Growing Japanese Maples In Hot Climates

Japanese maples generally grow in zones 5-9a. They grow reasonably well in areas like northern Florida, but growing can be tricky by the time you reach the central 9b zone. Year-long warm temperatures can cause a lack in the dormancy pattern. Strong sunlight, dry winds, or salty, alkaline soil can make growing difficult. It is necessary to plant on the north and east sides of the house to shade from the scorching afternoon sun. You want to shade your tree from strong sunlight. Partial sun is best for normal growing regions, but a fully shaded area will be fine for growing in the higher zones. To help insulate your tree, cover with 3-4 inches of mulch, but avoid touching the trunk.

Too much sun will cause leaf scorch and in some areas it may be necessary to grow in containers that can be moved out of intense sunshine. Often, people make the mistake of seeing sun burnt leaves and assuming the plant needs more water. Do not over water your maple! If your plant is drying out, you will notice dry leaves evenly spread throughout the plant. When too much sun is the problem, the dry leaves will only be clustered in certain areas. If leaves are severely sunburned, you may need to de-leaf the plant completely (as long as its not too late in the summer). Green varieties seem to be less susceptible to leaf scorch. however there are many varieties can withstand hot temperatures. Here’s a list of few:

Amoenum-(leaves divided up to 2/3 down the base)

  • Osakazuki Has large leaves that are green spring and summer.  They are well known for the intense crimson they turn during the fall. They can grow to 20 feet, but will stay smaller in warmer climates.

  • Omato– Is very similar to Osakauki, but the color is somewhat less intense. Its a strong grower and resistant to sun damage.

Palmates– (Leaves divided 2/3 – ¾ down the base)

  • Bloodgood, Red Emperor, Emperor 1– These very popular varieties are what what most people think of when you say “Japanese maple”. They have that typical red leaf and can reach 20 feet tall.

  • Fireglow-This smaller version of a bloodgood, only grows to 12 feet. Its gives off an amazing glow when the sun catches its burgundy leaves. Its size makes it a good container plant.

  • Glowing Embers– This will grow to about 10 ft with young red leaves fading into a bronzy gold as the seasons change.

  • Sango Kaku– The sango kaku is best known for its coral red bark that turns gray with the season. Green leaves turn to a yellow-gold. Its a fast grower and can reach heights up to 25 feet tall.

  • Moonfire– Moonfires look more like a tree than a shrub. Covered in dark, black-red leaves, it will grow 15-18 feet.

Matsumurae-(Leaves divided more than ¾ down the base)

  • Oregon Sunset- This compact tree grows well in containers. In ground it will grow to 12 ft. Its red leaves deepen in summer, then turn an intense crimson in the fall.

  • Beni Shi En-The name means“red smoke”. It is one of the few variegated varieties that grow in hotter climates. Its purple-red leaves are trimmed with gold highlights. This too, has a compact from that makes it a good container plant.

Dissecums– (Lace Leaf)

  • Crimson Queen– This weeping deep red lace leaf grows in a thick, leafy mound to about 5 feet.
  • Tamukeyama– A strong, fast growing variety, its thick leaves change from bright red to dark purple. It will grow to about 5 feet.
  • Inaba Shidare– This plant will quickly grow to 5 feet. It boasts very dark,(red-black) foliage.
  • Red Dragon– This small (4 ft) mounding plant has cascading scarlet-red leaves yearlong.
  • Seiryu– The name means “blue-green dragon” It is the only true upright growing dissectum among Japanese maples. Green leaves turn to vivid gold with red highlights. This variety is very different from the cascading forms of other lace leafs. It can grow 12- 18 feet tall.

  • Garnet– This unique tree is like a 6 foot upright, but has weeping red leaves flowing from the top.

Linearilobum– (Narrow, strap-like leaf lobes)

  • Red Pigmy– This wispy shrub has narrow, twisting lobes- red in the spring and turns green as the temperature rises.
  • Koto No Ito– At up to 7 feet tall, it has green foliage that turns orange, peach and red during fall months.


