A Information to Completely different Japanese Maple Varieties

If you happen to’ve ever shopped for a Japanese maple, you don’t have any doubt seen that they arrive in an astounding array of leaf colours and shapes, and a spread of progress habits and sizes.

Whereas that’s fantastic when it comes to choices, it may be a problem once you’re making an attempt to speak all issues Japanese maple: “You understand, the one with the actually deeply divided lobes? Not, not that one. The one with the tremendous serrated edges? No…”

Some lovers merely divide maple bushes into two teams: upright and weeping. However if you wish to really perceive this various and ever-evolving group of crops, you want to have the ability to describe them extra particularly.

A vertical image of a garden planted with a variety of different Japanese maple trees with different colored foliage. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.

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That’s why specialists on these crops created 17 classes to outline all the several types of Japanese maples which might be on the market.

In our information to rising Japanese maples, we cowl the right way to domesticate these bushes in your panorama.

This information helps to make sense of all the totally different classes, plus we’ll present particulars about just a few crops that exemplify every group. Right here’s what’s forward:

If you happen to assumed that the primary distinction between Japanese maples was progress behavior and measurement, you’re in for an actual deal with! Let’s get began.

How Japanese Maples Are Categorized

If you happen to’ve ever shopped for Japanese maples, you may not notice that lots of them are mislabeled.

However I’ve taken a gander on the obtainable varieties at a number of locations that shall stay anonymous and located that they’d a number of bushes that had been labeled utterly incorrect!

I felt dangerous for the purchasers who thought they had been bringing dwelling a tree that was labeled as a sort having pink foliage, solely to find after they planted it that the foliage turns inexperienced in the summertime.

A horizontal image of a path through a Japanese garden planted with maple trees.

Clearly, there was a spot within the Japanese maple world that led to some labeling confusion. Enter the Maple Society. Utilizing their system, you’d know should you had been a appropriately labeled atropurpureum that it might keep pink all summer time lengthy.

The Maple Society is a United Kingdom-based group that registers new cultivars within the Acer genus, and faucets into the experience of botanists and Japanese maple specialists all over the world.

They’ve formally damaged up the broad class of Japanese maples into 17 teams, utilizing the system outlined by famous knowledgeable Cor van Gelderen, and constructing on the work of nurseryman Benoit Choeau.

This method is especially useful as a result of these crops could come from certainly one of quite a few Acer species which might be indigenous to Japan.

A. palmatum is the commonest, however you’ll additionally see the species A. shirasawanum, A. japonicum, A. capilipes, and extra, together with their hybrids.

Initially, J.D. Vertrees, a extremely revered entomologist, grower, and educator primarily based in Oregon who is usually regarded as one of the educated Japanese maple specialists within the West, grouped the crops into seven classes.

5 of his classes are utilized by the Maple Society in the present day, plus twelve extra. The 5 classes that overlap between Vertrees’ and the Maple Society’s are: amoenum, dissectum, linearilobum, matsumurae, and palmatum.

Vertrees additionally grouped all dwarf crops collectively, and had a remaining class referred to as “different” for every thing else.

Each classification methods are typically primarily based on the division of the leaf lobes, variegation, and colour.

Earlier than we bounce in, we want a fast leaf anatomy lesson so we’re all on the identical web page with these phrases:

  • Lobes on a leaf are projections that reach from a central level, like fingers.
  • A sinus is the hole between the lobes.
  • A petiole is the little stem that attaches the leaf to the department of the tree.
  • The margin is the surface fringe of the leaf, and the veins prolong from the petiole up by way of the leaf to move water.

Now, let’s check out every of the 17 classifications used to explain Japanese maples in the present day.


This group is an efficient one to begin with, as a result of it contains principally any plant that doesn’t have distinct traits that put it in one other class.

A close up horizontal image of the green foliage of an amoenum Japanese maple pictured on a dark soft focus background.

What all of them have in widespread is that the leaves aren’t deeply lobed, and the foliage is inexperienced in the summertime.

Past that, this group is said in that all of them have leaves with seven distinct lobes.

