Plant Profile | Acer palmatum


Acer palmatum | Japanese Maple

Acer palmatum, also known as the Japanese maple, is a species of Japanese and wider Asian origin. The many different varieties, including deciduous shrubs and small trees, offer beautiful colour and shape of foliage, particularly in the autumn when shades of burnished gold, blood orange and deep purple are on show. Acer palmatum varieties are typically low maintenance and easy to grow, creating dramatic impact in gardens of all sizes as feature plants in lawns or borders, or as single specimens in a large container.


Acer palmatum Varieties 

There is a wide range of Acer palmatum varieties available, ranging from a little over a metre in height to more than six metres high. Below are a selection of our favourites, from our Nurseries in Hampshire.

Acer palmatum 'Atropurpureum'

A. 'Atropurpureum' is a small, slow-growing variety tree that has reddish-purple, lobed leaves turning bright red in the autumn. The colour of the foliage may be influenced by how much sun it receives; green in areas in shadier spots and more purple with the effect of increased light levels.

Sun requirements: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Any well-drained soil -  acidic needed to thrive

Hardiness: Fully hardy (to -20 °C or below) 

Size: Grows to 8m height x 8m spread


Acer palmatum 'Beni-schichi-henge'


An upright, deciduous shrub with palmately lobed, mid-green leaves with pink margins. The entire leaf turning brilliant red in autumn. Grow as a specimen with low under-planting or in a patio pot.

Sun requirements: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Any well-drained soil -  acidic needed to thrive

Hardiness: Fully hardy (to -20 °C or below) 

Size: Grows to 4m height x 4m spread


Acer palmatum 'Beni-maiko'


A compact, bushy, deciduous shrub. Its leaves emerge a brilliant red in spring, turning a pinkish colour and then a green-red in summer. In autumn, the leaves colour yellow, orange and deep red before falling. Grow as a specimen with low under-planting or in a patio pot.

Sun requirements: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Any well-drained soil -  acidic needed to thrive

Hardiness: Fully hardy (to -20 °C or below) 

Size: Grows to 3m height x 3m spread


Acer palmatum 'Jerre Schwartz'


A hardy, deciduous shrub with finely dissected foliage that emerges each spring with a distinct pink flush, before becoming bronze-green and then green. In autumn, the leaves change again to a vibrant red before they fall. Grow as a specimen with low underplanting or in a patio pot.

Sun requirements: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Any well-drained soil -  acidic needed to thrive

Hardiness: Fully hardy (to -20 °C or below) 

Size: Grows to 2m height x 1m spread


Acer palmatum 'Orange Dream'


A hardy, deciduous shrub. The new spring leaves emerge vibrant orange and yellow maturing to pale green. In autumn the leaves turn bright yellow. Grow as a specimen with low under-planting or in a patio pot.

Sun requirements: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Any well-drained soil -  acidic needed to thrive

Hardiness: Fully hardy (to -20 °C or below) 

Size: Grows to 3m height x 3m spread


Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku'


A hardy deciduous shrub with pale green, deeply cut leaves that turn soft shades of yellow in autumn. It also looks gorgeous in winter, after all the leaves have fallen, when its new shoots glow coral-red in the winter sunlight. Grow as a specimen with low underplanting or in a patio pot.

Sun requirements: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Any well-drained soil -  acidic needed to thrive

Hardiness: Fully hardy (to -20 °C or below) 

Size: Grows to 6m height x 5m spread


Acer palmatum 'Wilson's Pink Dwarf'


An upright, rounded, deciduous shrub with deeply lobed and serrated palmate leaves that unfurl pink or pink-red in spring, turn bright green by summer and bright red or orange in autumn. Grow as a specimen with low under-planting or in a patio pot.

Sun requirements: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Any well-drained soil - acidic needed to thrive

Hardiness: Fully hardy (to -20 °C or below) 

Size: Grows to 1.5m height x 1m spread


Acer palmatum Growing Guide

Planting

Water your plant well before planting. Whether you are planting in a border or container, ensure the space for the plant is as deep as the pot you bought it in. Carefully remove the plant from its container and position in the hole, ensuring it is sitting straight, then back-fill with a good quality multi-purpose compost. Acers do best in acidic soil. When planting in a container in particular, include a mixture of ericaceous compost. 

Keep it well-watered during the first year, especially during any dry spells. 

Hillier tip: Acers often do a large growth spurt in early spring, so give them a feed at this time to support their growth

Pruning

The ideal time to prune Acer palmatum varieties is in the dormant season between December and February. 

Hillier tip: Timing is important when it comes to pruning your acer. If you look at the plant and see the leaf buds starting to swell then you can prune back to a strong bud to promote growth. This is most often in late February to early March. 

Protection

Acer palmatum varieties are fully hardy in all UK climates. In very harsh winds, some varieties may suffer from leaf scorch; position in a moderately sheltered spot if possible. 


Acer palmatum Planting Ideas

Acer palmatum varieties make fantastic lawn specimens, simply planted in a good and relatively sheltered spot within your lawn. 

If you are positioning them in your borders, try under-planting with shade-loving plants such as hostas, heucheras and heucherella.

Alternatively, they also make beautiful container plants, positioned on a patio in a large pot. 

If you are inspired by the simplicity of Japanese gardens, Acer palmatum varieties associate fantastically with careful use of stones, water and rocks. This can easily be done on a small scale if you do not have room for a large area of water.   


Acer palmatum Fact

When growing conditions permit, Acer palmatum varieties can comfortably live to more than 100 years old.