How to Grow Coral Bark Japanese Maple

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Coral bark Japanese maple, Acer palmatum "Sango Kaku," is prized for its bright-red branches that brighten the winter landscape after its leaves drop. In spring, red-edged, bright-green leaves emerge; they stay green all summer before turning shades of yellow and orange in fall. Coral bark maple grows 18 to 25 feet tall and can spread nearly as wide. It is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 6 to 8.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Compost or other organic soil amendment
  • Choose a planting site with partial shade; coral bark maple may prefer afternoon shade in the South. Make sure the soil drains well -- poor drainage can kill your tree.

  • Dig a hole two to three times the width of the tree's root ball or container. Make the hole about two-thirds the depth of the root ball or container.

  • Amend the soil you removed from the hole by adding compost or another organic soil amendment. The amount of amendment you add should be one-third to one-half the volume of the soil. Mix well, breaking up any chunks.

  • Remove the coral bark maple from its nursery container. Gently loosen the outer feeder roots.

  • Place the tree's root ball into the hole, with the top third sitting above the hole to allow for good drainage. Add amended soil to the bottom of the hole if you need to raise the level of the root ball.

  • Position the tree as desired, then backfill the planting hole halfway with the amended soil. Press the soil down lightly to get rid of any air pockets.

  • Soak the half-filled planting hole with water. Finish filling the hole, extending the soil to the top of the rootball. Taper the dirt from the rootball down to the surrounding ground.

  • Create a low berm around the edge of the planting hole, using the rest of your amended soil. This will keep water around the coral bark maple's roots during the crucial first and second years after planting. Deeply water the newly planted tree.

  • Spread a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch around the base of the tree. Keep the mulch two inches away from the trunk to prevent disease or decay.

  • Give your coral bark maple a consistent water supply -- from rain and irrigation -- the first two or three years after planting. Deep-water your tree at least weekly, unless it has rained 1 to 2 inches that week. Test to see if the tree needs watering by pushing your finger into the soil around the base of the tree to see if it's moist. Stop watering when the ground freezes.

Tips & Warnings

  • Remove the berm after the second year.
  • Leaves that are brown or black on the tips may indicate that your coral bark maple is getting too much water.

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