Japanese maple landscape ideas

Japanese Maple Companions – What To Plant With Japanese Maple Trees

Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) are small, easy-care ornamentals with captivating fall color. They add elegance to any garden when planted alone, but Japanese maple companions can further enhance their beauty. If you are looking for companions for Japanese maples, you’ll have many choices. Read on for some ideas of what to plant with Japanese maple trees.

Planting Next to Japanese Maples

Japanese maples thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 9. They prefer acidic soil. When you are trying to select candidates for planting next to Japanese maples, only consider plants with the same growing requirements.

Plants that love acid soils can be good Japanese maple companions. You might consider planting begonias, rhododendrons or gardenias.

Begonia cultivars grow happily in USDA zones 6 through 11, producing large blossoms in a

vast array of colors. Gardenias will grow in zones 8 through 10, offering deep green foliage and fragrant flowers. With rhododendrons, you have thousands of species and cultivars to choose among.

What to Plant with Japanese Maple Trees

One idea for companions for Japanese maples is other trees. You might mix different kinds of the Japanese maple that have different shapes and offer different foliage hues. For instance, try mixing Acer palmatum, Acer palmatum var. dissectum, and Acer japonicum to create a lush and attractive garden in summer and a lovely autumn display.

You might also consider selecting other types of trees, perhaps trees that offer contrasting color patterns to the Japanese maple. One to consider: dogwood trees. These small trees remain attractive all year long with spring blossoms, gorgeous foliage and interesting winter silhouettes. Various conifers can help create a nice contrast when blended in with Japanese maples too.

What about other companions for Japanese maples? If you don’t want to distract from the beauty of the Japanese maple, you can select simple groundcover plants as Japanese maple companions. Evergreen groundcover adds color to the garden corner in winter, when the maple has lost its leaves.

But groundcover plants don’t have to be inconspicuous. Try purple sheep’s burr (Acaena inermis ‘Purpurea’) for dramatic groundcover. It grows to 6 inches tall and offers brilliant purple foliage. For year-round groundcover beauty, select plants that grow well in shade. These include low-to-the-ground plants like mosses, ferns and asters.

Designing with Japanese maples

Japanese maples are beautiful in every season

Just what makes Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) so versatile in the landscape? They grow in many different forms — weeping, rounded, mounding or upright — so you can choose the right plant for any situation in your garden.

Japanese maples are multiseason marvels. Choose the right variety, and beautiful, delicate foliage will emerge in spring, show off in summer and transform to flaming colors in fall. But that’s not all! In winter, many varieties have a unique architectural form that’s a great addition to a garden. Some even have colorful bark. Like many Japanese maples, ‘Red Filigree Lace’ above keeps its deep purple-red color all summer and turns bright crimson in fall. Others turn orange or gold-yellow. This graceful beauty fits well into any style garden, and Japanese maples are wonderful companions to azaleas, hydrangeas and shade-loving perennials. Many of these trees grow slowly and top out at 10 to 15 feet tall, so they fit into beds, borders, foundation areas and even containers.

Look ahead for a few perfect places to showcase these stunning trees.

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Japanese maples are great for a front entry

Because they don’t have deep roots that grow into the foundation, Japanese maples are a great fit for front entries. Many of these trees grow slowly and stay more the size of a large shrub, so they won’t quickly outgrow their space. Even so, if you start with a small specimen, be sure to give it a wide enough space when planting to accommodate the tree’s mature size.

The entryway planting in the photo above uses contrast to draw visitors toward the front door. The red Japanese maple foliage stands out against the lighter colored brick, highlighting the form of the trees. If you have a darker home, you could choose one of the varieties with light green foliage to achieve a similar eye-catching effect.

Rounded shapes of Japanese maples add balance next to the hard lines of the house. Planting them next to this structure also protects these cold-sensitive trees from drying winter winds.

Pair Japanese maples with ornaments

Japanese maples are so varied in size, habit and leaf color, they can really fit in almost anywhere. In an open spot in the yard, like above, balance is established by combining a delicate dwarf Japanese maple with a small statue. This creates a pretty focal point in this Asian-inspired garden.

A pairing like this will have more multiseason appeal when you prune to emphasize an architectural branching structure.

Combine Japanese maples with other plants

Japanese maples combine well with other plants and each other, too. The large, bold foliage of hostas (Hosta spp. and hybrids) and grassy leaves of hakonechloa (Hakonechloa macra) provide nice contrast for Japanese maples in the partly shaded garden above.

