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How to Prune Japanese Maples

It is easy to fall in love with Japanese Maples. With a wide array of choices that please the eye, Japanese Maples are hard to beat. They offer exciting colors, textures, shapes, and sizes for the landscape. Because we treasure our Japanese Maples we want to give them the best care. “How to Prune Japanese Maples?” is the most common question asked about the care of Japanese Maples. In this article we will answer this question for you. Browse our selection of Japanese Maples Trees online.

First off pruning Japanese Maples isn’t often necessary and frankly it can affect the natural beauty of your growing tree. Since Japanese Maples are all uniquely different and grow in their own distinctive way you want to prune them as little as possible so you can fully appreciate each Japanese Maple tree’s individual beauty. This being said it is your tree and you can certainly tweak it to your desired look with some thoughtful and careful pruning.

When to Prune Your Japanese Maple

If it is a just a snip or 2 go ahead and prune anytime. For heavier pruning, trim your Japanese Maple in summer or winter. Winter is the best time for modifying the branch structure while summer is best for thinning out the branches of your tree. If your tree is in full sun, especially in warm and southern climates, avoid pruning in temperatures over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. So, yeah, basically those of us in the carolinas or deeper south, stick with the winter months if you have a Japanese Maple in full or strong afternoon sun! The thin bark, that is no longer shaded after your thinning cuts, is susceptible to sunscald.

What To Prune On Your Japanese Maple

The purpose of pruning should be to encourage your tree’s natural growth habit. There are 5 types of branches you want to consider removing from your Japanese Maple.

1. Broken, dead, or diseased branches. These all have to go for obvious reasons. Prune them when you see them.

2. Branches growing inward or in the wrong direction. I personally like rogue branches growing in the wrong direction. They can be fun. So if you like them too leave them alone; they won’t actually harm your Japanese Maple tree. But branches growing inward can cause a lot of problems so get rid of those.

3. Crossing branches result in rubbing and damage to bark and even the branches. This can encourage disease and pests. Trim off one of the branches.

4. Narrow crotches are when 2 branches meet on an angle less than 45 degrees. Remove one of the branches to open up your tree and reduce the possibility of breakage that can tear large patches of bark and cause other problems.

5. Crowded branches. When you have a crowded portion of the crown or the whole crown is dense with branches and foliage, you will want to thin out the branches to open up the crown. This will increase air flow and help your tree be healthier. Thin by removing 1 out of every 4 branches or so. Create a layered cascading look that matches up with the tree’s natural look.

How to Prune Your Japanese Maple

Use pruning shears or loppers for your pruning cuts. When removing an entire branch, prune back to the branch collar but not into it. Basically there shouldn’t be much of the branch left but you should never cut flush to the connecting branch or trunk. Be sure to use clean, professional pruners for best results.

Pruning No-Nos

  • Do not prune young trees unless necessary. Allow your tree to fully develop and grow into itself for 10 to 15 years before you take on any serious pruning.
  • Younger trees often get long, thin, whip-like branches. You may be tempted to prune off these scrawny long branches, but don’t. Be patient. They do fill out and get lateral branches. If you prune them off you are more likely to get even more of this same branch type.
  • Don’t buy a Japanese Maple that grows too tall for the spot you have chosen. Pruning Japanese Maples to control height is a fight you won’t win. It will only encourage faster growth and thinner, weaker branches.
  • Do not prune off more than ⅕ of the foliage or the crown of your Japanese Maple.
  • Never over-prune. Step back and take your time. You can always prune more later.

Now you know How to Prune Japanese Maples. Just remember to be patient, take your time, and a little pruning maintenance can go a long way! Browse our online plant nursery for Japanese Maple options. From the Bloodgood Japanese Maple to the Coral Bark Maple and the Orangeola, shop premium hand-selected trees.


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