Your Japanese maple likes dappled sunlight

Japanese maple

There are lots of ways to bring color into your yard, but none more beautiful than the Japanese maple. Just look at that beauty! Can we grow them here? You will be glad to know that we can, with just a few caveats.

Japanese maples can tolerate summers in Texas in the shade of larger canopy trees. In other words, don’t plant your red leafed beauty on the western side of your yard where it gets full sun. Her leaves will scorch and she will become susceptible to diseases. Look for a spot under larger oaks or other tree species. Our beautiful friend, the Japanese maple, likes dappled sun. No midday sun. Not scorching, afternoon setting sun.

According to Howard Garrett, the Dallas guru of gardening, “Any of the hybrid Japanese maples with red foliage will burn in midday full sun. Some varieties, like ‘Crimson Queen’ will adapt to some direct sun, but even so, might still have some burned leaf tips. The best choice for we Texans is the species plant from which the cultivars come, the green Japanese maple or Acer palmatum. It is the toughest of all. During the summer, it is a beautiful lime green and a gorgeous red-orange fall color. Full sun doesn’t bother it much at all.”

So, you have located the best species of Japanese maple for our area. Now you need to find the best location to plant her. Look for the spot in your yard with mostly shade and only dappled sun. Can’t you just see the dappled sun streaming down onto your red-leafed tree next year?

Be sure to consider soil drainage. Japanese maples, like lots of plants, prefer moist but well draining soil. Dig a test hole and fill it with water. A good location will drain within a couple hours. A hole that takes six hours to drain would be a slow draining hole and a poor location for your tree. They like slightly acidic soil. Hooray, guess what we have!

Now you can plant. I have always found that planting the less mature plants and trees gives a slow but healthy growth. The plant has a chance to grow into its environment. Add a slow-release fertilizer once a year and keep this beauty watered regularly.

Remember that your tree will grow to a height of 15-20 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide. Too close to the house, driveway, fence, power lines, the street or to the neighbors’ house could be a mistake. How often have you seen a once tiny tree planted 2 feet away from a front door that has grown too large and become a problem? The Japanese maple is a good candidate for a large container, as well. I have seen a lovely home with a pair of them flanking each side of the front door. 

This tree is just a little more trouble than some others but its singular beauty makes it worth the extra effort. Have a photo of a Japanese maple that you would like to share? E-mail joreger [at] msn [dot] com.