The Acer Palmatum (Japanese Maple) Full Care Guide

The Japanese Maple, otherwise known as the Acer Palmatum or Smooth Japanese Maple, Amoenum Goup, Palmatum Group, Matsumurae Group, Dissectum Group, Linearilobum Group (Acer palmatum), is a rather well known shrub plant by gardening enthusiasts around the world.

Best known for its low maintenance and moderate growth, this shrub will likely liven up your house (or garden) with its light green colored leaves. But, only if you learn how to take proper care of it for it to thrive.

This is why all the topics you need to know in order to achieve this will be covered in this Japanese Maple Care Guide. Ready? Let’s go!

In order to take proper care of your Japanese Maple you’ll need to keep in mind the following guidelines:

  • Water: The Japanese Maple wants regular watering to enhance fruit production but as a landscape plant, too much water will be a problem.
  • Light: Keep your Acer Palmatum in an environment where it can receive partial to full sun on a daily basis. 
  • Soil: Make sure to keep the Japanese Maple in soil with moist but well-draining properties, so ideally, one that is made of clay, loam, chalk, and sand.

And that’s practically it! If you keep these three factors in check, your Japanese Maple will likely have all it needs for it to survive and even thrive.

Acer palmatum colorfull leaf

Scientific / Botanical Aspects

In botanical terms, the Japanese Maple belongs to the Sapindaceae family, the genus Acer and the species Palmatum, hence its scientific (or botanical) name Acer Palmatum (AY-ser pal-MA-tum).

Other common Sapindaceae species include Golden Shirasawa Maple, Red Horse Chestnut ‘Briotii’, Acer Platanoides ‘Crimson King’, Acer Rubrum ‘Frank Jr.’ Plant Patent #16769, Acer Palmatum ‘Osakazuki’, Aesculus Parviflora, Fernleaf Full-Moon Maple, Paperbark Maple and Acer palmatum ‘Seiryû’.

As with other Acer’s, the Japanese Maple is a deciduous plant, which means it will shed its leaves annually once autumn comes.

Growing Region

The Japanese MapleChina, eastern Mongolia, Asia: Japan Korea, and southeastern Russia.

Knowing your plant’s native region is very useful, as it can give you tips on which environment is best for your Japanese Maple. If you keep it in mind, you can try to replicate these conditions at home, and you’ll likely end with a healthier plant.

With this in mind, the Acer Palmatum will be most used to the heat zones in the 2 – 8 region, as the plant hardiness level falls between 5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a and the ideal climate zone is between 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24.

Growth and Size


In terms of size and growth, the Japanese Maple is a relatively moderate grower, which makes things somewhat easy for any plant enthusiast.


But, how big does the Japanese Maple actually get? What should you expect in terms of size? Let’s dive right in…

The Acer Palmatum can grow up to 4′ – 25′ (120cm – 7.5m) in 4′ – 25′ (120cm – 7.5m) and 4′ – 25′ (120cm – 7.5m) in 4′ – 25′ (120cm – 7.5m). 

Also, expect it to grow in a wonderful rounded shape, which is something worthwhile to remember when making your garden landscape plans.


In terms of watering, the Japanese Maple is a fairly complicated plant to take care of.

This is mostly because it has a not so straightforward watering schedule and somewhat regular watering needs.

Specifically, most experts agree that the Acer Palmatum wants regular watering to enhance fruit production but as a landscape plant, too much water will be a problem.

Which is why it is considered a plant with relatively average needs in terms of water. 

Acer palmatum branchy


As a rule of thumb, you should remember to keep your Japanese Maple in soil with moist but well-draining characteristics, as these will guarantee the right conditions for your plant to grow and thrive. 

When you consider this, this is why you should aim to choose soil that has good drainage, and moist properties to keep the right moisture levels at all times. 

However, in our experience, the best solution to knowing the right amount of water for your Japanese Maple is with the ‘thumb’ technique. Basically, you insert your finger into the soil, and based if you feel the soil moist or dry, you determine if it needs any water, which is the most appropriate way to go about watering your leafy friend.

Soil Mix

As mentioned earlier, the Japanese Maple prefers to have soil with good drainage, and moist properties at all times, reason why you need to make the soil mix out of clay, loam, chalk, and sand.

This is why most experts agree that the Japanese Maple requires soil with high organic matter, which will give you the right conditions it needs.

In addition to this, expert gardeners recommend having preferably neutral to acid soil.

Light and Exposure

In terms of light & exposure, the Japanese Maple requires partial to full sun in order for it to thrive under the right conditions. 

Most experts agree that this shrub will do well as long as you keep it in partial to full sun, and it will be able to grow properly.

Specifically, we recommend that you place your Acer Palmatum in dappled or moderate shade (under other plant’s canopy).


Being a deciduous plant, the Japanese Maple will shed its leaves annually once autumn comes.

But, you can expect it to have its ‘prime-time’ during the fall.


You can expect your Japanese Maple to flower around the spring months from April to June (spring).

The Japanese Maple produces some wonderful purple/lavender, gold/yellow and red/burgundy flowers around this time of year.


The leaves from the Japanese Maple have a beautiful light green color during most of the year.

In particular, they have a simple arrangement with a opposite organization in its leaves.

You can expect the leaves from your Acer Palmatum to be around (3-6 inches) in size.

Acer palmatum flowers

Attracts, Tolerance and Resistance

The Japanese Maple is well known for its tolerance to animals like rabbit, so don’t worry if any of these come along, your Acer Palmatum will be fine.


Now, let’s talk garden and how your Japanese Maple will look best in it.

Most Acer Palmatum owners agree that this shrub will look great in most asian/zen and contemporary gardens of all types. 

Other owners consider that they complement well most gardens of gravel and rock garden, japanese garden, city and courtyard, informal and cottage, and in traditional garden styles. 

In particular, the Japanese Maple’s best use for landscaping within your garden is as urban garden, firescaping/fire wise, specimen, or a woodland garden.

Companion Plants

Japanese Maple’s do well with some other plants beside it. One good companion plant is the Pieris, which will pair up nicely with your leafy friend.

Others consider that a nice Paeonia will work well too, so choose whichever you find works best for you!


And we’ve come to an end. Fortunately, that’s everything you need to know about your Japanese Maple to keep it safe and sound in your garden or home. Enjoy planting!

Martin Duran

Hey y'all! My name is Martin Duran and I am from Cali, Colombia. Since 2018 I have been learning about plants and how to take care of them. Here's is my journey... “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ― John Muir

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