The Japanese maple is the small tree that would fit almost any yard, and the Japanese maple is the beautiful addition to any landscape design. Although they have a reputation for being picky, if you plant them in their preferred condition, it’s not that difficult to care for a japanese maple tree. The tree does grow slowly, so you’ll need a little bit of patience.

1.      Light

Plant the Japanese maple in filtered sun to divide the shade. It’s a tree suitable for full shade if needed, especially in warmer regions, but different varieties have different needs, so do research before buying. Rarely any cultivar tolerates the midday sun, often resulting in sunburned leaves.

2.      Soil

Japanese maple trees like moist, well-drained soil. Sandy and sandy soils will do well, but avoid soils with high alkalinity; Japanese maple thrives in slightly acidic soils.

3.      Water

Although Japanese maples prefer well-drained soil, they also like to have regular watering. The easiest way to regulate a moisture level of the ground around the Japanese maple is to mulch it. Then, so that your tree is well established, take the time to water it whenever the soil feels dry, especially when it hasn’t rained much.

4.      Temperature and Humidity

Red leaf varieties are more prone to leaf burn than green types, so in hot, dry climates, green leaf varieties of Japanese maple are usually the best choice. Trees can generally tolerate moderate humidity. Japanese maples typically do best in USDA zones 6 through 8, although some varieties thrive in zone 5. Protect the Japanese maple from areas that are exposed to strong winds.

5.      Fertilizer

Stop fertilizing newly planted Japanese maples and only feed them in late winter or early spring of the second year. Trees with healthy leaves planted in soil rich in the organic matter do not need annual fertilizing.

If you need to fertilize, do it in the spring. Apply a slow release granular shrub and tree fertilizer and mix it at half the rate recommended for landscape trees. Do not apply liquid fertilizer, as it may burn the roots. Instead, spread the compost evenly around the tree, starting at least 1 foot from the trunk and beyond the tree’s drip line. As a general rule, for every 5 feet in height, spread the compost 1 foot beyond the drip line.

Common Problems with Japanese Maple Care

If the Japanese maple tree is struggling, it could also be one of these common problems:

1.      Twig Kill

The death of twigs is usually a sign of a lack of water. Therefore, water the tree slowly but deeply to restore its strength and repeat it regularly to prevent a recurrence.

2.      Manganese Deficiency

The most common nutrient deficiency in Japanese maples is manganese micronutrient deficiency, which appears yellowish or yellowish-green leaves with dark green veins. Treatment consists of injecting manganese into the tree trunk 1 (capsules available from tree supply stores). But before taking any action, do a soil test to ensure the tree is indeed manganese deficient.

3.      Sunburn

Japanese maple trees are susceptible to sunburn on their trunks and branches, so be extremely careful not to prune too many low or indoor branches. Removing these branches can expose those areas to the sun, causing significant damage. Likewise, be cautious about pruning trees when the Japanese maple is a young tree. Sudden exposure to the sun will have harmful effects on your tree. If you must increase your sun exposure, try to do so slowly over at least two seasons.