Japanese maple trees are one of the most sought-after ornamental trees for gardens and landscapes today. With their graceful branching silhouettes and vibrant red foliage, it’s easy to see why these visually stunning trees are so popular.
This article will take you on a journey through the diverse world of Japanese maples and their costs to help you find your perfect tree.
How Much Do Japanese Maple Trees Cost?
As a prized ornamental specimen tree, Japanese maples do carry a higher price tag than some other landscape trees. Most Japanese maple trees cost between $40 and $1,000, depending on their type, where you buy them from, their size, and so on. Expect to pay:
- Container-grown: $60-$150 for a 5-7 gallon container tree or $200+ for a 10+ gallon tree.
- Bare root: $40-$80 for a 4-6 foot bare root tree. Not common.
- Balled and burlapped: $150-$400 for a 6-10 foot B&B tree. Most expensive but provides the best chance for survival.
Larger B&B trees 10+ feet tall run $400-$1,000. Dwarf and weeping varieties also command higher prices, often starting around $200 even for small plants.
For the specimen tree lover, it’s possible to spend many hundreds on rare or unusual Japanese maple varieties. But there are also affordable choices to fit most budgets.
JapaneseMaple.net, for example, specializes in rare and hard-to-find Japanese maple trees. Prices vary depending on the specific variety and size of the tree.
The Arbor Day Foundation sells Red Sunset® Maple trees for $22.99 to $29.99, Sun Valley Maples for $19.99 – $24.99, and Silver Maples – $14.99 – $19.99. Prices vary depending on the specific variety and size of the tree.
MrMaple also offers a wide variety of Japanese maple trees. Prices vary depending on the specific variety and size of the tree.
What You Get for the Price of a Japanese Maple
Given the higher cost of Japanese maple trees compared to other landscape specimens, what exactly are you paying for with these prized ornamental trees? Here’s a look at where your investment goes:
- Superior genetics – Japanese maples are the result of centuries of careful breeding, producing trees with excellent form, color, and aesthetics. This level of genetic quality commands a premium price.
- Grafted cultivars – Many named varieties are propagated by grafting, a labor-intensive process done to maintain unique traits. Grafted trees are more expensive to produce.
- Slow growth – Japanese maples are slow-growing trees, meaning larger specimens take many years to reach landscape size. The time invested adds cost.
- Limited quantities – Some rare or unusual varieties have low production levels, making them harder to find and more expensive to buy.
- Special care – The extra effort required to properly transplant, establish, prune, and care for Japanese maples also contributes to their cost at the nursery level.
In short, you are paying for superior natural beauty, decades of breeding, skilled propagation techniques, and intensive growing practices when you buy a Japanese maple tree. This makes them a premium landscaping investment.
Additional Costs to Consider
The purchase price of a Japanese maple is just the beginning. Here are some other costs to factor in to get the most out of your investment:
- Professional planting – $200-$500 for planting by a landscaping company versus do-it-yourself. Ensures proper siting and technique.
- Staking & pruning – $150-$300 for staking and corrective pruning in the first 1-2 years after planting. Helps establish the ideal form.
- Mulch – $100-$300 for 2-4 inches of shredded bark mulch applied around the tree each year. Vital for moisture and protecting shallow roots.
- Watering equipment – $50-150 for soaker hoses, timers, and other irrigation supplies. Especially important in the first two years.
- Fertilizer – $20-$50 annually for granular tree fertilizer to promote growth and vigor.
With the right care, especially in those establishment years, you’ll extend the lifespan of your investment and fully enjoy its beauty.
What Makes Japanese Maples So Special?
Japanese maple trees have been prized in Asian gardens for centuries, but only gained popularity in North America starting in the 1800s when plant collectors began importing maples from Japan. Today, they are one of the most coveted ornamental trees for gardens and landscaping.
So what accounts for the enduring popularity of Acer palmatum, the Japanese maple tree? Here are some of the top reasons these trees are so highly valued:
- Graceful form and silhouette – Japanese maples are prized for their graceful branching structure and elegant shapes, from weeping cascades to upright vases.
- Vibrant foliage – Japanese maples put on a showstopping display of color, with red, orange, yellow, and purple leaves. Many varieties offer multi-season interest.
- Adaptability – Japanese maples thrive in sun or part shade, and in the ground or containers. There’s a variety for nearly any garden situation.
- Compact size – Many cultivars grow no more than 10-15 feet tall, making them ideal specimens in small urban gardens. Larger trees typically reach 15-25 feet at maturity.
- Low maintenance – Once established, Japanese maples require little care beyond yearly pruning and occasional irrigation during dry periods.
- Long-lived – Properly sited, Japanese maples commonly live 100 years or more. They just get better with age!
With this winning combination of grace, beauty, and adaptability, it’s easy to see why Japanese maple trees never go out of style. Now let’s look at how to choose the perfect one for your landscape.
How to Select the Best Japanese Maple for Your Garden
With hundreds of Japanese maple cultivars to choose from, selecting the right one for your garden can feel overwhelming. Here are the key factors to consider:
There are two major types of Japanese maple based on growth habit:
- Upright or oval – The most common form, growing in a rounded, tree-like shape. Often wider than they are tall. Good for specimen planting or anchoring a bed.
