soil temperatures are still cool and moist. You want to be sure that the ground is moist before you start digging. And, you want to get as much of the root system as possible. And, you want to keep the rootball intact as you move it from one location to the next. Finally, you will want to plant it well in enrich, well draining soil. Good luck. Doug

  3. Would love to have a blood good planted near where a cherry tree died. Can you cut down the old cherry and plant a blood good? What would that cost? I’m in Glen Allen.

    • Norma,
      Good Afternoon.
      Yes, you should be able to plant a Bloodgood maple where this cherry tree died. The key is being able to dig a proper planting hole for the maple tree. You are asking about the cost of planting. We do not do any landscaping and planting. We outsource all requests like this to one particular landscaping company. That company is NATURAL PROGRESSION LANDSCAPING. As for the planting cost…the cost to plant is the same as the cost of the tree. We would love to help you out. Let me know if you have any further questions. Doug

    • Linda,
      Good Afternoon.
      I would say that the lowest growing maple is the Acer dissectum “Weeping maple”. They will grow to about 6′ but can be 12′ wide at maturity. I hope this answers your question. Doug

  4. Is there a variety of Japanese maple that grows upright—not weeping—but stays small as in less than 8 feet tall. I’m looking for one that doesn’t grow wide. Thanks.

    • Kirsten,
      Good Morning. I am not aware of a variety of Japanese Maple tree that is upright in growth habit that stays that dwarf. I would need to check with some colleagues as to whether a variety fits your needs. Doug

  5. I am so glad that I stumbled upon this article. I appreciate it. Keep posting such helpful articles. Thanks a lot for sharing varieties of maples, it helped me.

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