  • Shaina– This globe shaped bush has beautiful two-toned red, dense foliage. It will grow to 5 feet.

  • Sishigashira- Its name means“lions head”. It has glossy dense, curled leaves that are deep green leaves into fall. In late fall, after most other varieties have begun to fade, it bursts into gold, rose and crimson tones. Sishigashira holds color well in heat.

Miscellaneous Varieties

  • Shantung Maple– The Shantung is not a true Japanese maple, but the delicate leaves make it look very similar. Because this tough tree tolerates full sun, Texas A&M University designated it as a Texas Superstar Tree. This 25 foot tall tree has green and gold leafs with red flecks. The leaves turn to a stunning orange in fall. A grower in Texas used it to create the dwarf golden dragon (trademarked)- a smaller, hardy variety.


Not sure which zone you are in?  Click here to find out.

40 thoughts on “Growing Japanese Maples In Hot Climates

  1. Julia Dalbey on said:

    I would love to be able to grow Japanese Maples. I live about 40 miles north of Houson, TX where it gets very hot and dry most summers and very little freezing in the winter. I do not have a lot of shade yet but am working on itl What would you suggest about the maples?

    • Mike on said:

      Julia, in your climate it could be challenging. I’d start doing some as seed under artificial shade and see how they do for you before you go further. With that said, I love Japanese maples, but I make more money growing and selling simple and easy plants.

    • bob on said:

      hey. make sure you have some shade. Good luck

  2. James Wood on said:

    Love the maples there so beautiful. Got 1 question about them at what height do you let them start to branch out?? generic jap. red maples??

    • Mike on said:


      It is my observation that even a Japanese Red Maple seedling looks better the closer to the ground it starts branching. So for the most part I at least clip the tips in the first season to force more lateral growth. Eventually I’ll go back and selectively prune those low branches removing tiny ones so we can see and appreciate the intricacy of the those lower branches. -Mike McGroarty

  3. Pingback: Plant Seeds, Bulbs & seedlings for Sale » How to Grow Japanese Maple

  4. Meg on said:

    Hey Mike,

    These are beautiful. Can they grow in Phoenix Arizona? I can plant the shorter varieties under a tree or two that I have and the block wall will give them afternoon shade. But it does get amazingly hot here!

    • Mike on said:


      Urrrrrrg! I’m not sure I could grow in Phoenix. It would really be a stretch and they need to be dormant. Move up to Sedona, I’ll bet they’d like it up there.

  5. Anton Manley on said:

    Please put me in touch with sources that I can purchase the varities that could grow in south Fl weather.

    • greg on said:

      Look for Freund Flowering Trees in the Redlands, SW of Miami. They are way out west at the edge of the Everglades.

  6. David on said:

    My girlfriend and I would really like to plant a Bloodgood or Emperor 1 in Fresno, CA, but we’re worried about the heat. It would be the East side of the house, shaded from afternoon sun. What do you think?

    • Mike on said:


      All I can say is give it a try. We have a member who grows hundreds of Japanese maples in Alabama so it’s worth a try.

  7. Caroline Moyer on said:

    Thanks for all the info above. So many to pick from, which would you recommend to grow in pots (no ground), in Southern Calif (near Disneyland), temps averages 72-78 summertime, heat not as bad as Arizona. Winter 65-75

  8. Josh on said:

    I have a red dragon Japanese Maple, I’ve had it for 3 years now. I live just south of Chicago. All of a sudden, in the middle of June this year, it turned fall color and now the leaves are starting to turn brown and wilt. It looked great a month ago, what happened? Its not like I just planted it, no bugs or damaged trunk, no trimming. Lost

  9. Jean Stephane Ouellet on said:


    My Red Dragon Japanese Maple seems to be drying out (tips of leaves drying out all over the tree. It has lots of shade in the morning but is in full sun in the afternoon. Other than giving lots of water, will I need to de-leaf the plant? Thank you


  10. Happy Delsigne on said:

    I planted a Japanese Maple here in Oklahoma and it was doing great….until the floods came. It has lost all it’s leaves….is it dead? What should I do? The spot I planted it is perfect with part shade and I was really looking forward to seeing it mature

  11. Gary Ritenburgh on said:

    I have a Japanese Maple that has always been in full sun, (maybe lucky) for 26 years. In fact I came to this page trying to get a idea on selling price for it, but actually found some interesting info I didn’t know about them. I have been getting seedlings and actually giving them to neighborsfor several years now.

