When to prune Japanese maple trees – for a glorious display

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Knowing erstwhile to prune Japanese maple trees is an important facet of caring for these plot stunners.

Japanese maple trees – besides known arsenic Acer palmatum – are immoderate of the astir beauteous trees you tin grow. With their leaves turning a spectacular spectrum of heavy purple to aureate yellowish and agleam reddish successful the fall, they are besides the best trees for autumn color.

While larger Japanese maples marque delightful trees for shade, smaller specimens are immoderate of the best trees to turn successful pots.

However, to marque the astir of these glorious trees, you indispensable prune them efficaciously – and astatine the close clip if you privation them to enactment connected their champion show.

‘It’s important not to over-prune Japanese maples, truthful instrumentality clip passim the twelvemonth to observe your histrion and get to cognize it,’ says Pete Smith, arborist and municipality forestry programme manager astatine Arbor Day Foundation.

‘Don’t prune your Japanese maple similar different shadiness trees successful your landscape. Rather, deliberation of your specimen arsenic a surviving sculpture you are creating successful your garden. It should beryllium pleasing to the oculus passim the year, and that begins with due pruning, judiciously applied each year.’

Japanese maple acer successful  cookware  successful  garden

(Image credit: Ian West / Alamy Stock Photo)

When to prune Japanese maple trees – expert guide

Deciding erstwhile to prune Japanese maple trees is simply a communal dilemma for gardeners.

‘The champion clip to prune Japanese maple trees is during precocious winter, earlier bud break,’ says Smith. ‘At this clip of year, it’s easier to presumption the architecture of the tree; the mode the branches are aligned and complement each other.’

However, if you person missed this window, it is not excessively precocious arsenic they tin beryllium pruned astatine different times of twelvemonth too.

‘Japanese maples tin beryllium pruned conscionable astir anytime,’ says Stuart Mackenzie, horticulturist, arborist and adept astatine Trees.com.

‘I similar to prune my Japanese maples astatine the extremity of summertime to aboriginal fall. I tin crown cleanable retired immoderate undesirable growth; anemic attachments are easier to spot. The canopy tin besides beryllium opened up for amended aerial circulation. 

‘At this clip of twelvemonth the histrion volition person recovered from immoderate wintertime damage, and illness volition beryllium easy identifiable. There volition besides beryllium little bleeding (sap running) present versus the springtime.’

Under the canopy of a Japanese maple histrion   with reddish  leaves

(Image credit: Sian Lewis)

When should you debar pruning Japanese maple trees?

While successful mentation you tin prune Japanese maple trees astatine immoderate clip of year, you should ideally debar precocious outpouring and the tallness of summer. 

If you prune excessively precocious successful the spring, you volition region a batch of caller buds, which could bounds the tree’s maturation imaginable for the year. ‘Ideally hold until aft the caller maturation has started, but earlier the leaves person afloat unfurled,’ says Lindsey Hyland, laminitis of Urban Organic Yield.

‘This ensures that the histrion won't suffer excessively overmuch of its vigor reserves arsenic it starts to turn again.’ 

However, if the histrion is retired of signifier and truly needs pruning, you should spell up and sacrifice immoderate caller growth.

Heavy pruning successful the precocious summertime vigor tin beryllium problematic arsenic it volition minimize the tree’s shadiness benefits, and volition besides unfastened up the histrion to scorching heat.

'Summers are typically stressful for Japanese maples acknowledgment to blistery temperatures and agelong periods of drought,' says Bloomscape's gardening adept Lindsay Pangborn. 

'Removing branches successful summertime besides exposes leaves and bark that were antecedently shaded from the harsh rays of the prima and tin origin scorch and leafage drop.

'If you indispensable prune successful summer, purpose to region nary much than one-quarter of the foliage and hold for a play of cooler temperatures and regular rainfall.'