- Weeping or cascading – Graceful trees with long, trailing branches that give a flowing, sculptural look. Nice focal points along paths or near water features. Require staking when young.
Japanese maples span a wide range of sizes, from just 2-3 feet tall to over 25 feet in height. Consider the space you have and what size tree makes sense for your goals. Some options:
- Dwarf – Less than 10 feet after 10 years. Great for containers or small gardens.
- Medium – 10-15 feet tall. A nice size for tighter spaces.
- Large – 15-25 feet or more. Better for larger gardens where they have room to spread out.
While green leaf Japanese maples are lovely, it’s the red and orange varieties that really make this tree a showstopper. Some popular leaf colors include:
- Fiery red – Bright red spring leaves mature to deep burgundy
- Coral – Unique orange-coral tones
- Variegated – Leaves edged or flecked with white and pink
- Purple – Deep burgundy with black accents
Most Japanese maples need some shade, especially from hot afternoon sun. However, certain varieties can handle more sun if planted in cooler climates.
- Full sun – Tolerates at least 6 hours of direct sunlight in zones 5-7.
- Part sun – Needs a mix of sun and shade during the day.
- Dappled shade – Does best in bright shade with just a few hours of morning sun.
- Full shade – Requires planting under high tree canopy or north side of a building.
By assessing the light and size requirements of the different varieties, you can find one well-suited to the growing conditions in your landscape.
Where to Find Japanese Maple Trees For Sale
Once you’ve decided on the right Japanese maple for your needs, it’s time to find a reputable source. Here are some of the best places to buy:
- Local nursery – A knowledgeable nursery professional can guide you and ensure you get a healthy, well-established tree suited to your climate. Buying locally also means less transplant shock.
- Mail order – A wider selection of cultivars is available from online sources that ship bareroot or container-grown trees. Just be aware of shipping costs.
- Big box stores – Sometimes have a decent selection of common varieties, but the quality may not be reliable. Inspect trees closely.
- Wholesale grower – Larger quantities offer discounted pricing, but require advanced planning and equipment to transport trees.
No matter where you buy, inspect trees closely for signs of health, proper structure, and form, and reject any with damage. The best Japanese maples have a strong central leader and well-spaced branching. Some great examples of Japanese Maples are Bloodgood Japanese Maple and Coral Bark Japanese Maple.
How to Plant Japanese Maple Trees
To ensure your new Japanese maple gets off to a healthy start, follow these planting and care guidelines:
- Plant in spring – The best time to plant container maples is in early to mid-spring after the last frost. Or plant balled and burlapped trees while dormant in late fall to early spring.
- Choose the site carefully – Japanese maples need well-draining soil and prefer partial shade, especially from hot afternoon sun. Protect from strong winds.
- Dig a wide hole – The planting hole should be 2-3 times wider than the root ball or container width. This encourages horizontal root growth.
- Set the tree high – Place the tree no deeper than the original growing depth, with the first flare of roots at grade. Planting too deep can kill maples.
- Remove containers/burlap – Carefully remove containers before planting. For B&B trees, peel back and remove as much burlap as possible.
- Backfill with care – Backfill around root ball with native soil, compacting lightly to remove air pockets. Do not amend soil.
- Water thoroughly at planting and as needed the first year. Provide around 1-2 inches of water per week in dry weather.
- Mulch & fertilize – Apply 2-4 inches of shredded bark around tree, but avoid touching trunk. Fertilize in spring starting year two.
- Prune judiciously – Japanese maples rarely need heavy pruning. Selectively remove crossing or damaged branches in late winter.
Follow these tips and your new Japanese maple will thrive and increase in beauty for many years of enjoyment!
How to Save on Japanese Maple Tree Costs
For those looking to reduce the cost of adding a Japanese maple to their landscape, here are some money-saving tips:
- Purchase small container-grown whips or saplings and be patient as they grow over 5-10 years.
- Go for less expensive green leaf varieties, which start around $60-$100 for container trees versus $150+ for red leaf types.
- Buy bare root vs. balled and burlapped and be prepared to properly plant and water.
- Join local garden clubs and check for group bulk purchase programs to get volume discounts from nurseries.
- Consider buying in late summer when prices tend to drop before nurseries clear out stock.
- Plant in the fall to take advantage of end-of-season sales. Be sure to get trees in the ground 4-6 weeks before a hard freeze.
While Japanese maples are an investment, following these tips can help you get a beautiful specimen tree that enhances your landscape for years to come without breaking the bank!
Discover the Perfect Japanese Maple for You
As we’ve discovered, Japanese maples are diverse enough to suit nearly any garden situation if you select the right variety. By considering your specific needs and growing conditions, you can find a magnificent Japanese maple tree perfect for your landscape.
A final bit of advice – don’t limit yourself to just one Japanese maple. Once you get your first, you’ll quickly want to expand your collection! With various sizes, leaf shapes, and colors, you can continually find new maple specimens to turn your garden into a true Japanese maple paradise.
So explore the many varieties out there, choose wisely and soon you’ll be enjoying the graceful beauty only a Japanese maple can bring to your outdoor space. Let nature’s artistry and elegant silhouettes inspire a whole new vision for your garden this year.