Let weeping varieties, like ‘Waterfall’ and ‘Crimson Queen’, cascade over a stream bank or even a retaining wall, and add height with upright types, such as ‘Bloodgood’.

The bright red foliage of ‘Bloodgood’ at the end of a winding creek or a path draws the eye up, opening the view to more of the garden.

Check Out More Plant Combos for Your Garden

Japanese maples are low-maintenance container plants

Have a corner of the patio that could really use some drama? Let a container-planted Japanese maple be the solution! It’s one tree that will thrive in a pot.

For the best results, try a dwarf cultivar that’s slow growing and only reaches 6 to 8 feet tall. Plan to prune more frequently than you typically would if it were planted in the ground, and it’s likely you’ll need to repot into a larger container every couple of years. Or, to keep it in the same pot, shear off some of the roots and refresh the potting mix once every few years. ‘Sangokaku’ in the photo has brilliant coral bark that intensifies to deep red in winter, adding to its multiseason appeal — perfect if you live in a mild climate and can enjoy it year round.

See More Container Garden Ideas

Container tips

  • To keep the tree healthy without promoting too much growth, use potting mix that doesn’t have fertilizer mixed in and apply a dose of water-soluble fertilizer once in spring. Make sure the soil stays evenly moist but not soggy.
  • Move the pot indoors once the foliage drops in fall, if you live in zone 6 or colder. Inside an attached garage, porch or basement is fine because the tree doesn’t need light when it’s dormant.


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Red Dragon Japanese Maple – Acer palmatum var. disectum ‘Red Dragon’ is a stunning variety of weeping cutleaf Japanese maple, emerging in spring a bright cherry-red color, slowly turn crimson red during summer and then bright scarlet in fall. To maintain these beautiful colours your tree should be placed in a sunny, protected location.

Red Dragon generally grow 4-5’ high with a slightly wider spread. It has a shallow root system within the top 24 inches of soil. The roots are not aggressive and should not interfere with the foundation of your house although the fibrous roots will spread slightly beyond the tree’s drip line. You will, however want to provide enough space for the branches to spread out and not be restricted by the wall of your house.

Japanese maples like slightly acidic, well drained soil which has been amended with plenty of compost at planting time. To ensure the soil remains moist (not water logged) and to regulate the soil temperature, cover the soil with 2-3 inches of mulch every year or two, making sure the mulch does not touch the tree trunk.

I am sure your tree will be a stunning addition to the neighbourhood and admired by others.

The links below will provide further information about Japanese Maples.

Trees can work wonders in your front yard. They can beautify your home’s landscape, add to its curb appeal, and even increase the home’s property value. You may be considering planting a tree or two for these very reasons. But before you grab the shovel and start digging, there are some things you should know.

Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. With more than three decades of experience in residential and commercial tree care, Mr. Tree will tell you exactly where to get started. The first thing is exactly how close you should plant a tree to your home.

There are several factors to consider when choosing a location for your tree. For instance, certain tree types are more amenable to being planted close to the home than others. If you’re looking to plant a tree to increase your home’s property value, shade trees are an excellent choice. A healthy, mature shade tree can add up to $1500 to your home’s property value. But shade trees are great investments for another reason as well. Well-placed shade trees that effectively block sunlight from your home can significantly lower your home’s air conditioning bills. These trees are essentially able to pay for themselves over time.

In fact, according to the Department of Energy, a well-landscaped home can produce sufficient energy savings to pay for itself in less than eight years. Deciduous trees planted to the south of your home can block the majority of the solar heat during the summer, but allow the sun’s rays in during the winter.

Likewise, certain tree types serve as windbreaks, preventing signs of wear and tear on your home while also reducing your heating costs. Evergreen trees, for instance, provide year-round shade, but also serve as a windbreak when planted to the north and northwest of your home. A South Dakota study showed that windbreaks planted to the north, west, and east of houses reduce fuel consumption by an average of 40 percent.

So now that you know what type of trees can be planted close to your home, it’s time to decide just where to put them.

You should take into account the tree’s size at maturity when deciding where to plant a tree in your yard. A good rule of thumb is to divide the mature spread of the tree in half. This is the minimum distance that the tree should be planted from your home.