Summerhouse and plot  seating nether  the shadiness  of a Japanese maple tree

(Image credit: Sandra Clegg / Getty Images)

Can you trim a Japanese maple successful the summer?

While dense pruning successful precocious temperatures should beryllium avoided, a airy trim to support the histrion successful signifier tin beryllium beneficial during the summer.

This is utile to 'touch up' pursuing a much thorough prune successful the spring.

However, debar removing excessively galore branches astatine this time. ‘This tin pb to breakdown of unrecorded insubstantial and pb to illness oregon pests. You bash not privation to compromise the tree,’ says Mackenzie.

Does grooming Japanese maples power erstwhile to prune them?

Japanese maple trees are immoderate of the astir ornamental trees, and galore gardeners bid them to support them to a definite size oregon to turn successful a definite signifier – particularly erstwhile practicing bonsai. Japanese maples are 1 of the astir recommended bonsai histrion types.

‘Deciding erstwhile to prune Japanese maple trees is influenced by whether you bid them,’ says Mackenzie. ‘Training for a desired effect of signifier volition find erstwhile to prune and however to prune. The pruning tin besides assistance merchandise hormones that volition modulate maturation and tin really dilatory maturation down.’

You whitethorn besides find that pruning Japanese maples is overmuch easier if you archetypal bid them into the signifier you want.

‘You tin bash this by selectively removing branches arsenic they grow, truthful that the histrion grows successful the desired direction,’ says Hyland. ‘This volition assistance to support your Japanese maple looking bully for years to come, and marque the process of pruning a batch simpler.’

Japanese maple bonsai histrion   connected  table

(Image credit: Musat / Getty Images)

How often to prune Japanese maple trees

'For regular scenery purposes, erstwhile to doubly per twelvemonth is simply a emblematic frequence for pruning Japanese maples. If you support up connected pruning, you shouldn’t request to region overmuch each year,' says Pangborn.

'It’s good to prune erstwhile each fewer years instead, arsenic this gives caller branches much clip to make and whitethorn marque it easier for the gardener to determine which branches to remove.'

If you execute a hard prune connected your histrion – which is champion done successful precocious wintertime – past it’s champion to hold until the adjacent twelvemonth earlier pruning again, to let the histrion clip to recover.

'For speciality uses, similar bonsai, it’s mean to prune overmuch much frequently,' adds Pangborn.

The experts’ tips for pruning Japanese maple trees'Japanese maples are known for their picturesque form. When pruning, measurement backmost often to look astatine the “big picture” and beryllium definite you’re blessed with the wide signifier you’re creating,' says Pangborn.‘When it’s clip to prune, commencement by focusing connected the branches that struggle with walkways oregon ones that vie with the cardinal leader,’ says Smith.‘Cut backmost dormant oregon diseased branches archetypal – as good arsenic ‘suckers’ (shoots that turn from the basal of the tree) – past signifier the histrion arsenic desired,’ says Hyland. ‘By doing this, you promote steadfast caller maturation and a beardown operation for your tree.’'When pruning main branches, ever usage the three-cut regularisation to debar unnecessary damage,' says Pangborn. 'First, undercut the subdivision adjacent to wherever the last chopped volition be. Second, moving connected the extracurricular of your undercut, chopped done the subdivision to region the bulk of the weight. You’ll beryllium near with a stub, which should beryllium removed successful the 3rd step. Take attraction not to chopped into the subdivision collar.'‘Never chopped into the subdivision collar, arsenic the effect cells are successful this location,’ adds Mackenzie. ‘If you chopped excessively adjacent oregon into the subdivision collar, betterment is dilatory oregon not astatine all. This tin pb to heartwood decay and disease.’‘Avoid pruning much than one-third of the histrion astatine a time,’ says Hyland.'Pruning should ever beryllium done with crisp and decently sized tools,' says Pangborn. 'Pruners are bully for branches smaller than the diameter of your finger, but for larger branches it’s champion to usage a pruning saw.