Green leaf Japanese maples are one of the most under used plants. This is odd, because purple leaf Japanese maples are one of the most over used ornamental trees.
OK, I know they are really not THAT overplanted yet. However, if you see the pallets full of them at Home Depot every year, you probably agree they will be soon. In a few years, the number of home gardeners that DON’T have one or two somewhere in their yard will be very small. This is especially true for odd balls that read blogs about plants, landscaping, pruning, etc.
Why are the purple ones over planted?
OK, I get why they are everywhere. Japanese maples are great garden trees. Even the big ones don’t get too big. They don’t usually have pest problems. You can get ones that grow into trees or shrubs.
Then there’s the Fall Color. Japanese maples look their best in autumn. Depending on the cultivar, their leaves can become various shades of blood red, glowing gold, or brilliant orange. They also change color very late in the season, thus extending fall color almost to winter.
But why do most people buy Japanese Maples? It’s the red to purple leaf color. A red or purple leaf plant that gives color most of the year has an obvious appeal. The problem is when you plant a bunch of these trees and then they grow. Then your purple colored leaves start to take over your garden.
Green is the most underrated color in the landscape. A landscape lacking green is not usually very appealing.
Green foliage relaxes us. It’s even been shown that the color green facilitates creative performance.
On a side note, the color red has been found to induce sexual desire in both men and women.
“Now I know why you bought those twenty red leaved barberries!”
My recommendation is to go ahead and buy a red leaf Japanese maple if you want, especially if you want to add a little excitement (hint hint, wink wink) to the backyard. But if you want to create a relaxing sanctuary, I would also consider GREEN leaf Japanese maples. Here are some of the better ones that are available.
Green leaf Japanese maple (Acer palmatum)
A great four season tree with an attractive form. Green leaves in the summer, with yellow to red fall color. Plant them in groups or scatter throughout the garden.
Size: 15 to 25 feet tall and wide
Zones: 5 to 9
Fall leaf color: yellow, orange and red
Choose It Because: You want a natural looking four season plant with good fall color.
Beni Kawa (Acer palmatum ‘Beni kawa’)
This green leaf Japanese maple features small leaves that turn golden-yellow in fall. In winter, the plant really shines because of its red stems. The bark is usually redder in winter compared to the salmon color of its more famous cousin ‘Sango kaku’. They look great against a back drop of snow.
Size: It matures to 12-15′ tall and wide.
Fall leaf color: golden yellow
Choose It Because: You want a four season plant with winter interest and good fall color.
Coral Bark (Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’)
A good-sized tree with multi-season appeal, ‘Sango-kaku’ features green leaves that turn brilliant yellow in fall. The leaves are lime green in spring darkening in the summer. After the leaves drop, the stems show off a bright coral-red color. The more sun the tree gets in winter the better the bark color will be.
Size: 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide
Choose It Because: You want winter interest.
Fern leaf or Dancing Peacock (Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’)
I think this is one of the best green leaf Japanese maples for fall color. It offers deeply cut, almost ferny green foliage. A small to medium size tree ‘Aconitifolium’ can be slow growing and benefits from a little afternoon shade in the south. Fall color is brilliant red.
Name: Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’
Size: 10 feet tall and wide. More upright when young, eventually forms a rounded top tree.
Choose It Because: You want a small tree with AWESOME fall color.
Vitifolium (Acer japonicum ‘Vitifolium’)
A larger green leaf Japanese maple with vigorous growth. This variety offers wide, deep green leaves. The leaves are as big as your hand. Rich fall color comes early and fast. Good fall color even in warmer climates. Produces hanging clusters of showy, purple/red flowers in late spring. The flowers stand out among the maples.
Size: 25 feet tall and wide
Choose It Because: You want a Japanese maple that tolerates cold or warm weather well and gives consistently good fall color even in the south.
Green Cascade (Acer japonicum ‘Green Cascade’)
This full moon maple has finely cut green foliage and a delicate weeping habit. If not staked, it forms a flowing mound of foliage. In fall, the leaves turn shades of red and orange.
Size: Groundcover to 10 feet or more
Choose It Because: You need a good weeping variety.
If you would like to learn more about the many types of Japanese Maples available there are two books that I would recommend, Japanese Maples: The Complete Guide to Selection and Cultivation* and Timber Press Pocket Guide to Japanese Maples*. The first one is the encyclopedia of Japanese maples, the second is a smaller, less detailed, and cheaper.