  12. Denese Clare on said:

    Hi Mike,
    I have a Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’ Japanese maple tree that I purchased in New Jersey, and brought it back with me to south Florida (zone 9). I placed the pot on the east side of my home where I have full sun in the morning and shade in the late afternoon. Months later the leaves turned brown and I loss all of the leaves. Now I have only 2 leaves on the tree and a few buds that now look as if they are drying up. The stems are green at the base of the tree. What can I do to save my tree, it is my favorite tree in my garden? Thanks.

    • Mike on said:


      First thing it would be happier planted in the ground, but zone 9 is going to be challenging. These plants need to rest over the winter and it won’t be able to do that in zone 9. But it sounds to me like it dried out in the container. Also it’s likely to need a bit more shade. They are pretty tough, but the sun is really hard on the leaves. Most Japanese maples love dappled sunlight.

      • Denese Clare on said:

        Thanks for your reply, I appreciate your feedback. I really don’t want it in the ground, but I did move it so that it gets more shade than sun. I realized that I made a error, I am actually in zone 10. What about fertilizer? I read that you should fertilize just before spring using Polyon 20-10-5. Also, any recommendations on prunning? Thanks again!

        • Mike on said:


          I’ve never heard of that fertilizer so that concerns me deeply. The only kind of fertilizer you can use on a Japanese maples is a slow release like Osmocote. Any other fertilizer will kill the tree in less than 24 hours. That’ goes for all container grown plants.

      • Renee on said:

        I live in zone 9a and all my Japanese maples go into dormancy by the beginning of December, regardless of the temperature. I suspect the amount of sun a plant gets vs. night, plays just as much a role into when they go dormant as the temperature does. I am seeing a ton of people posting pictures of their tree’s new flush of leaves, and all of mine are still dormant. I probably won’t see a leaf for another month, even though we have been having highs in the 60’s/70’s for several weeks now.

        • Mike on said:


          You are right, sunlight changes in the fall will trigger dormancy but I wasn’t sure exactly how dormant they would go or how long they would stay dormant in zone as warm as yours. You taught me something, thank you.

    • Robert Carrell on said:

      You need to know about channeling in plant pots. This occurs after a plant has established in a container for 3-4 months. the pot contents tend to form channels of least resistance when water is poured from the top. the channeling results in parts of the root ball not receiving enough moisture, even though you may feel that you are watering the tree frequently enough. the longer a plant sets in the same container, the worse off it gets. That doesn’t even speak to root growth becoming circular around the interior of the pot over time(1-2 years). So, prevent channeling by immersing the pot in a dish with s-3″ lip for about one hour. Fill the saucer(dish) to the top. then one hour later, check it and see how much water has been taken up. I imagine that at least one to two inches of water will be absorbed in a pot that is channeling water. Also, take the tree/ plant out of the pot after 2 years maximum and check the root growth. If it is a healthy grower, the roots will encircle the root ball. You should either repot in a bigger pot after cutting through the circling roots, or cut the circling roots and remove some soil and dead roots and repot with new soil. Robert Carrell

      • Mike on said:

        Great information Robert, thank you for sharing.

  13. Barbara on said:

    We have been planting seedlings that goes up under our Japanese Maple for several years. Last few years around June they start getting dried looking spots on the leaves. It doesn’t seem to hurt the trees at all. We keep them for couple years before we sell them then repot in larger container. (We start with a one gallon pot then go up adding new potting mix in pot each spring). Every year they get the spots around same time. What are these small dried spots, we have them under a spruce pine tree for shade. They get morning and evening sun. Anything you know we could do to stop sporting, our bigger trees get too but not as badly.

