Fall in the Northwest is a time we always look forward to. Along with cooler days it’s also the time when trees give us a beautiful array of fall colors. Japanese Maples have steadily gained popularity in Northwest gardens for several decades. Japanese Maples are desired for their versatility in the landscape and exceptional fall color. There are so many varieties available on the market, you can easily source the right one for any sized garden: urban gardens, suburban landscapes and larger properties.
Their vibrant fall color makes them a favorite as a focal point in landscapes. They prefer slightly acidic sandy loam soils. Even in the winter months, they have a structure that adds elegance to your landscape. They tolerate our naturally acidic soils and wet winters and are equally beautiful in a mixed landscape border or as an accent plant. Here are a few of the best varieties for Northwest Gardens, hardy in USDA zones 5-9.
Acer palmatum ‘Seriyu’
Green Lace-leaf Japanese Maple
‘Seriyu’ means Blue-Green Dragon in Japanese. This variety gives all the delicate texture of weeping Japanese maples but with an upright growth habit. Soft green dissected palmate leaves are numerous on very elegant long branches. The mature habit can be grown with a central leader or as a multi stemmed tree. The fall color transforms the tree into a multitude of warm red and orange shades. ‘Seriyu’ is a good specimen for containers or near a water feature. Mature height 15-20 feet tall.
Acer palmatum ‘Sango kaku’
Coral Bark Japanese Maple
If you’ve been looking for a specimen tree or large multi-stemmed shrub with year-round interest, you’ve found it in Acer palmatum ‘Sango kaku’ also known as Coral Bark Maple. These small trees have the delicate palmate leaves and outstanding fall color typical of Japanese Maples. ‘Sango kaku’ is even more impressive with new growth emerging a bright red that becomes even more vibrant in the winter. You can plant these as a landscaping focal point or a container tree, in part shade to sun. Coral bark maples are at their best when protected from the hottest sun of the day and high winds.
Maintain with annual pruning to stay below 15 feet, eventually maturing at 20-25 feet tall.
Acer palmatum ‘Wolff Emperor 1’
Emperor 1 Red Japanese Maples
This variety is known to be one of the toughest of the upright growing Japanese Maples. Leaves emerge in spring to a brilliant crimson red and maintain their dramatic color throughout the Summer. When Fall color begins the foliage transforms to a vibrant bright red before Winter. Even in dormancy the vase shape structure of ‘Emperor 1’ makes it an outstanding tree in any sized landscape. They can tolerate afternoon sun consistently better than other varieties. They reach about 25-35 feet tall and wide.
Acer palmatum ‘Crimson Queen’
Weeping Red Japanese Maple
Acer palmatum ‘Crimson Queen’ is a weeping variety of Japanese Maple. This very popular landscape tree is known for its finely textured palmate dissected leaves and incredible red fall color. These typically mature at 6-8 feet tall and wide. Their mature height is based on where they are grafted. With training they can reach heights of over ten feet. Plant in full sun to part shade, and maintain regular intervals of summer irrigation to keep their leaves soft texture. They need protection from high winds.
This variety can handle the hot sun and drier months better than other Japanese Maple varieties, but it’s still best to maintain summer irrigation consistently for all Japanese maples. Deep and regular watering as your tree gets established is the key to avoiding crispy leaves and maintaining the plant’s overall health.
Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Orangeola’
Orangeola Laceleaf Japanese Maple
Orangeola Japanese Maple is a stunning landscape tree whose foliage goes through various changes throughout the seasons. In the fall, ‘Orangeola’ continues its color changes and develops bright flaming red and burnt orange colors for a powerful display.
Unlike other weeping Japanese Maples – whose growth pattern is to spread wider than they grow tall – the Orangeola Japanese Maple has a relatively modest spread of 3-7 feet. It can grow up to 8 feet tall. It is, therefore, more suitable for planting in containers than other lace-leaf maples, and it’s a beautiful specimen on porches or patios.
In fall, ‘Orangeola’ continues its color changes and develops bright flaming red and burnt orange colors for a powerful display. If grown in a location with more exposure to bright light Japanese Maples can have more intense coloring.
Japanese maples will reward you for decades with beautiful shape, form, and fall color!
Contact Frontier Tree Care for your technical pruning needs this fall and winter. We can assess your trees for corrective maintenance, pruning crossing branches and removing any dead wood ahead of winter storms. With regular tree care and landscape maintenance your Japanese maples will be staples in your Northwest garden.