Oh by the way, I am thinking about changing my head shot to this:
What do you think?
John musser says
Which maple has been leaves initially but turn red and orange from the summer sun
I bought 2 Green Japanese maple trees.
They are not any of the lacy variety.
I wonder how large and tall they will grow.
They are about 6 feet tall now.
Any special soil requirements?
We recently bought a green Japanese Maple and planted it several days ago. I noticed over the last few days that several of the leaves are starting to turn a reddish color – almost as if it were already Fall. What does this mean? Is this part of the tree’s acclimation? Or is it getting too much or too little water? Any help is appreciated.
Probably just a bit of transplant shock. Water regularly but let it dry out a bit between waterings.
Megan Jones says
We had a green cascade Japanese maple in our garden, one of our dogs accidenatally snapped the top of it off the grafted stem, is there anything we can do ? Will it come back on its own or is it done for?
Hi! Question: when does Japanese maple tree start to have leaves after the winter? Thanks.
Kaye Norman says
Hi, writing from Australia … I have a seedling grown Acer with quite large green leaves, with a burgundy coloured underside. Have no idea where it came from. I have not planted it out yet although it’s getting a bit root bound. Soon I hope.
Any idea what it could be?
Not enough information to say, it could be a hybrid of species. I would look around the area and find the tree where it likely came from and assume it is at least 50% that.
My leaves on the japanese green leaf have a white film over them and is starting to look as if something is at . What can I do is there a spray
At this time of year, I would not worry about any leaf issues. Just clean up the leaves when they fall and dispose of them so as to not spread any disease it may have back to the leaves next year.
I transplanted Japanese from (zone 5) another house that was in all shade, fairly small (2-3ft, and mostly green with slight reddish centers) ….
To my front yard planted in mostly afternoon sun (zone 5 southwest Ohio) will leaves changes color and how quickly?!
I’m not certain of the cultivar, but pretty sure it was red when my mom purchased it a few years ago?!
Sorry maybe not much to go on?!
The amount of sun can dramatically affect the color of these leafs, so I would give it a complete growing season to get a better idea what it will do in it’s new site.
I could not agree with you more! In my neighborhood you cannot go a block without seeing at least three or four purple Japanese maples, but it is quite rare to see a green leaved variety; and nine times out of ten a green variety would be more attractive. Purple can be a great foil in the landscape, but purple foliage is very dark. I don’t think people realize that most of the time these trees are acting like giant dark blobs and draining interest from their landscape. (I also live in the South – so most Japanese maples are planted in shade – intensifying the dark/drabness). Though the fall foliage is quite nice, a green selection would give you that plus a more universally appealing color for most of the year (and help brighten up the shade).
Betty Mellor says
Thank you for your great advice.
How can I help to keep my green fancy leaf maple leaves color bright green, as it matures it is less bright in color?
Making sure it gets enough water in heat is avout all I can think of to help retain color in leaves.
Huan Le says
I bought a Viridis JM last summer and transfered it to a pot in the fall.
In the winter I kept it in the unheated garage and everything seems going good. I watered moderatey only 2 times in the winter.
Early April it starting to leaf out and still going good until a week ago I decided to give it a little water again and now it looks like the leaves are wilting and dying. Not only the leaves but also the flower seeds. Also noted some of the branches getting browness color and the new grow branches getting soft and wilting.
Is this a sign of my VIRIDIS JM is dying?
Just so you know, I brought it outside last night May 11/2017 (the tempetature was about +6-8 degree Celcius), left it in front of the porch. I live in Toronto, Canada.
I also have a Crimson Queen JM in a the original nursery 7 gallon pot and keeping it in the unheated garage for the winter but it is thriving, leafing out so good but not my VIRIDIS JM.
Do you have any idea why my VIRIDIS is like this Jim?
Any advises would be greatly appreciates Jim.
I don’t want it to die. Love its color in the fall.
My other Red Dragon & Orangeola JM are in the ground at the front & backyard are doing well.
Richard Mertens says
I live in Chicago and like Acer pseudosieboldianum, the Korean maple, a lovely (green!) tree that is hardier than Acer palmatum. It’s hardy to zone 4, I believe. Hard to find, but quite nice. I found a small one last year in the Chicago area and wish I had got two or three. Few nurseries seem to carry them. I’m not sure why. The Morton arboretum has a few specimens.
I am looking for a green, upright, rather narrow Japanese maple (maybe 3′ wide). Would like to keep it open and airy. No height restriction. My mom had some volunteering in her yard in Portland, Or. – they tended to arch over at the top.
