Although Japanese maples thrive best in zones 5-9, they can be successfully grown in colder climates. An established Japanese maple can withstand temperatures down to zero degrees Fahrenheit on exposed parts. The roots can withstand temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
Click here to find out what zone you are in.
Cold weather isn’t the main problem with growing Japanese maples in low zones. The real issue is disruption of dormancy. Winter heat sources and late spring frosts can be deadly. Your house reflects heat off of the southern and western sides which can warm your plant, causing it to prematurely emerge from dormancy. It is best to plant on the north or east side of your house. Daylight warmth from the southern sun mixed with drastically cold nights can cause splits in the bark. Covering the trunk with a tree wrap helps.
Avoid pruning in late summer and early fall. It could encourage new growth that will never survive the bitter winter season. Shield your plant from aggressive winds. Since the roots lie relatively shallow, it is important to mulch well. This will not only prevent them from freezing, but will the roots will warm slowly in the spring. If sunshine is scarce in your area, you may find that the green varieties do better in full shade. For zones with extremely cold winters, Japanese maples can be grown in containers. Be sure to let your plant go dormant before moving it to a sheltered location (like an unheated garage) for the winter. (Never bring them inside your house. Japanese maples make terrible houseplants.) If your garage gets very cold, you will need to insulate your container or keep a heating pad set to low under it to keep your root temperature from dropping below 14 degrees. Keeping a proper temperature is key. You do not want to warm your roots too much, causing the plant to “wake up”.
Here are some hardy varieties of Japanese maple that should hold up well in cold temperatures:
Amoenum-(leaves divided up to 2/3 down the base)
Osakazuki– This straight growing, round headed, tree has large leaves. They are green spring and summer and are well known for the intense crimson they turn during the fall. They can grow to 20 feet.
Palmates– (Leaves divided 2/3 – ¾ down the base)
Emperor 1– These are very similar to a bloodgood, but are a little hardier. They look like what what most people think of when you say “Japanese maple”. They have the “standard” red leaf and can reach 20 feet tall.
Johin– Johin have thick red leaves (hints of green in the summer) and grow 10-15 feet.
Katsura– Katsura’s grow to about 15 feet. They have beautiful light green leaves that turn bright orange in the fall. They typically have a hardiness zone of 6, but I read many posts from gardeners in colder zones who had good luck with it. One post from a gardener in Ithaca, New York (known for their long, cold winters where the temperature is often below zero) said he has a Katsura that has survived outside for over ten years.
Beni Kawa/Beni Gawa– This maple has an upright, vase shape with dark green leaves that change into golds and reds. The bright red bark offers striking color all year long (and looks amazing against a snowy backdrop!) It will grow to 15 feet and is said to be very cold tolerant.
Dissecums– (Lace Leaf)
Inaba Shidare– This plant will quickly grow to 5 feet. It has very dark,(red-black) foliage
Tamukeyama– A strong, fast growing variety, its thick leaves change from green to bright red or dark purple. It will grow to about 5 feet.
Green Snowflake– This small (4 ft) weeping lace leaf has green, snowflake shaped leaves that turn to shades of yellow or orange.
Ao Jutan- A cascading, spreading tree with large, green leaves that turn shades of gold, orange and red in the fall. It will grow 4-6 feet high
Linearilobum– (Narrow, strap-like leaf lobes)
- Fairy Hair– Although much hardier than it looks, it might serve best as a container plant. Its wispy, hair-like leaves are a beacon to rabbits. Fairy hair grows small, 2-3 feet and green. It changes to red, orange and yellow tones in the fall.
Beni Komanchi– Its name means “beautiful, red-haired little girl”. This little (6 ft) beauty is one tough cookie. She’s a fast grower and flaunts colorful red leaves spring through fall.
Pseudosieboldianum– This pseudo-Japanese maple is actually a Korean maple. It is very similar to the Japanese maple but hardier. It can grow in zone 3 and can get very large (20-30 feet). They have beautiful green leaves that turn orange-red in the fall.