Try ‘Ōsakazuki’ for instance of this selection. The brilliant inexperienced leaves have seven deep lobes and the margins of the leaves are deeply toothed.

Within the fall, the foliage turns shiny scarlet. As soon as mature, the tree is about 15 toes tall and broad.

Defining traits: Leaves are solely lobed to half the blade or much less, summer time foliage colour is inexperienced. Every leaf has seven lobes.


This class comprises among the hottest and recognizable Japanese maples. Mainly, if a tree is upright with pink foliage and it doesn’t match underneath witches’-broom or linearilobum, you’ll discover it right here.

A close up horizontal image of the bright red foliage of an Atropurpureum maple tree pictured on a soft focus background.

‘Bloodgood’ is maybe probably the most well-known cultivar of this class, and also you’ll typically discover it on the market at nurseries and residential provide shops. This tree grows about 20 toes tall and 15 toes broad.

The foliage is deep, darkish pink and the leaves are deeply lobed with 5 “fingers.”

A close up square image of the deep red foliage of Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' with drops of water on the leaves.


By the best way, if you wish to deliver dwelling a ‘Bloodgood,’ Nature Hills Nursery carries them in quart-sized containers.

Defining attribute: Summer season foliage colour is pink or purple.


Bushes within the aureum class stand out due to the colour of their foliage. The leaves are shiny yellow or orange within the spring earlier than turning yellow or lime inexperienced throughout the summer time. They then fade to a pale chartreuse within the fall.

A close up horizontal image of the golden foliage of an aureum Acer palmatum growing in the garden.

‘Golden Moon’ is an especially standard choice. It has foliage with seven or 9 sharply pointed lobes, and grows to about 20 toes tall and broad.

‘Summer season Gold’ stays underneath ten toes tall, and options leaves with seven or 9 medium lobes.

‘Autumn Moon’ emerges within the spring with lime inexperienced leaves with a touch of orange earlier than transitioning to burnt orange within the late summer time.

A close up vertical image of the bright green foliage of Acer palmatum 'Autumn Moon' growing in a container.
Picture by Kristine Lofgren.

Within the autumn, the colour turns into shiny orange. The tree grows to about 18 toes tall and 15 toes broad when mature.

Defining attribute: Summer season foliage is yellow or orange.


What makes this group distinctive is that the lobes of the leaves are convex, and lots of of them are deeply lobed.

A close up horizontal image of the bright red fall foliage of Acer palmatum ‘Trompenburg’ pictured in light sunshine.
Picture through Alamy.

‘Trompenburg’ is an ideal instance. It has deeply lobed, darkish maroon leaves, the lobes of which bend again from the midrib or veins. It stays underneath 20 toes tall.

Defining attribute: Convex lobes.


This group options bushes that by no means fail to attract consideration with their shiny pink foliage within the spring, earlier than transitioning to shiny pink after which darkish pink with hints of inexperienced, or solely inexperienced, in the summertime.

A superb instance is ‘Deshōjō.’ It has putting shiny pink leaves with inexperienced facilities within the spring earlier than turning shiny pink after which fading to inexperienced. The leaves have 5 or seven lobes.

A close up horizontal image of Acer palmatum 'Amber Ghost' growing in the garden.
Picture by Kristine Lofgren.

‘Amber Ghost’ is one other corallinum magnificence, beginning out shiny pink after which fading to extra of a melon colour. In the summertime, it turns inexperienced with some pink and pink on the suggestions of the leaves.

In fall, the foliage modifications once more, changing into shiny pink and orange. It grows to about 15 toes tall and broad.

A close up horizontal image of a Japanese maple growing as a bonsai in a small pot in a formal garden.

Fanatics in Japan name these crops “spring bushes,” as a result of that’s when the foliage actually shines (and after they’re exhibited at bonsai exhibits).

Defining traits: Leaves are solely lobed to half the blade or much less, spring foliage colour is pink or pinkish-red.


The crispum group options leaves which might be wrinkled or crinkled. A lot of the bushes keep pretty small, however just a few develop to round ten toes tall.