    • Mike on said:


      Two things. They could be from watering during the day if the sun is shining on the leaves when there are droplets of water on the leaves it can burn the leaves. Or it could be a fungal thing from too much humidity in the air, around the leaves. Letting the plants go to bed at night with wet leaves is another issue that could cause this. It’s actually pretty common. Sometimes they get powdery mildew which turns the leaves white. Again, too much humidity.

  14. Michael Saks on said:

    I live in a small town 45 miles north of Orlando FL. Can you tell me about a nursery in central FL that has Acer Palmatum Dissectum for sale ? I want to plant one in my lanai at the head of a waterfall to my koi pond. The area gets afternoon shade and morning and midday sun. I’d like a variety that grows to 6′ tall and about 8′ in diameter. Thank you for your help !

    • Mike on said:


      I think you’ll have to call around locally and ask or order one online. I don’t know of anyone in that area that sells them. Many of our members,, sell them, but I can’t keep track of who has what, we have members all over the country.

  15. Hannah on said:

    My brother and I recently bought a red maple bonsai seed kit. We started it yesterday. We live in South Florida where weather can reach the 100s and go down to low forties high thirties. My brother and I plan to keep the tree inside where the temperature is 73-76 with low humidity and constant indirect sunlight. Is this a good plan, or should we move it inside??

    • Hannah on said:

      Sorry this was a repeat

    • Mike on said:


      Your southern Florida weather is probably going to be too hot for it outside, but Japanese maples are a deciduous plant and they need to go dormant for the winter and rest. Not sure how that’s going to work if your tree never experiences cold weather. ????? Sorry, not much help I know.

  16. Theresa on said:

    I have a ton of shade in my yard. I live in central san antonio tx.
    I am looking for a yellow color – the weeping variety and maybe even a shantung for in the sunny part by curb??

    I was looking up the shantung but what i found was a zone 5 and san antonio is a zone 9b correct?

    What varieties would you suggest?
    One area that I am thinking of is in front of my windows next to house and I’d like a little mini maple forest…staggering the heights of the plants.
    Thanks! I’d appreciate any ideas.

  17. Walter on said:

    Hi, I’m in Zone 8a (Atlanta) and would like to plant a “Sango Kaku” in the front yard. The spot get about 7 to 8 hours of sun during the summer and mostly afternoon sun. Would the maple do well since it does get pretty hot here? Thanks!

    • Mike on said:


      Sango Kaku would be a good choice for you, the leaves of this variety do hold up better than most in sun. I say give it a try.

  18. Rosemary Sigur on said:

    Hello, I live in Lafayette, LA which is southwest LA, zone 9a.
    I have two Japanese Maples, a Bloodgood and I believe the other one is crimson queen. They are about 8 or 9 years old. The Bloodgood is now about 12 feet tall. Both were beautiful until the flood happened in August. The backyard had about a foot and a half of bayou water which took about two weeks to recede after the rains stopped. The leaves on the two trees are crispy brown. Apparently bayou water is worse than rain water. My front yard is green but the in the back yard the grass and boxwoods, the maples and several other plants are all brown. I will remove all the boxwoods but don’t know what to do about the maples. Is there any chance they might come back in the spring? Or, do you think they are dead. Thanks for your help.

    • Mike on said:


      Sorry to hear of this. I’m the the Bayou water would have been okay had it receded sooner. Your plants suffered from a lack of oxygen and chances are they are not coming back. This is how you test to see if a plant, or a branch on a plant has died. Just scratch the bark of your plants with your finger nail. If the tissue below the bark is green and firm your plants are fine. If the tissue is brown and mushy that part of the plant is dead.

      • Rosemary Sigur on said:

        Hi, I did as you suggested. One branch showed a whitish color and was firm. Another was brown and firm–no green. A couple of months have gone by since the flood; maybe that is why neither branch was mushy. Thank you for your help.

        Rosemary Sigur

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *