The Japanese maple is a small tree native to eastern Asia, including Japan, Korea and China. It is popular in the United States as well, for both gardening and landscaping purposes; it will thrive in USDA zones 5 through 8.
The acer palmatum is popular for its reliability and beautiful leaves. With yellow, orange, red and even purple leaves in fall, the full-grown tree can have a dome-like shape. The tree can take many different shapes, including dwarf, spreading, upright, rounded, mounding, weeping, and vase. Generally, the tree grows to a height and spread of about 20 feet. The leaves of the Japanese maple have five to nine long, thin lobes and appear to be hand-shaped.
You can grow the Japanese maple in your yard or even as a bonsai tree. It can tolerate warm climates but its leaves may burn in extreme heat. You may not get the full colorful display in autumn if the tree endures a hot scorching summer. The tree best enjoys full morning sun followed by afternoon shade. Protect the tree from extreme wind, as well.
It needs moist well-drained soil; otherwise, it is susceptible to root rot. As the roots do not run especially deep, it needs frequent watering. Water the tree deeply twice a week, or even more so when first planted. The soil should be slightly acidic; add sand, peat moss, bark or compost to the soil. Mulch will also help insulate the roots from extreme temperatures as well as preventing water evaporation.
The Japanese maple requires little maintenance aside from watering and occasional fertilizer application. Keep an eye out for aphids, scales and borers which are pests that affect the tree. There are hundreds of different cultivars to choose from, including the Heart Beat, Red Filigree Lace, Autumn Fire, Octopus and Glowing Embers trees.