Griseum– A Chinese maple, this ornamental tree is often referred to as a “paperbark” because of its thin, peeling, bark. It is quite hardy and will grow anywhere a sugar maple will. The leaves are blue-green and turn orange in the fall. It is slow growing- topping out at 15-20 feet.
Peggy Primm says
Obviously I am a very newbie, so I lack knowledge and resources. I managed to buy one Japanese Maple-supposed to be 2-3 years old. I planted it in the area where I plan to grow rooted seedlings. At the time I thought I would buy a small hoop structure and cover the corel bells and JM for the Iowa winter. My question is why not cover the JM with rose cones ? If no one picks them up to peek, will those work ?
I have used rose cones on the smaller trees to protect them from our harsh Michigan winter, and there is the added benefit of providing a barrier around the tree to prevent little bunnies and mice from chomping away at the tender bark that exists on young trees. I think this was a great way to help get the trees aclimated to my yard for their first few winters there until they outgrew the cones at which time I felt the little trees had grown strong enough to brave the winter en plein air, lol, although I admit there were times when I felt the need to wrap them in burlap…periodically though. I hope this helps.
I used the ‘cones’ on my little JM’s their first year here. In the spring I went out and one by one lifted the cones. Each time I picked one up I was devastated, to my horror all of the bark on every last one, 12 in all, was gone. could not believe my eyes! Every single one would die. It seems the Voles had a little party… protected from the cold, inside a nice warm ‘house’ with all the food they could eat. Hundreds of dollars wasted on a lesson well learned. The cones are gone now! BE CAREFUL …
I had field mice do the same thing with hundreds of Japanese maples covered under white plastic for the winter. When covering you always have to use mouse bait.
Indeed, mouse protection is vital! I always have traps set out and am especially diligent come autumn to place bait stations in numerous locations around the yard, these are occasionally restocked during the winter and are made so as cats and squirrels cannot get at the bait. I have long cold snowy winters, where for the most part the snow does not completely melt until spring. I then generally have little to no mouse damage other than a bit of chewed lawn in areas where no bait stations had been placed.
rajesh moothayil says
like to know more about the commercila uses of MAple trees, like to have a commercial grower of all breeds
Baronet Kevin James Parr says
Thank you for your kind reply on my life story. Now I brought a Bloodgood ,maple sapling of four year pot grown. For two more years here in Europe it did well. The next winter was Siberian type and for three weeks it fell to 38 Cel below. The ground froze to a meter down and no amount of cover helped to keep the tree alive.Because England is warm and on the Maritime flow it could be that my tree failed here. I am willing to try again and will take your advice on hardiness. Thank you.
ELENA BRESCIANI says
I LIVE IN URUGUAY SOUTH AMERICA AND WE HAVE COLD WINTERS BUT NOT SO COLD–IT NEVER SNOWS—
I HAVE AN ACER PALMATUM AND ITS GROWING VERY NICELY—-
IN SUMMER WE HAVE 30o —37o degrees centigrades and a lot of sun—and my acer tree has no problem with the sun—
I live in zone 4 (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), and have had excellent luck with Korean maples. What I would like to know is, which of the Japanese maples listed above is THE MOST hardy. I simply don’t have the space and budget to try them all.
I would say Tamukeyama.
There is a new hybrid Japanese maple that was crossed with a Korean maple that is hardy to -34 degrees celcius. It’s called Ice Dragon.
Green in summer and turns orange and red in fall.
Hard to find so order it for next spring planting.
KRIZSAN TREE SERVICE INC. says
A customer wants us to transplant a Japanese Maple from the ground into a large container, the tree is about 8 foot tall and has a 4 inch trunk near ground. They think it is about 20 yrs. old. We have different size tree spades and could do. What size container and what size root ball? They bought a 25 gal. tough rubber one. The tree has a double trunk close to ground. We live in southern Wisconsin. What are the chances of survival? Does it need to be put in unheated shed for winter?
The rule of thumb is 12″ of root ball for every 1″ of tree caliper measured 6″ from the ground. Would it survive? Probably, if moved after Thanksgiving. Before then? I’d give it less than a 10% chance of survival. For the winter in a container it is likely much better outside where the humidity is higher than in any kind of an enclosed structure. This tree has never been root pruned so that too is going to make this move more risky to the tree.
Johann Brown says
Hello, just wondering, for ones in a pot being stored for the winter, how cold do they have to get? We don’t have a garage, but we do have a space in the basement under the stairs.
It really needs to be outside so it can go dormant. Place in a protected area and mulch around the container.
I think they meant that they stored the pot inside once it went dormant aka “unheated shed”. I am curious about this too.
An unheated shed is just as cold as being outside during the winter and extremely dry. In most cases plants are happier in the ground because of the ground heat. Building a tent over a plant or plants with white, not clear, plastic helps considerably. That’s how big nurseries over winter their plants. http://mikesbackyardnursery.com/2013/11/over-wintering-protecting-plants-for-the-winter/
Since the danger is to the roots when a tree is in a container, moving it against a structure (such as house, garage, or big compost bin) helps maintain the root ball closer to an in-ground temperature. Mound mulch (leaves work fine) or other plants around the container. This technique got my potted JMs through many cold winters
I have an osakazuki maple planted about 9 ft from my back wall and about 11 ft from a baby hogyuko. I am told they will not get big enough in my climate to make crowding a problem, but I was wondering about your thoughts on their final height and width in zone 5a. They are in a protected east side location with excellent drainage.
They can always be pruned to maintain a certain size and they can always be move at the right time of the year. I recently planted about 10 Japanese maples in a pretty small bed.
Su Piercy says
Hi. Although I live in zone 5 (Colorado), I would like to grow a Japanese Maple in a container, which means that I need a maple for zone 3. Can you please recommend one? I would prefer a dwarf or semi-dwarf, 10-12 ft or under.
I honestly don’t think I can make a recommendation for a number of reasons. 1. Any Japanese maple that would survive in zone 3 is probably not a variety that I would want to show case. I might be wrong about that, but that’s just my thinking. 2. Many Japanese maples that are rated for zone 5 can and will suffer damage if we get a really harsh winter. If I were you I’d pick a variety that I really like, put it in the container, enjoy it and take your chances. In all honesty even here in zone 5 we take our chances with Japanese maples. It’s a risk I am willing to take. I plant dozens and dozens of them, that way if I lose one or more I still have nice ones.
Life is too short to not have one because it could die. If you really want to protect it cover with white plastic for the winter. More about that here; http://mikesbackyardnursery.com/2013/11/over-wintering-protecting-plants-for-the-winter/
John angline says
Need to protect from rabbits or mice?
Only if you happen to cover them with white plastic, for sure you mouse bait. But they should be fine uncovered. Rabbits? They are not tasty but I have had rabbits bite them off.
Melissa Moore says
Hi. I would like to try a 2nd Japanese maple in a container (my first one was planted on the east side of ,and close to, the house- and did not survive the winter). How will I know the tree is dormant and ready to take into the garage, and will insulating the pot while in the garage be sufficient (a heating pad sounds like way too much trouble)?
Once the tree experiences a hard freeze, down to 25 degrees F. for a few hours, it’s dormant. A garage can be a lot of things. Too dry, too warm, even too cold. Once dormant you want the tree to stay dormant, if your garage is in the 50’s the tree might break dormancy. Garages are dry, you have to water even a dormant tree.
Wow. What a great site. Did anyone ever have success in growing a Japanese Maple in Calgary, Alberta?
I don’t know exactly what your growing zone is, but Ohio isn’t much different than many parts of Canada. Are there Japanese maples readily available in Canada? If so, I say give it a try.