The height of a tree can also help you determine how far away from your house the tree should be planted. Large trees, ones that grow to heights of 70 feet or more, should be planted at least 20 feet from your home. Medium-sized trees, those that grow up to 70 feet tall, should be planted at least 15 feet from your home. Finally, small trees that do not grow larger than 30 feet should be planted at least eight to ten feet from your home.

In addition to considering the height of a tree and its spread, you’ll also want to consider a tree’s root system. Overgrown roots can wreak havoc on a home’s foundation and also disrupt underground pipes. It’s best, therefore, to avoid planting trees with an aggressive root system too close to your home.

A tree’s roots can spread up to three times the width of its crown. Therefore, it’s important to place large trees an adequate distance away from your home so you don’t run the risk of the roots encroaching on your home’s foundation and causing structural damage.

In fact, there are certain types of trees to avoid because of their root systems. These include willow trees, poplars, cottonwoods, aspens, silver maples, Norway maples, and American elm trees, among others.

Smaller trees with shallow roots, however, pose little risk to your home. Japanese maple trees, for instance, are safe to plant relatively close to your house. Some small fruit trees and ornamental trees are generally safe as well.

In addition to considering the potential risks of planting a tree close to your home, you’ll also want to think about the aesthetic of the trees that you are planting. After all, a tree should enhance a home’s landscaping and ideally, add to your home’s property value. Generally speaking, large trees work well with larger homes, such as two-story houses. However, large trees will often make a small house appear even smaller. Therefore, it’s a good idea to opt for small or medium-sized trees if you have a smaller home.

Smaller trees tend to be versatile and also work well when planted in front of larger houses, since they can make such a house appear even larger. You’ll definitely want to factor in both the size of your yard and home when deciding what type of tree to plant close to your home.

Deciding where to plant a tree is only the first step in the process. Once a tree is planted close to a home, you’ll want to ensure the structural integrity of the tree by having it regularly serviced. Trees that are damaged or weak could potentially topple over. Therefore, it’s important that you contact a certified arborist to assess the health of your tree on a frequent basis.

If you notice a tree losing branches or if cracks and signs of rotting emerge, you should contact an expert immediately to determine if the tree needs to be removed. Regular upkeep and preventative care are essential to maintaining your tree’s health.

When in doubt, it’s best to consult with your expert arborists at Mr. Tree. We can provide advice as to what trees to plant in your yard and the best location for them.

While there are some general rules to follow, we can help you customize your yard landscaping to your unique tastes and needs. So give us a call and we’d be more than happy to help you plant a tree.

Tagged as: Advice for Planting Tree, How to Plant Tree, planting tree by house, planting tree in front yard

Japanese maples are easily one of the most elegant and stunning specimen plants you can add to your garden. There are varieties that can be grown in containers, and few of them ever reach over 25 feet tall, making them adaptable to any space. The fall colors on Japanese maples is stunning, and because of their smaller size, easier to appreciate in a small garden than a larger tree or shrub. Many varieties even look amazing all winter long with attractive bark and branch formation. They leaf out early with fresh green leaves, some of which change to reds or oranges as the season progresses. Japanese maples are available in both red and green varieties, and some varieties have reached collector status. Let’s learn how to grow Japanese maples!

Japanese Maples have a reputation for being difficult to grow, but while they have needs that need to be attended to for best growth and color, they are a tough and adaptable plant. There are more varieties than one could count, from dwarf maples for containers to upright trees worthy of a focal point in your garden. Red, green, gold or a mix of these colors are the most popular. Laceleaf Japanese maples have delicate, lacy leaves that catch the morning light, and usually a cascading form. Palmate leaf maples have larger leaves (like a “palm”) with more color variety, and tolerate wind and heat better. Some varieties can have brightly colored winter bark making them a perfect four season plant for the garden.

Here are the steps on how to grow Japanese Maples, and our top favorite varieties!

How to Grow Japanese Maples

Sun vs. Shade

Japanese Maples are shade lovers, but they do need some sun in order to get to their best color. It’s best to provide morning sun and afternoon shade, or dappled shade at most. The farther south you are, the more afternoon shade should be provided. Below is an example of leaf scorch that some maples are prone to with too much afternoon sun. Green leaf maples tend to be a little more tolerant of the sun than red leaf Japanese maples. However, leaf scorch does tend to be less obvious on a red leaf.

