Tree Profiles: Japanese Maple Cultivars, Part 2

This is the second segment of a three-part series on Japanese maple cultivars.


Japanese maple is a species of tree often used for cultivation. For over three centuries, Japanese horticulturalists have developed cultivars from maples found in Japan, Korea, and China. Cultivars are available for commercial use in retail stores and garden centers across Europe and North America. The following examines some of the most frequently selected cultivars of Japanese maple, including ‘Higasayama’, ‘Hogyuko’, ‘Hupp’s Dwarf’, ‘Inaba-shidare’, ‘Kagiri Nishiki, ‘Karasu Gawa’, ‘Katsura’, ‘Koto No Ito’, ‘Little Princess’, ‘Nigrum’, ‘Osakazuki’, ‘Oshi Beni’, and ‘Peaces and Cream’.

‘Higasayama’: ‘Higasayama’ is a small upright cultivar that can reach between 15 and 20 feet tall, with a 12 to 15 foot spread. This cultivar was named after Mt. Higasa in Japan. Small reddish flowers emerge in spring. Palmate leaves are divided into seven tipped lobes with toothed margins. In spring, the lobes are green along the center, with creamy white margins tinted with pink. Leaves mature in summer, brightening into shades of gold, purple, and red in fall.

‘Hogyuko’: ‘Hogyuko’ is a compact tree with an upright growing habit. It grows between 15 and 18 feet in height, with a 12 to 15 foot spread. Reddish-purple flowers emerge in spring. Palm-shaped leaves have seven serrate, moderately-cut lobes that are divided half way to the leaf base. Leaves remain green throughout the growing season, turning a distinct pumpkin orange in fall.

‘Hupp’s Dwarf’: ‘Hupp’s Dwarf’ Japanese maple is a dwarf cultivar with a compact, upright growing habit. It is one of the smallest Japanese maple cultivars, reaching 2 to 3 feet in height and width. Foliage is reddish-pink in spring, turning a vibrant green in summer. Leaves brighten into orange-gold hues in fall. This cultivar’s striking features, and small form make it an ideal selection for bonsai enthusiasts.

‘Inaba-shidare’: ‘Inaba-shidare’ is a small tree with an upright, rounded growth habit. It develops at a slow rate, reaching a height of 10 feet, with a 12 to 15 foot spread. Red flowers bloom in spring. Palmate leaves with seven deeply incised lobes emerge deep purple in spring. Leaves mature by summer, brightening slightly to a purple-red color. In fall, they turn an even brighter red.

‘Kagiri Nishiki’: ‘Kagiri Nishiki’ is a cultivar of Japanese maple notable for its shape and color. It is a slow growing tree that develops an upright habit. It can reach a height of 10 to 15 feet, with a 5 to 10 foot spread. This cultivar produces small bluish-green leaves that have white and pink margins. The asymmetrically shaped leaf lobes curve like sickles. In fall, the leaves turn a brilliant orange-red. During this period, the colors along the margins become more pronounced. The pinks are especially striking.

‘Karasu Gawa’: ‘Karasu Gawa’ is a small, upright Japanese maple cultivar that can grow between 8 and 12 feet in height and width. It is fairly delicate, developing better in shaded areas. This cultivar produces spectacular pink growth in spring. Each leaf has five lobes. Leaves mature in summer, and may exhibit considerable variegation. Some leaves are white with pink or pinkish-green streaks, while others are pink or red with some white and green spotting. Many leaves are green with darker green veins. In fall, the lighter variegations turn a deep rose color.

‘Katsura’: ‘Katsura’ is a dense, compact cultivar with an upright growth habit. It typically grows in a vase-shaped form before becoming more rounded as it matures. It reaches a height and width of 10 to 12 feet. Small reddish flowers bloom in spring. Palmate leaves emerge a greenish-yellow, with tinges of orange along the margins. Leaves have five lobes and shallow toothed margins.

‘Koto No Ito’: ‘Koto No Ito’ is a small cultivar of Japanese maple that is renown for its long leaves. At maturity, it may reach up to 8 feet in height and width. It has an upright growth habit. Leaves emerge crimson before turning green. They eventually brighten to orange and gold in fall. Leaves consist of five to seven long lobes that taper to sharp points. The leaf lobes vary in width; they may be narrow and strap-like, or slightly larger than a leaf vein.

‘Little Princess’: ‘Little Princess’ is a hardy cultivar with a slow growing, compact habit. It is one of the smallest Japanese maple cultivars, growing around 5 feet tall and wide. Bright apple-green leaves, with red tinged margins emerge in spring. They deepen to red in summer, before turning vibrant shades of orange and gold in fall.

‘Nigrum’: ‘Nigrum’ is a slow growing cultivar with a rounded habit. It reaches 12 to 16 feet tall, with a 10 to 12 foot spread. Small flowers bloom in spring, followed by winged fruits. Gorgeous black-red foliage emerges in spring before turning a deep purple-red in summer. Leaves are palmate, forming 5 or 7 lobes. In fall, leaves deepen to crimson.

‘Osakazuki’: ‘Osakazuki’ is a vigorous upright cultivar with a rounded crown that reaches between 20 and 25 feet in height and width. It develops at a medium growth rate. Red flowers and small winged fruits appear in spring. Leaves are large and palmate, with seven serrate, moderately-cut lobes. The lobes are divided slightly more than half way to the leaf base. Leaves are green when they emerge. Their color persists until fall, when they turn a resplendent crimson red.

‘Oshi Beni’: ‘Oshi Beni’ is a cultivar of Japanese maple that has a spreading form. It grows at a medium rate, reaching between 12 and 18 feet in height and width. Inconspicuous red flowers bloom in spring, followed by winged fruits. Palmate leaves emerge bright orange-red. Each leaf has seven lobes. Leaves fade to bronze-green by summer, turning a deep scarlet in fall.

‘Peaches and Cream’: ‘Peaches and Cream’ is a variegated cultivar that is a cross between ‘Shigitatsu Sawa’ and ‘Aka Shigitatsa Sawa’. It has an upright, compact form, and a shrub-like growth habit. This cultivar develops slowly, reaching 6 to 10 feet in height and width. Spring leaves are a cream color tinged with red and pink. They display reticulated veins of deep green. Leaves are deeply lobed and toothed. They brighten to shades of green and gold in fall.