Japanese Maple Tree Lifespan: How Long Do Japanese Maples Live

japanese maple life
japanese maple life
(Image credit: valery_green)

The Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) is known for its small, delicate leaves with pointy lobes that spread outward like fingers on a palm. These leaves turn fabulous shades of orange, red, or purple in autumn. There are many interesting Japanese maple tree facts, including how long these trees live. The lifespan of Japanese maple trees mostly depends on care and environmental conditions. Read on to learn more.

Japanese Maple Tree Facts

In the United States, the Japanese maple is considered to be a small tree, typically growing from 5 to 25 feet (1.5-7.5 m.) tall. They prefer rich, acidic, well-draining soil. They also like partly shady settings and regular irrigation water. Drought is moderately tolerated but boggy soil is really bad for these trees. In Japan, these trees can grow to 50 feet (15 m.) or more.

Japanese maples typically grow one foot (31 cm.) per year for the first 50 years. They can live to be over one hundred years old.

How Long Do Japanese Maples Live?

The Japanese maple tree lifespan varies depending on luck and treatment. These trees can tolerate shade, but hot, full sun can reportedly lessen their lifespan. The lifespan of Japanese maple trees is also negatively impacted by standing water, poor quality soil, drought, diseases (such as Verticillium wilt and anthracnose), and improper pruning and planting.

If you want to enhance the lifespan of Japanese maple trees, give them regular irrigation, provide an annual application of good quality compost, and install them in a location that provides partial shade and good drainage.

Japanese maples are highly susceptible to verticillium wilt, which is a soil-based disease. It causes wilting in leaves and kills branches progressively. Is my Japanese maple dying? If it has verticillium wilt, it is. The best you can do in this case is to nurture your Japanese maple with good soil, regular water, and possible yearly injections to extend its life as long as possible. Test your soil for soil diseases before you plant a prized Japanese maple.

Japanese maples have a bad reputation for developing roots that kink and circle around the root crown and lower stem, eventually choking the tree of its own life. Improper installation is the primary cause. Kinked and circling roots will shorten the Japanese maple lifespan. Make sure the planting hole is twice as large as the root ball, and ensure the roots are spread outward in the planting hole.

Also, make sure the planting hole is scarified so the new roots can penetrate into the native soil and that there is some drip irrigation at the outer edge of the planting hole so the roots are encouraged to move outward.

If you want to increase your Japanese maple tree lifespan, do not cut the roots. The best way for aggressive wood decaying fungi to enter and kill a tree is through root injury. Large cuts or wounds on the trunk or large branches are also easy targets for wood rotting fungi. Shape your Japanese maple while it is young and growing so you can form it properly with small cuts. Choose a cultivar that fits the space in which it is planted so you don’t need to prune so often, or even at all.

Karen Boness

Karen Boness is the founder of Wild Willow Design, an Australia-based company that specializes in ecological landscape design.