Japanese Maple Bonsai Tree Care

There are over 300 different species of maples all over the world, all with different size, colour, and foliage. The Japanese maple species (Lat. Acer Palmatum) has delicate foliage and display fantastic colours in autumn varying from red to gold.

Acer palmatum cultivars - From left to right A. palmatum wild type, A. palmatum 'Amoenum', and A. palmatum 'Matsumurae' ('Dissectum' is similar to 'Matsumurae')Acer palmatum cultivars - From left to right A. palmatum wild type, A. palmatum 'Amoenum', and A. palmatum 'Matsumurae' ('Dissectum' is similar to 'Matsumurae')

Short history of Japanese maple bonsai

Maple is very popular type of bonsai tree. However far not many species of maple are suitable for this. Japanese maple (Lat. acer palmatum) is one of the most popular maple bonsai specimens. Japanese maple was originally found in Japan as well as China and Korea. Since ancient times, Japanese maple trees were grown as garden plants by Japanese. In 1820 the specimen was imported to Western world and then spread worldwide. Bonsai Japanese maple has been highly cultivated and has developed various species.

General description of Japanese maple sub-species

Japanese maple (acer palmatum) in summer and fall. Author: Wofgang Putz.Japanese maple (acer palmatum) in summer and fall. Author: Wofgang Putz.

TRIDENT JAPANESE MAPLE BONSAI (Lat. Acer buergerianum) is alike to Japanese maple. It also displays magnificent foliage colours in fall and is deciduous tree. It has a specific and interesting bark and refined branches. An ideal position is a luminous one.

GREEN JAPANESE MAPLE BONSAI is a cultivar of Japanese maple. It grows green leaves during spring-summer period which become orange and drop off in fall. The foliage may be broadly lobed or lacy. They are sensitive to dry weather and alkaline water.

RED JAPANESE MAPLE BONSAI (Lat. Acer Rubrum) as other Acer Palmatum have odd-numbered leaves (5-11). They are usually shrubs or small trees. It is deciduous plant. This species is extremely sensitive to dry weather and alkaline water. The habitat is wet to moist soil. Small, red flowers bloom in late winter whereas fruit which are also read occur in late spring.

Leaves and trunk

Japanese maple leavesLeaves are very thin, thus they can easily burn if the bonsai tree is kept in sunny position. Simple leaf has 5 to 9 lobes. They turn from green to purple, blood-red, bronze or yellow colour after summer months.

Flowers and fruit

Maple bonsai has flowers of small size and red or purple colour.

Tolerance to climate

Climate for Japanese mapleJapanese maple does not fear cold weather so it can be grown outdoors all year round. It bears even harsh freezing temperature. It feels fine in evenly moist climate.

Hardiness zone: 5-8

What is a hardiness zone & what is my zone?

Tolerance to sun

Sun requirements for Japanese mapleJapanese maple bonsai tree prefer semi-shaded position during summer. During cooler seasons bonsai maple can be kept in full sun. Yet it is important to keep it protected from drying wind because the leaves are very thin, so wind can cause damage.


Repotting and fertilization is preferred in late winter. Use basic soil mixture. Repot every one or two years.


Japanese maple wateringIt is important to keep the soil moist but not wet, thus the plant should be watered when needed. In summer and spring the soil dries out faster. Dry out would cause leaf burn.

Pests and diseases

Japanese maple pestsIf maple bonsai tree is healthy, it will resist being invaded by insect pests and diseases. Pests such as Aphids are quite easily treated by an insecticidal soap. Yet as with most of other bonsai species root rot is commonly detected disease. Also as its leaves are thin they burn easier if the plant is in bad condition such as lack of fertilizing, repotting, or overwatering.

Shaping Japanese maple bonsai

Trunk shape can be accomplished through pruning and wiring techniques. Pruning is better performed in spring. Simply pinch unwanted new shoots so that the tree can develop small internodes. However you should leave at least 1 cm of them for die back. By lacing technique big branches and leaves will produce smaller internodes on branch and tiny leaves. In case you shape Japanese maple with wire, be careful not to leave scars on the fine bark.


The most popular style of maple tree bonsai is informal upright. Also forest or group styles are common. Japanese maple bonsai trees can be shaped in various styles except for semi-cascade and cascade.

Summary for maple bonsai

Japanese maple with its density of leaves, magnificent colours in fall, and special bark texture make an ideal bonsai tree. It will certainly flourish in good conditions, and will be successfully shaped by pruning and wiring. Japanese maple is good for beginner as well as advanced bonsai enthusiast.