Best Soil for Japanese Maples

They are medium feeders, but lots of compost or organic matter should be worked into the planting hole. Then do not fertilize again until the second season. One note: Japanese maples do not do well with salt in the soil. They can handle a wider variety of soil issues, but that is deadly to them. They also require decent drainage, so don’t plant them in the lowest area of a wet garden space.

How Much to Water

Evenly moist, not soggy and not dry when young. Believe it or not, at maturity Japanese Maples can be somewhat drought resistant. Be careful not to allow them to dry out in the winter months if you live in an area that doesn’t get much rain.

Wind Problems For Japanese Maples

Obviously you can’t protect any outdoor plant from all wind, but if you can choose a more protected spot, your maple will appreciate it. Winds can dry out and brown the leaves if they are constant. If you live in a windy area, plant on the leeward side of the house for more protection. Another option is to plant your Japanese maple in a container, and then you can move it into a sheltered area when necessary.

Japanese Maple Hardiness

Most Japanese Maples are hardy down to zone 5, but they dislike overly hot environments. However, I grow my Coral Bark Maple in an inland northwest desert, in full afternoon sun. I just keep it well watered every day in well drained soil. However, towards the end of summer I do get some brown curling on the leaves. This is a trade off I’m willing to accept for this gorgeous plant! If you live in an area colder than zone 5, you can try planting a Korean maple. They are similar, but more hardy.

Pruning Japanese Maples

One of the best tips on pruning Japanese maples is to do so with restraint. You don’t want to prune too aggressively and ruin the lines of a graceful tree in one afternoon. Try this guide on pruning Japanese maples at ‘Fine Gardening‘.

Special Tips for Growing Japanese Maples

Reduce your watering in the fall for the best color. Japanese Maples grow fairly slowly, so if after a season or two you find the spot you chose isn’t working, you can dig it up and move it, they are pretty tough. Just dig a nice sized root ball and transplant it in the fall. Water it well… even if you see some stress related leaf drop, chances are it will be just fine come spring.

How to Plant Japanese Maples in Containers

Most Japanese maples are perfect for containers, and can even be used for Bonsai. The most important thing is to make sure the roots stay snug in the container, but not packed tight. This requires root pruning every 2-4 years. Simply pull the tree from the container, and prune away the outer inch or two of matted roots. Then prune away any thick, woody roots. Thats it! Now replant into the same container, or one just slightly bigger if you want the tree to grow larger. Make sure to use a potting mix that is well draining, but retains moisture.

Japanese Maple Tree Varieties

Green Japanese Maples

“Coral Bark” Japanese Maple – This variety has lovely red bark that shows well in the winter months. Leaves are green with a sight reddish edge, then turn golden in the fall. To 20 feet. A collectors maple, this variety is showing up in local nurseries more and more. You can also order it online. This is our favorite Japanese maple variety!

“Aoyagi” Japanese Maple – This maple variety has bright green leaves in summer, and yellow foliage in fall. This tree is a great complement to a Coral Bark Japanese Maple with its green winter bark. Photo by ‘Houzz‘.

Golden Japanese Maples

The “Golden Full Moon” Maple has gorgeous gold leaves that turn more red from the tips down in the fall. To 20 feet.

“Orangeola” is a semi dwarf variety that has many different looks. Starting out green in spring, it changes to purple as summer goes on. In the fall, this amazing Japanese maple turns brilliant orange! This one can be grown in the garden, or in a large container. To twelve feet tall.

Japanese Red Maples

“Dissectum Atropurpureum” – This is the common red laceleaf Japanese maple variety that you see with fine foliage and a dwarf, cascading form.

One of the best upright Japanese maple varieties is “Bloodgood”. Easy to find at nurseries, this variety grows to 20 feet with deep burgundy red, palmate leaves. This tree turns brilliant scarlet in the fall, with a deep red winter bark. A slightly smaller version at only 12 feet, is “Fireglow”.

Dwarf Japanese Maples for Containers

Our favorite Japanese maple for containers is “Bihou’, Starting out with green leaves, it turns vivid gold, orange and red in the fall. Photo by ‘Houzz‘.

Best Japanese Maples for Southern or Warmer Climates

“Beni schichihenge” – This variety is a variegated leaf with cream, green and pink, and turns to an orange golden in the fall. To 8 feet, and tolerates hot temperatures better than most. Photo by ‘HGTV‘.