A close up vertical image of the foliage of a crispum group Acer palmatum growing in a container.

‘Shishigashira’ (or ‘Lion’s Head’ in English) has small, crinkled, deeply-lobed inexperienced leaves.

This tree grows pretty tall for the class, to about 15 toes.

A close up vertical image of Acer palmatum 'Lions Head' growing in the garden.
Picture by Kristine Lofgren.

‘Krazy Krinkle’ has deeply lobed, wrinkled leaves with closely toothed margins. This tree stays underneath ten toes tall.

‘Mikawa Yatsubusa’ is a dwarf maple that stays underneath 4 toes tall, with tightly packed and layered inexperienced foliage.

Defining attribute: Wavy or curly leaf margins.


This group is an actual stand-out as a result of the foliage appears like lace from distant. Up shut, you’ll see that the leaves have lengthy, slender “fingers” which might be deeply lobed.

A close up horizontal image of the deeply lobed red foliage of dissectum Japanese maple growing in the garden.
Picture by Kristine Lofgren.

In reality, the leaves are so deeply lobed that every division goes again to the bottom of the leaf, so that they appear to be separate little leaves.

The leaves normally have closely toothed margins, including to the lace-like impact. Most crops have a weeping progress behavior, however not all.

Vertrees wrote that ‘Tamukeyama’ was his favourite from this grouping. This tree stays underneath ten toes tall (normally nearer to 6 toes) and has deep pink, virtually purple foliage that doesn’t fade in the summertime.

Within the fall, it turns shiny, vibrant pink.

A close up square image of a Japanese maple tree with bright red foliage growing in the garden.


You possibly can’t discover a larger advice than that, so if you wish to buy one to your house, head to Maple Ridge Nursery. Select from one-, three-, seven-, and 15-gallon containers.

‘Garnet’ stays underneath eight toes tall with attribute dissectum leaves in deep maroon that flip shiny garnet pink within the fall.

‘Crimson Queen’ is one other traditional favourite. It has deeply toothed and lobed leaves in darkish pink, and a cascading progress behavior. It stays compact, underneath ten toes tall.

A close up square image of the deep red foliage of Acer palmatum 'Crimson Queen' Japanese maple.

‘Crimson Queen’

Nature Hills carries a “balled and burlapped” five- to six-foot tree you can add to your panorama.

Defining attribute: Deeply divided lobes with closely toothed margins.


You can virtually mistake the bushes on this class for bamboo. That’s as a result of they’ve extraordinarily slim, deep lobes that aren’t deeply toothed, as these within the dissectum group are.

A close up vertical image of Acer palmatum ‘Koto No Ito’ growing in a container indoors.
Picture by Kristine Lofgren.

‘Koto No Ito’ is a typical instance. The foliage on this attractive tree begins out pink, transitions to apple inexperienced in the summertime, and step by step turns into vibrant golden yellow within the fall.

It has a slim, upright progress behavior and tops out at ten toes.

Vertrees referred to as out ‘Crimson Pygmy’ as certainly one of his favorites from this group. This weeping tree grows to only six toes tall and broad, with pink spring foliage that transitions to olive inexperienced in the summertime.

When autumn arrives, the leaves grow to be golden orange.

Defining attribute: Deeply divided lobes with flippantly toothed or easy margins.


The bushes on this group have leaves with seven to 9 lobed leaves, with sinuses that go all the best way all the way down to the bottom.

However as an alternative of getting lengthy, skinny lobes like linearilobum or dissectum, the lobes are extra rounded. The margins are finely serrated.

A close up vertical image of the lobed foliage of Acer palmatum growing in a container.
Picture by Kristine Lofgren.

Vertrees factors to ‘Omurayama,’ as a pleasant instance of this class. This selection is a 15-foot-tall tree with a cascading type.

The foliage begins out gentle inexperienced with hints of orange earlier than turning inexperienced in the summertime. Within the fall, the leaves flip pink, orange, and yellow.

Usually you’ll see this sort of Japanese maple referred to as “fern leaf.”