3′ wide. That sounds like a bonsai!
Would love to have a red/burgundy Japanese Maple, but have been told they cannot survive the full sun in our Dallas area. What green Japanese Maple would you recommend for full sun 24/7? Size at maturity – 15-20′.
I would say take a look at the Shantung maple (Acer truncatum) as it will take the heat and is the right size for you with a similar look. Fire Dragon is one with brilliant red fall color.
Vee Johnson says
We have an acer palmatum dissectum “Viridis” Green Laceleaf Japanese Maple. We planted it approx. a month ago, and I have been watering at least once a day and sometimes twice a day. The edges of the leaves are turning brown looking on parts of the tree and the backside seems to be OK. Would I be watering too much, or should we fertilize it since it is a new plant. Would appreciate your thoughts.
Yes it sounds like you are over watering. The signs of over watering look a lot like the signs of under watering so it can be confusing.
Plants need oxygen as much as water. You need to let the soil dry out a bit between waterings or the roots will die from a lack of oxygen.
How often you will need to water will depend on the soil type and the weather. If the soil is very sandy you can get away with much more frequent waterings, but every day is still probably too much unless it is the hottest week of the year. Most soil is not that sandy and is more loam, silt or clay and needs 3 days or more to dry out. Again if it is real hot weather, you can water a bit more frequent but you don’t want to do that for an extended period of time.
Now if your plant was in a pot, watering daily or more often could be correct if the putting soil is free draining like most.
Don’t bother to fertilize new trees, usually no need.
Joanne Graff says
Our green leaf Japanese Maple is losing all of its leaves! We love in Zone 7 and have had an extremely hot summer. We water the tree twice a day. Are we overwatering?
Yep, you sure are. One deep watering every two to the days is the most you should be doing. They need the soil to dry out a bit or else the roots become starved of oxygen.
Myra Schwartz says
HI, You mentioned above about cutting off leaves from a double grafted Japanese Maple. I have a few questions about this, which you touched on in a past comment, and I’d appreciate your advice.
1. How do I know which set of leaves is the root stock and needs to stay? I have both red leaves and 2 branches of green leaves with red tips. The green leaves showed up about a year after planting the tree.
2. Can the branches that are cut be propagated to grow on their own?
3. What is the best way to cut the branches?
4. If I am able to propagate, how is that best done? In water or in soil?
Thanks very much for your blog and assistance! I’m in northern Illinois if that’s helpful.
Cut the ones with green leaves. It will be difficult to propagate them, but you can try using rooting hormone dip or gel. Search for cloning gel on Amazon if you really want to try. Not as easy as it sounds. Easier to buy seedlings.
Just cut them with a hand pruner preset close to flush with the trunk but leave a bit if the branch collar.
Thanks very much for your quick reply, Jim. Much appreciated! I probably let the green leaf branches grow too long as they are pretty thick now, so I may will have to saw them off. I might as well try to root them since they have such pretty leaves. I can always buy seedlings later if it doesn’t work out. Thanks for your blog and all the information you share!
Alexis Fletcher says
Does anyone know the variety of green maple that also has a bright green stem?
I don’t remember what that tree was (besides an Acer palamatum). A backlight Fireglow in a good year could look like that. The Dancing peacock discussed above usually is tough to beat for reds in the Fall, the picture above does not do it justice in person.
What is that brilliant tree behind you in your head shot? I have to have one thankd
I love the green japenese maples as well as the red. I have both scattered through my garden but I use the red sparingly. A nice pop of red is awesome but a row of it is tiresome.
Sandra batt says
Have a red feather type leaf Japanese maple , would like to move it height 63 inches spread 106 inches, but think impossible without damage
You probably are right, I have moved my share of these at the garden and no matter how careful you are, you will always break some branches. They usually are fine after a year or two of regrowth though. That is a big one, I would consider having professionals do it. Call you most trustworthy nursery and ask them if they have any landscapers they would recommend for that job. If they want to do it now, forget them. Wait till next year, early Spring.
My Japanese maple has both green and red growing out of the same plant. One side is red and the other is green and the green side doesn’t look like it is going to change to red – is this unusual?
Most likely the green side is the rootstock growing. Most purple leaf Japanese maples are grafted onto regular green leaf Japanese maples. You need to cut off any branches at the trunk that have green leaves or they will take over and become dominant and cause the grafted cultivar (the red or purple side) to fail.