pruning a Japanese maple - when and how?

Discussion in 'Maples' started by marv entis, Jan 18, 2006.

  1. marv entis

    marv entis Member

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    portland oregon
    Re: Japanese Maple - Bark

    what is the proper way to prune a japanese maple and when?
  2. mjh1676

    mjh1676 Active Member Maple Society 10 Years

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    Southern Oregon
    This sort of question comes up a great deal. I would encourage you to do a simple google search for "pruning Japanese Maples" and I think you will get all the answers you need.

    They can be lightly pruned year around. If you have shaping today, then I prefer that to be done in summer. The tree heals faster and can even redirect growth in the same season. If you want to do some redirective pruning summer is a good time to do it.

    If you have a large branch or heavy corrective pruning, this can be done in later winter before bud break as not to put too much unneed stress on the plant during the growing season. Remove dead wood anytime to keep the tree clean.

    Generally, purning maples from the inside out, removing small twigs near the trunk to open the tree and work up and out looking up through the tree. This is especially helpful with dissectums.

    Maples lend themselves to almost any pruning style or techniqe so you can be fairly liberal in your experiement. It is helpful to have some idea of the growth habit of the maple you are pruning and if appropriate, try to preserve its natural form and shape.

    I am posting and example of a dissectum, Acer palmatum Crimson Queen, that had resides in my family's garden. It has been in its location for at least 25 years. Initially it was wired and staked and weighted down with rocks. It was and is still diligently pruned twice yearly with care and detai as l to remove nearly all new growth and specific leaves. The tree has had the wires and rocks removed for the past 5 years or so as the disired form has been achieved. It is about 4ft tall at the tallest point and about 6ft across. A true beauty with or without leaves. While it has suffered some decay on the trunk and one front branch, this has not seemed to effect the overall health of the plant. I expect it to live for many more years.

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  3. debviolet

    debviolet Active Member 10 Years

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    amherst, ma usa
    hi mjh 1676,
    i'm a beginner jpm caretaker so i pounced on your intriguing letter! i am stymied. i've yet to find anything on shaping 'natural size' jpm! using the ways you mention, ie. wire, stake, weigh down, etc. with a long time horizon. amazing!!
    i'm hoping you (or other readers!) know a website, book, etc that explains the mechanics plus artistic principles guiding decisions to weigh, release, wire, stake, prune...
    how about the bonsai books? they are numerous.....can bonsai aesthetics, forms be applied exactly to ''natural' size trees? i'm not sure... debviolet
  4. amazingmaples

    amazingmaples Well-Known Member

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    bonsai books are great if you want a certain look. Mjh you have a great looking tree. I truely belive pruning is a personal choice. there is a guy on you-tube who prunes all of his maples with hedge pruners, not my method, but when you see them in his garden they fit.
    I have some japanese maple trees which came from a large japanese garden that was abandoned and the trees grew wildly on there own. I trimmed the trees back a little and they look great in my garden but if they stood alone next to great nursery trees they look like a mess.
    So my point is this, follow a couple basic rules of pruning such as using sharp clean tools, do your major limb pruning during dormant time and pruning during the season when something starts to look out of portion but most of all have fun with your pruning.
    I tell people that pruning is like getting your hair cut, if you do not cut your hair you can look like a shaggy mess and trees are no different.
    One other note, some maples need far less pruning to keep them looking good as compared to other maples. I found As Sensu looks much better if it is not pruned out on the inside where other trees like Nuresagi is best all cleaned out.
    Have fun and create the tree you want to see.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2010

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