Japanese Red Maple Trees

The tree in the photo below is my pride and joy. This tree comes out this red in the spring, then the foliage turns a dark crimson red, then just before the leaves fall it turns brilliant red again.

Laceleaf Weeping Japanese Maple


Without a doubt, Japanese Red Maple Trees are by far, one of the most popular ornamental plants in the plant kingdom. People absolutely love them, and for good reason. They are beautiful!

There are many varieties of Japanese Maple, and hopefully by the time you're done viewing this page you will have at least a reasonable understanding of how the different varieties differ from one another, and how to grow your own at home.

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For starters, and not to confuse you, but I am going to give you a crash course in the botanical names of Japanese Maples. This information may not seem significant right now, but down the road you might find it helpful, and you will know where to find to it.

Here we go...

The Botanical name for a Maple tree is Acer.

The botanical name for a Japanese Maple tree is Acer Palmatum.

The botanical name for a Japanese Red Maple tree is Acer Palmatum Autropurpeum.

These can all be grown from seed, and you can graft to either of the Japanese varieties.

The botanical name for a Laceleaf Weeping Japanese Maple tree is Acer Palmatum Dissectum.

And if you want one of the weeping Japanese Maples with deep red leaves, you would buy an Acer Palmatum Dissectum "Ever Red".

"Ever Red" is the variety, and there are many different varieties of Laceleaf Weeping Japanese Red Maples.

Don't let all that confuse you, it gets quite simple as you go along. Before you know it you will be an expert.

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Japanese Maples are actually easy to grow from seed, but you've got to put the seeds through a pretreatment process before you plant them. Both red and green varieties can be grown from seed, and you can even root cuttings of Japanese Maples. We'll cover all of these techniques on this page.

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Growing Japanese Red Maple Trees from seed.

If you collect Japanese Maple seeds from a Japanese Maple with green leaves, (acer palmatum) you will get seedlings with green leaves. This variety is upright growing, and not really all that attractive. However, they make great rootstock for grafting some of the nicer varieties onto.

If you collect seeds from a Japanese Maple with Red leaves, chances are the majority of the seedlings will at least have red leaves in the early spring, and most of the summer. Japanese Red Maple Trees grown from seed tend to lose some of their color as the season goes on.

There are some upright varieties that are known to hold their color really well all season, and these are usually propagated by grafting a piece of the desired plant onto a small Japanese Maple grown from seed. Two of the more popular upright varieties that hold their color really well all season are "Bloodgood" and "Oshi Beni".

Japanese Red Maple grown from seed

The Japanese Maple in the above photo is a red variety grown from seed, (acer palmatum autropurpeum). This photo was taken in the spring, and you can see what deep red, beautiful color this plant has in the spring. By late summer this tree is more green than red, but it sure is pretty most of the growing season.

The upright varieties such as the one above can get quite large if left unpruned as the photo below shows. This tree is towering over this single story home in the photo below. The weeping varieties like you saw at the top of the page stay quite low. More about them in a bit.

Upright Japanese Red Maple Tree

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Butterfly Japanese Maple

This is another variety of upright Japanese Maple known as Butterfly. By fall the edges of the variegated leaves are pink. Really pretty.

Most Japanese Maple trees produce seeds that ripen in the fall, but I am also told that some ripen in the spring. Watch the tree you intend to harvest from closely. Japanese Maple seeds are ready to be picked when they turn brown and start falling from the tree. Collect the seeds and clean them by breaking off the wing attached to the seeds.

Like a lot of ornamental plants, Japanese Maple seeds have a very hard outer coating, and you have to pretreat the seeds before you plant them. Place the cleaned seeds in a cup, and fill the cup with warm, to hot, tap water and let them soak for 24 hours. This will soften the outer coating of the seed so moisture can penetrate and germination can begin.

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I have been told by a professional in the seed industry to use hot water right from the coffee maker, and I have been told luke warm water from the tap. Me, I'd take the middle of the road and use warm water.

After soaking the seeds place them in a plastic bag in a mixture peat moss and sand. I'd use a 50/50 mixture, keeping in mind that the little details can vary so much that they really don't make a lot of difference. The secret is to soften the outer coating of the seeds so they can germinate. This peat mixture should be moist, but not soaking wet! You don't want them to rot before they have a chance to grow.

Laceleaf Weeping Japanese Maple Closeup

This is a close up of the foliage of the above tree.

Store them at room temperature for a period of 90 days, and then move them to the refrigerator for a period of 70 days. Don't put them to far back in the fridg or they might freeze, and that will slow down or stop the stratification process. This pretreatment thing we're doing here is called stratification. To learn more about growing from seed click here!

Time this process so the seeds are ready to be planted outside in the spring, after the danger of frost has passed. To do this pick the date on your calendar when you think the danger of frost should be past, and count backwards the total number of days the seeds will be in both cold, and warm storage.

Start stratifying the seeds on that day. The seeds can be stored dry in the fall until you are ready to use them. Make sure they are dry and place them in a paper bag and keep the bag in a cool dry place until it is time to start stratifying them.

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When the seeds are in the bag of peat and sand you should check them every now and then to see if any of them have started to sprout. If more than 10% of your seeds are sprouting, they should be planted right away. Even if you have to plant them in a flat indoors. Just make sure they receive an ample amount of light.

To plant the seeds, just spread the mixture of peat, sand, and seeds on top of the soil, then sprinkle some good potting soil over top of them. The rule of thumb for planting depth is "twice the length of the seed". If the seed is 1/8" long, don't plant them any more than 1/4" deep.

Once planted, water them thoroughly, but allow the soil to dry out before you water again. Keep in mind that the warmth of the sun will play a crucial role in the germination process, so you should allow the soil to dry and warm up between watering.

Waterfall Weeping Japanese Maple

The above photo is a "Waterfall Japanese Maple" in the fall just before the leaves are to fall. Just beautiful isn't it?

Once the seedlings begin to sprout provide some shade for them. They should have about 50% shade for at least the first few months, if not the first year.

With all that said, I will now share this.

I have an elderly friend who has been in the nursery business for the better part of his life. One day while at his nursery John picked some Japanese Maple seeds, and just threw the handful in a pot, and sprinkled some soil on top of them, and they grew the following year.

So it could be possible to just plant them outside in the fall, and just let Mother Nature stratify them for you. However, throughout the industry, most growers use a version of the process I outlined for you above.

What about the deep red varieties? And the weeping varieties? How do you grow them? Or the beautiful variegated variety shown below?

Butterfly Japanese Maple

"Butterfly" is a beautiful tree, this one is in a bed just off my patio in the backyard. Look at the beautiful variegation of the leaves in the photo below.

Butterfly Japanese Maple

For years and years the accepted method to grow beautiful Japanese Maple Trees such as these has always been grafting. The desired variety is grafted onto a seedling. Click on the blue link to learn all about grafting.

Today, that is still the accepted method, but some growers are actually rooting cuttings of some Japanese Red Maple Trees using intermittent mist. Whether or not any of them have actually been able to root the weeping varieties or specialty varieties, I don't honestly know. Most growers still graft them.

Japanese Maples always have been popular and great sellers, and they always will be. Great little work at home business if you're looking for a way to keep busy and make a few bucks at home.

Questions? I do my best to answer all questions on my blog...