“Osakazuki” Japanese Maple is a green leaf variety that grows to 20 feet. It handles more full sun than most Japanese maples and is resistant to scorch. It turns a vivid scarlet in the fall. One of the most gorgeous of all Japanese red maples.

We hope you are as in love with Japanese maples now as we are! We think you will want to jump right on over to our posts on Classic DIY Walkway Projects and Privacy with Plants!

Image Credits: Terre Verte, Royal Horicultural, BHG, HGTV, Big Plant Nursery

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Today, we will continue with our design for the small residential Japanese garden that we started in the last post.

In that post we completed the design for the ground plane. So now we can turn our attention to the vertical elements of the garden. We will add the following elements to our design in the next few posts:

  • Trees
  • Shrubs
  • Ground cover plants
  • Water feature
  • Ornaments

If we go back to my post Japanese garden for a small yard, I identified seven ideas to remember when creating a successful residential Japanese garden.

  1. Imply nature
  2. Connect the inside with the outside
  3. Are scaled for people
  4. Are secluded from the outside world
  5. Are mostly evergreen
  6. Have a simple plant palette
  7. Contain water

We shall consider these principles when filling out our design.

Trees to frame our narrow residential Japanese garden

We begin by looking at the above principles. We see that implying nature, having evergreen plants and a simple plant palette all apply to selecting trees. So lets start by adding some evergreens to our residential Japanese garden design.

Let me point out that ALL of these evergreen trees will need to be pruned. Otherwise, they will overgrow the garden. The good news is that if it is done every year, it does not have to be too big of a job. This is a Japanese garden design and it will require maintenance and aesthetic pruning. This can be an enjoyable pursuit. It can actually add to enjoyment of your garden.

The first evergreen tree we will add will be a native to a large portion of the US, the Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). This is a fine textured evergreen. It is slower growing but will require annual pruning.

Canadian hemlocks in their natural environment
photo credit: Nicholas_T via photopin cc

If you want a smaller tree that would not require as much pruning or have Hemlock Woolly Adelgid prevelant in your area, you could use a Nootka Falsecypress (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) instead.

There are lots of weeping varieties available. However, the straight species or the cultivar Sullivan (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis “‘Sullivan’) would be better for this design.

Nootka Falsecypress (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis)
photo credit: MDBolin via photopin cc

Here is how our design would look with a couple of these trees added. Note you can click on my images and you will go to a larger view of it. To return to this page just hit the “Back” button on your web browser.

Two Canadian Hemlocks added

Evergreen #2

The 2nd tree we will add will also be an evergreen. This time it won’t be a native tree. It is an evergreen that looks great in the winter when it’s purple colored cones add color to the landscape. This tree is the Korean Fir (Abies koreana).

The purple colored cones of the Korean Fir standout in the winter landscape
photo credit: helen.2006 via photopin cc

Here is how the design would look with two of these trees added.

Two Korean firs are added

Specimen tree to show the change of the seasons

While we do want to add mostly evergreens, we also want to imply nature in our designs. One of the most basic facts of nature (at least here in the Midwestern US) is the change of the seasons. Spring changes to Summer to Fall to Winter. Having plants that signal these changing seasons is one of the joys of having a garden.

In Japanese gardens, the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) is one of the plants that do this well. While Japanese maples are frequently used in gardens in the US, it is usually a purple leafed form, such as the cultivar Bloodgood (Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’).

The purple leaf form are certainly fine trees. I have several in my yard myself. In this design we are trying to create a more natural looking effect. We will therefore use a green leaf form as it looks more natural.

A row of green leaf Japanese maples
photo credit: erikamatthias via photopin cc

If we were in zone four or colder we would want a hardier tree such as the Korean Maple (Acer pseudosieboldianum). While the Korean maple is not quite as graceful as the Japanese maple, it is more cold hardy and has a very nice Fall color display.

In our design we will just use a regular green Japanese maple. Here is how it would look added to our design.

Japanese maple added

Native tree choices for our residential Japanese garden

If instead of a Japanese maple, we wanted a tree native to the US, we could use any number of medium growing ones with a good seasonal display. Some trees with good multi seasonal interest include the Redbud (Cercis canadensis), American Smoketree (Cotinus obovatus), and Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida).

A large and old flowering dogwood in it’s Fall color

In the next post, we will add the rest of the trees and the shrubs for this residential Japanese garden design. If you liked this post please share it. You can click the appropriate button below to do that.

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