Japanese Maple: Spectrum for the Seasons

Splashy Japanese maples electrify the garden with color.

By Beth Botts

Photography by Rob Cardillo


Japanese maples electrify the garden with color.A Few Good Japanese Maples

There are hundreds of named cultivars; these are some of the most dependable.

Acer japonicum

'Green Cascade'.

Cascading, almost prostrate tree has lacy green leaves. Orange to crimson fall color. Stake when young to desired height. Relatively hardy. Zones 5-9

Acer palmatum


All-around utility player, widely available and favored by landscapers. Upright tree, to 15 feet tall, has deep purple leaves, turning crimson in fall. Palmate (relatively wide-lobed) leaves and horizontal branching. Winter-hardy and heat-tolerant.

Zones 5-8

'Crimson Queen'.

Compact, rounded plant, 6 to 10 feet tall, with finely cut purple leaves, turning red in fall.

Zones 5-7

'Dissectum Atropurpureum'.

This weeping, mound-forming plant, to 8 feet, is fine and ferny. Its purple-red foliage turns greener in summer, then orange in fall. Twisted, contorted branching.

Zones 5-7

'Emperor I'.

Upright tree, to 15 feet, has purple palmate leaves turning crimson in fall. Leafs out late to avoid spring frosts. Sun scorch– resistant.

Zones 4b-8

'Sango Kaku'.

Upright tree, to 20 feet, with striking coral red bark on first-and second-year stems. Palmate leaves are red-tinged in spring, green in summer, and gold touched with red in fall.

Zones 5-7


Vase-shaped tree, to 15 to 20 feet, with medium green summer foliage, turning red in fall. Known as the only upright laceleaf maple.

Zone 5-7

Learn how to prune a Japanese maple.