Defining attribute: Deeply divided lobes with broad sinuses, toothed margins, inexperienced summer time colour.


This group is made up of crops with variegated foliage.

What units this grouping aside from variegatum, which additionally options bushes with variegated foliage, is that the leaves have an especially distinct distinction between the coloring on the margin and the middle of the leaf.

A close up horizontal image of the variegated foliage of Acer palmatum 'Yama Nishiki' pictured on a soft focus background.

To see instance of this explicit group, take a look at ‘Butterfly.’

The foliage on this tree has creamy white margins and a grayish-green middle. Within the spring, the margins might need some pink hues to them, and within the fall, the margins flip pink.

The leaves have 5 lobes and the tree grows to be about 12 toes tall when mature.

‘Yama Nishiki,’ generally known as ‘Snow Peak’ within the West, has a definite variegation with creamy white on the margins and medium inexperienced facilities. Younger leaves look barely mottled earlier than they type a stark distinction.

Whereas most variegated Japanese maples are inexperienced, ‘Shirazz’ is primarily pink. Within the spring, the leaves are darkish pink with gentle pink margins, earlier than turning barely greenish-red within the middle with pink margins. This cultivar grows as much as 15 toes tall.

Defining attribute: Leaf margin contrasts with middle.


This group could be a little complicated, since the commonest species of Japanese maples is A. palmatum. However on this case, this grouping can embrace different species as effectively.

The phrase “palmatum” is Latin for hand, and that’s what defines this group.

A close up vertical image of the palmate leaves of a Japanese maple tree growing in a container pictured on a soft focus background.
Picture by Kristine Lofgren.

All the leaves on this group resemble palms in that they’ve 5 lobes (and barely seven), and the sinus extends no additional than one-third down the size of the leaf.

Any plant that doesn’t have a secondary attribute that will make it extra appropriate for a special grouping, equivalent to pink wooden, is positioned on this class.

‘Diana’ is an efficient instance. This tree stays compact at underneath three toes. It has inexperienced foliage with a pink and white margin.

Defining traits: Leaf lobes prolong not more than one-third the size of the leaf, with brown or inexperienced wooden within the winter.


The title of this group says all of it. As a substitute of getting the everyday easy bark that the majority Japanese maples have, the bark on these bushes is tough and appears a bit like – you guessed it – pine bark.

A close up vertical image of a pinebark type Acer palmatum tree pictured on a soft focus background.
Picture through Alamy

The foliage on this group is extremely various, since solely the bark is used to categorize these crops. Most begin out with easy bark when they’re younger earlier than creating the characteristically tough bark.

Try ‘Nishiki Gawa,’ and ‘Arakawa’ to see what this bark appears like.

Defining attribute: Pine-like, tough bark.

Crimson Wooden

As with pinebark bushes, this group is solely outlined by its bark. All the bushes on this group have shiny pink, coral, yellow, or orange branches.

A close up vertical image of the red stems and green leaves of Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’ growing in a pot indoors.
Picture by Kristine Lofgren.

Whereas this provides a pleasant little bit of colour and distinction to a wintry panorama, these crops additionally are likely to endure from department dieback.

‘Sango-kaku’ is the one you’ll mostly see.

A close up vertical image of Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku' growing in the garden.


It has shiny coral bark that contrasts with the lime inexperienced leaves.

Maple Ridge Nursery carries this putting tree in one-, three-, seven-, 15-, and 25-gallon containers.

Defining attribute: Bark is coral, orange, yellow, or pink in winter.


Bushes on this group are outlined as having leaves with veins which might be a special colour than the remainder of the leaf. Often known as reticulated maples, this group has some actual stand-outs.

A close up horizontal image of the variegated foliage of Acer palmatum 'First Ghost' growing in the garden.

As an example, ‘Nathan’ has orangish-red foliage with inexperienced veins. ‘Aka-shigitatsu-sawa’ begins out with pale pink leaves with inexperienced veins, earlier than transitioning to inexperienced and pink leaves with inexperienced veins.

