Acer palmatum and Acer japonicum
Of all the ornamental trees, the Japanese Maples are easily my personal favourites. Light, airy, layered.
The Acer palmatum is generally seed grown, so there is some degree of variability within trees, but generally speaking this is a delightful small airy vase shaped tree with a 5 lobed leaf, bright green in spring, mid green over summer, turning orange, crimson and yellow over autumn. Roughly 3-8m x 4m. It is from this species that the vast majority of the cultivars are derived.
Acer japonicum is sometimes called the Full Moon Japanese Maple. The rounded leaves have 9 – 13 lobes and give a wonderful light and airy effect. It leafs up early in spring with lovely lime green leaves, deepening to green over summer and then autumn sees stunning, almost iridescent, oranges and deep crimson reds. The larger leaf surface gives an amazing autumn display. Slightly taller at 4m to 8+m in height, you will need to allow room for it to spread.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Nearly all prefer some afternoon shade or dappled light all day.
- Hot winds will crisp the leaves up, this is especially true of the highly dissected leaf types. Keep well watered on hot windy days.
- Names which indicate leaf colour commonly refer to the new growth or to the autumn colours.
- Purple leafed forms need some sun – they tend to go green in the shade
- They prefer a slightly acidic soil.
Acer palmatum ‘Sango kaku’ or Acer palmatum ‘Senkaki’
Otherwise known as the Coral Bark Maple, the young branches have strong coral red tones, intensifying in winter to a brilliant red. This then acts as a wonderful foil to the lime green spring foliage. Autumn colours are bright yellows with orange tints. Altogether a tree for all seasons. Needs protection from strong afternoon sun, but needs some sun for the red bark colour to fully develop. Grows roughly 6m x 5m in a vase shape. An extremely popular tree.
Acer palmatum ‘Seiryu’
I always want to run my hands through the foliage of this tree, the leaves are deeply lobed, lacy, and wonderfully textural. Initially light green with hints of red around the edges and looking incredibly delicate, as spring moves into summer the colour deepens to a medium green. Late into autumn very rapidly the leaves colour orange and then a deep red, if you go away for a weekend, you may leave a green tree and come back to a brilliant burgundy red one. This is the only Acer palmatum with dissected leaves that is not a weeper, but grows into the conventional vase shape, which broadens as it ages. One of the easiest to grow, relatively fast growing to 4 or 5m in height.
Acer palmatum ‘Bonfire’
A very small growing maple, 3m in height, with a dense, broad rounded shape. The name comes from the wonderful spring growth – orange-pink to brilliant crimson red colours – eventually changing to bronze and then green as summer nears. Autumn sees a return to the red and sometimes orange red colours. Nice that it does its thing twice in one year! Small enough to grow well in a container. As it ages the grey trunk twists and adds a sculptural element to the landscape.
Acer palmatum ‘Butterfly’
A very small growing maple suitable for container growing, 3m in height, with green and white/cream variegated foliage. The leaves may show hints of pink around the margins in spring. The cream variegations turn pink to crimson in autumn. Very showy, good for lighting up a shadier spot in the garden.
Acer palmatum ‘Shaina’
A small growing 2m tall dwarf tree with rounded shape, excellent for container growing. Often, but not always, grafted as a standard. New leaves are bright red and age to duller deeper red tones before colouring up again to crimson in autumn. Very dense habit. Outstanding, dramatic cultivar, excellent in containers.
Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’
An upright plant to approx 3M with short, stubby branches. Small crinkled foliage grows in tufts along the stems giving the alternative name of Lion’s Mane maple. Leaves are deep green before turning a showy blend of gold, rose and crimson in autumn. Very showy as it ages and becomes more dense. Good in containers.
Acer palmatum ‘Villa Taranto’
A graceful, rounded small growing tree to approx 3m. Very elegant and uncommon long, fine, strap-like leaves, emerging orange to reddish-purple in spring, maturing to green with red overtones in summer and finally turning golden orange in autumn. Leaves are held on long stalks and arch out gracefully from the stems. Leaves in the shade stay green, exposed leaves colour up, giving a layered two toned effect. One of my favourite small growing maples.
Acer palmatum atropurpureum
One of the best loved Japanese maples growing to 4m. New leaves emerge dark purple then moving to more reddish green hues in summer before their final scarlet finale in autumn. Delicate upright branching, (can have multiple trunks) with lovely star shaped leaves, justifiably very popular.
Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’
One of the best of the purple leafed Japanese maples with a good vase shape up to 5m when young. Deep black-red leaves in spring, changing to purple in summer and then crimson in autumn, it is stunning for 3 seasons. Grows reasonably quickly when young, slowing down at around 7 years and developing a more rounded form.
Acer palmatum ‘Red Pygmy’
Small and slow growing 3-4m with attractive narrow linear leaves emerging red to maroon in spring changing to green or purple as the temperatures heat up. A bonus is this tree tolerates more sun than most. The more sun it gets the deeper green the leaves. These then change to a brilliant yellow/gold in autumn. Very graceful Acer. Suitable for container growing. NOTE: Leaves on young wood (one year old) are typically broader – this is normal, do not remove them, leaves on these branches will revert to the narrow form the following year when the wood is a year older.
Acer palmatum ‘Elegans’
This tree walks out the nursery door in autumn when what appeared to be a nice but everyday Japanese Maple suddenly erupts into astounding autumn colours. Soft green leaves with gold/pink hues emerge in spring, changing to mid green all summer and early autumn, and then astonishing tones of yellow , orange and red mix across the tree turning it into a visual feast. A bonus is the attractive green bark with white makings when young. Grows to around 4m.
Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’
Award winning maple up to 5m known for its fiery crimson autumn foliage. Superbly elegant maple with good clear green foliage from spring through summer. Red tipped samaras give added interest. The autumn foliage ranges from brilliant orange-scarlets to crimson reds and holds for several weeks. More resistant to leaf scorch, and more tolerant of drought and wind than most Japanese Maples. Elegant shape – looks good even bare in winter.
Acer japonicum ‘Vitifolium’
One of the Full Moon maples, to 5-7m. Beautiful large shallowly lobed, broad fan shaped leaves are a lovely mid green spring and summer changing to brilliant, almost glowing shades of orange and red in autumn. The larger leaf seems to catch the light and the play of colours, light and shadows are entrancing.
Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’
A beautiful full moon maple with deeply lobed ferny green foliage contrasting with the small reddish spring samaras in drooping clusters. The autumn colour is a rich crimson, can almost glow in the sunlight. Grows 4-m tall. Synonyms: Acer japonicum ‘Filicifolium and Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium Maiku Jaku’. Also known as the Dancing Peacock or Fernleaf Maple – one of the most photographed maples!
Acer palmatum ‘Ornatum’ (Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Ornatum’)
Very popular weeping maple with feathery leaves starting green dusted with red in spring and moving to bronzy tones in summer (needs some light/sun for full colour to develop). Depending on temperature it changes to yellows and oranges in the autumn or to crimson reds. Highly ornamental elegant weeping maple with cascading umbrella habit.
Acer palmatum ‘Viridis’
Stunning weeping maple with small very finely cut green leaves giving a soft feathery look. Extremely attractive. Autumn colour is brilliant scarlet red. Wide growing domed weeper.
Acer palmatum atropurpureum – Weeping Form
One of the best known and loved maples in a weeping form. Mature specimens form broad majestic domes, weeping to the ground. New leaves emerge dark purple then moving to more reddish green hues in summer before their final scarlet finale in autumn. Delicate upright branching, (can have multiple trunks) with lovely star shaped leaves, justifiably very popular.
Acer palmatum ‘Inabe Shidare’
Outstanding upright dissectum variety with a weeping or cascading form – very uncommon. Leafs out early in spring with large intricate leaves in a clear purple red colour which holds all spring and summer, avoiding the transition to bronzy tones that so many of the purple leafed maples do. In autumn the colour moves to a glowing bright crimson. Small growing and sturdy, commonly less than 2m. Over time will develop a dome like habit.
Acer palmatum ‘Hana Matoi’
New and exciting cultivar with very unusual colours. Spring foliage emerges purple with pink and cream variegation. Needs some sun for the pink tones to fully develop. Over summer the purple background moves towards green, but the pink and cream variegations remain until autumn when the leaves to crimson. Leaves are dissected and lacy. Trees grow 2m or less – depending on graft height. Over time a dome shape develops. Very elegant tree which can show some stripes in the bark, giving added winter interest.
Acer palmatum ‘Orangeola’
Large finely cut leaves emerge green and orange, but as they mature, rapidly move towards purple and then bronzy green. Mid-summer sees a second flush of red growth emerging, these leaves overlap and contrast against the green older leaves. Still ringing in the changes in autumn, the leaves finally move to brilliant glowing red and orange colours. Truly a remarkable multi season display by this wonderful cultivar. Very pendulous weeping habit, giving a narrower dome than many of the weepers. Perfect in containers or as a focal point in the garden.