Unique Japanese Maples for Your Garden

For texture and charm, Japanese maples carry more of a punch per inch than any other ornamental tree. Lacy lobed leaves, autumn fire and a wide range of shapes and sizes put these lovely trees on every gardener's favorite list. The classic Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) is gorgeous enough to make you fall in love. But if you are one of those gardeners who love exciting, unique cultivars, The Tree Center has you covered with many choices available.

Make a splash with Waterfall Japanese Maple. Here's a different take on a wonderful tree. The Waterfall Japanese maple (Acer palmatum var. dissectum 'Waterfall') makes a splash wherever it's planted. It matures to 10 feet (3 m.) high and 12 feet (4 m.) tall, but remains much smaller for its first decade in your garden. This weeping tree's cascading leaves are a fresh green in spring and summer, but they turn into a lava flow in autumn with bronze, purple, crimson and gold, mixing and blending in one of the most spectacular fall displays of this maple family.

Purple Ghost Japanese Maple offers haunting beauty. If you don't want to wait for fall to invite vivid shades into your garden, you might have found your dream maple in Purple Ghost Japanese maple (Acer palmatum 'Purple Ghost'). It's a small tree with a big impact. Maturing to only 10 feet (3 m.), Purple Ghost is a narrow, upright specimen. It wedges nicely into cozy garden corners where its vivid purple foliage becomes the focal point of all eyes. Its spectacular, glossy leaves are imprinted with dark veins, creating the Purple Ghost's "skeletons." Foliage is the focus of this maple. The young leaves grow in with the classic, deeply lobed maple "fingers" but a rich shade of purple. The color moves toward red as summer ripens, then evolves to a fiery yellow/orange/crimson display.

Ryusen Japanese Maple for a river of color. The new kid on the block, Ryusen Japanese maple (Acer palmatum 'Ryusen'), is the ornamental maple southern gardeners have been yearning for. Most Japanese maples need a shady location, but not Ryusen. This cascading charmer is sun resistant and grows happily in full sun spots all the way through zone 8. And Ryusen has so many unique features. It's the ultimate shape-shifter maple, with branches that fall vertically to fall gracefully over a wall or a steep bank. As a weeping tree, Ryusen stays about 5 feet (2 m.) tall, but you can also stake up the central stems to create a specimen that can reach up to 20 feet (6 m.) tall. Or give the plant its head and allow it to creep naturally over a fence. This tree offers quite the color show, starting with its chartreuse leaf fingers in spring. These mature into rich green, then explode into toasty oranges and vibrant reds as fall turns toward winter.

Seiryu Japanese Maple for straight out romance. Do you love the mounding lace-leaf Japanese maples but prefer an easy-to-grow upright tree? You'll be bowled over by the one-of-a-kind beauty of Seiryu Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum 'Seiryu'). Seiryu offers the romance of lacey foliage, with tiny leaves appearing in spring in hues of pale green edged in rosy hues. They are ornamented with small purple flowers. The foliage is true lace-leaf, each leaf deeply cut into narrow lobes that reach to the base. The leaves mature slightly darker green before the fall fireworks begin - a dramatic explosion of gold, orange and red. Seiryu grows rapidly to its mature height of 15 feet (5 m.) and requires minimal gardener effort to thrive.

These are only a handful of unique Japanese maples to add to your list of favorites. The Tree Center has many, many more interesting Japanese maple varieties in their selections, so finding one that suits all your needs shouldn't be difficult. Save Save

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.