Japanese maples have long been considered difficult or even impossible to grow in south east Texas.
Over the last 30 or so years I have learned how to grow them here. There are a few things that you need to know:
Japanese maples do not like our Houston summers, so they need to be planted with that in mind. In our climate they are best used as under story trees, which means, plant them in the shade.
Japanese maples are grown for their graceful growth patterns and interesting foliage. Many Japanese maples have brilliant colorful leaves. The leaf color is more intense if there is new growth and cool nights. We don’t get too many weeks of that each year. The second thing that keeps the leaves colorful is sun. The problem becomes giving them enough sun to keep them colorful without giving them so much that they burn or die. My best results are when the maple is in the shade from 11:00 to 3:00 in the summer. Any more sun and they burn, any less and they grow great but have a shorter period of the most intense color.
The Japanese maples like good drainage. If they are planted in a loose well drained bed , like a rose or an azalea, they do very well rooting down into our clay soils.
All Japanese maples are deciduous. Most have great fall color, but only if there is cool weather before they loose their leaves.
We grow and sell dozens of varieties or Japanese maples. We specialize in varieties that tolerate our hot summers. However, I have found that there is a difference in heat tolerance even within plants with the same name. Some growers have what could be referred to as sort of sub varieties that are better in the heat Those are the Japanese maples that we sell. Even when using the correct variety they almost always stress a bit in the summers. A few brown tips on the leaves is normal.
Keep them watered. Japanese maples do not like extreme drought conditions. The first 2 summers are the most critical. Daily watering is required to allow them to root in well.
Most of the named varieties ( the more interesting ones are the named ones) are grafted with up to 8 or 10 grafts. This means that the interesting maples are not available in any size smaller than 3 gallon pots. Grafting makes them cost a bit more, but it is the only way to insure a strong root and an interesting top. The seed grown (non grafted) plants are available in 1 gallon pots and cost much less.
The following is a list of some of the varieties we sell. Remember, just because it is on the list does not automatically mean that it will do well here. You also need a heat resistant strain.
Acer plalmatum: Japanese maple. (seed grown). A small green leafed tree that grows to 20 to 25 feet. The foliage is light green and deeply lobed, and tends to have brilliant fall color, in those years when we have a fall before they drop their leaves.
Red Leaf Japanese Maple.(seed grown). Colorful fall color and nice spring color. An 18 foot open growing tree.
Bloodgood. Very attractive foliage with red coloring fading to green with summer heat. Scarlet fall coloring. Interesting dark bark on older trees. Nice slender airy form to 15+ feet.
Burgundy lace. Graceful tree with deeply lobed finely serrated burgundy spring leaves. To 10-12 ft.
Crimson Queen. Low branching dwarf tree with graceful weeping limbs. Crimson spring leaves, greening in the summer. To 10 ft.
Emperor 1. Small (15′) dark red tree. Leafs out later.
Black.Slow growing tree TO 10-12 ft. Black red new foliage, maturing to a deep purple red.
Oshio-Beni. To 15 ft. Leaves are more orange-ed.
Coral Bark. 20-25′ tree with pink stems in the winter. Leaves are a light green turning brilliant colors in the fall.
Shiana. Dwarf, to 8′ or so. bright red new leaves maturing to maroon.
Waterfall. Fine green foliage, golden in fall. Weeping form.
We also carry 8-10 other dwarf weeping varieties in limited quantities. You need to come in to see these because we don’t keep an updated list. Some varieties are so new they have not even been named yet.
I hope you enjoy the Japanese maples as much as we do.