‘First Ghost’ has creamy white or pale inexperienced leaves with deep inexperienced veins.

Defining attribute: Leaf veins distinction with the remainder of the leaf.


The crops on this group are outlined by their lack of petioles. Sessile is a botanical time period indicating the shortage of a stalk. As a substitute, the lobes of every leaf have a kind of petiole-like construction that attaches them to the stem.

It doesn’t matter if the tree has variegated foliage or some other explicit attribute. If it lacks petioles, it’s a sessilifolium, often known as stalk-less maple.

Most of those bushes are a bit harder to seek out, however there are just a few which might be gaining in recognition. ‘Beni-hagaromo’ has pink foliage that turns purplish-brown in the summertime.

Due to its closely toothed margins and typical sessilifolium lobe attachment, the tree appears like it’s coated in colourful feathers fairly than leaves.

Defining attribute: Sessile leaves.


Variegated maples both match into this group or the marginatum group.

A close up horizontal image of the red and golden foliage of Acer sieboldianum growing in the fall garden pictured on a soft focus background.

To name ‘Ukigumo’ a variegated plant doesn’t do it justice, although. This A. palmatum cultivar, often known as ‘Floating Clouds,’ appears virtually ghostly white, with pale whitish-pink foliage that fades step by step to inexperienced within the middle of every leaf.

However the middle is extra of a pink and white colour with spots of deep inexperienced, fairly than a strong inexperienced. The hotter the local weather, the much less variegation you’ll see, however in cooler climates, it’s fairly putting.

Not like some Japanese maples, which are likely to revert on the slightest provocation, this one tends to remain true.

‘Kumoi Nishiki,’ often known as Siebold’s maple, (A. sieboldianum) has fantastically dappled leaves that function a mix of creamy white and apple inexperienced. This plant stays underneath 10 toes tall.

‘Peaches and Cream’ stands out as a result of the leaves are creamy white and rose pink within the spring, transitioning to inexperienced and white with darkish inexperienced veins and rose pink margins in the summertime.

This one stays underneath 10 toes tall.

Defining attribute: Leaf is variegated past simply the margins.


Whereas most Japanese maple leaves appear to be palms with an extended center lobe, the central lobe on witches’-broom bushes is brief and stumpy, form of like a hand with the center finger reduce off under the center knuckle.

A close up vertical image of a witches'-broom type of Japanese maple tree growing in the garden pictured in light sunshine.

‘Carlis Nook Broom’ has shiny pink leaves within the spring that shift to darkish burgundy in the summertime. By fall, the foliage is darkish pink. ‘Skeeter’s Broom’ has shiny pink foliage that turns bronze within the fall.

‘Vic’s Broom’ is a dwarf plant that tops out at 4 toes, however that doesn’t imply its influence within the backyard is small.

The small, pale inexperienced leaves are bordered with rose pink margins. Within the fall, the foliage turns shiny yellow with bits of orange and pink.

Defining attribute: Center lobe is brief and normally shorter than surrounding lobes.

Making Sense Out of Japanese Maples

This could be a complicated group of crops, with all of the totally different species, foliage, progress habits, and bark colours which might be obtainable. However that’s simply a part of what makes Japanese maples so fantastic.

A close up horizontal image of different varieties of Japanese maple trees growing in the garden.

And with growers working onerous to create new kinds of bushes, there are certain to be much more fascinating choices coming down the road.

That’s why it’s so helpful having them grouped into these easy-to-understand classes.

Now, the subsequent time you head to the nursery, you’ll be able to inform them that you simply’re on the lookout for the right “pink bark” so as to add some winter colour to your yard.

If you happen to’re like me, little doubt it’s inconceivable to choose a favourite, however tell us what sort you’re hoping to get your palms on (or have already got).

Did this information enable you make sense of the wild and fantastic world of Japanese maples? Tell us within the feedback part under! And when you have hassle selecting, make sure to take a look at a few of our favorites in our supplemental information, “21 of the Greatest Japanese Maple Varieties.”

And we have now another nice guides to Japanese maple care so that you can take a look at subsequent, beginning with these:

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