Mark Wedul says
I have 3 Korean maples that are completely hardy in Zone 4 (Mpls-St.Paul Mn).I have recently purchased 2 Korean=Japanese hybrids that are part Iseli Nursery’s Jack Frost Collection and hardy to Zone 4. North Wind and Ice Dragon. They also have one called Arctic Jade. The Ice Dragon has dissected leaves and is outstanding in appearance.They are part of my Japanese garden.on the North side of the house. I do not wrap any of my plants.
Thanks Mark, great info you shared.
marggy wheeler says
Hi All, I have been doing Nursery work in South West Oregon for the last 28 years. I am getting ready to move me and my own small nursery over to Klamath Falls, USDA zone 5 or 6. I have a variety of maples including Acer palmatum seedlings and cultivares. I will keep you posted on how they fair. The main thing about Klamath Falls is that it has lower humidity (yet cold) winters compared to many places in the country. They will get upsized to 5 Gallon for now and given some protection in the winter I imagine. Marggy Wheeler
Sounds great, good luck with the move, enjoy the new location.
Sam Crowell says
I live in Klamath Falls Falls, It tends to actually be zones 6b-7a, with considerable variations in microclimate.
I work with bonsai and my big concerns with Japanese maples are the correct amount of shading and the low humidity (silica supplements help with windburn and the humidity issues.
The winters are all over the place with snow fall and temperatures.
Be aware, in the spring we can have several thaw-freeze-that events that can promote early budding, only to have the following freeze kill the buds.
I live in Calgary, AB (Canada zone 4b) and purchased an Inabe Shidare this spring that I have kept in the container as I was planning on bringing it indoors when the temperatures dropped. However, I see that you do not recommend bringing them indoors. Currently the container is sunk into the ground and I am wondering if you have any advice to help me winter it? We have a heated floor garage, not sure if this is helpful or not.
I would plant it in the ground permanently. The heated garage floor will dry it out. It really needs to go dormant so it can rest.
Hi there, Great tips by the way and thank you.
I did have a question though. I’m hoping you can answer it for me since you seem to be pretty knowledgeable about gardening.
What are the best ways to do indoor gardening as a beginner?
If you had some insight I would greatly appreciate it.
I’m not the person to ask about indoor gardening, all of my stuff is outside.
Adam Cuatote says
Hi , I want to plant Japanese maples in Deming NM , would they do good in NM ? I have them in Texas and they do great .
Lots of shade is what I’d recommend.
Jim S says
I live on the edge of zone 5/4. My 8’ Bloodgood maple has 40-50% dieback. What should I do?
Jim, After a few weeks remove the dead branches and give the tree a chance to come back. It will be slow, do not fertilize it. 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.
I planted a Japanese Blood Good Maple in my garden and went through the winter preparations (mulching and wrapping the trunk in burlap).I live in southern Minnesota where we get night times below zero F. The leaves have not dropped and its almost February. Is it common for them to hold on to their leaves until spring? This is it’s first winter.
That’s not that unusual. Right now I see a lot of Japanese maples that still have their leaves. Some years they all drop early, other years they tend to hang on into the winter.
Al jowett says
I want to plant a dwarf J.M. In a container in climate zone 4b. It would summer on a protected terrace but I would like to bring it indoors for the winter….in a heated area by a partial shaded window. Any suggestions on how to do this or whether it is even possible wo7ld be appreciated. I do not have a garage.
That’s not going to work, the tree needs to go dormant for the winter so it can rest, defoliate, and make new leaves in the spring. Over the winter the ideal setting would be around 40 degrees and kept watered as needed.
Wanting to know if you can plant a Japanese Maple in Saskatchewan. Will it survive the winter.
Depends on the zone, most are safe to us zone 5.
Zone map for the United States:
Zone map for Canada:
Glenn Clark says
Don’t bother with a Japanese maple in Saskatchewan. They are very marginal in Ottawa, so definitely won’t be hardy on the prairies. You might try the Korean maple instead, Acer pseudosieboldianum, which is definitely more hardy
Gregory Ternyak says
I live in Minnesota, zone 4. I have a green mound juniper as a bonsai in a pot. Should I dig a hole in the ground and put my pot with mulch for the winter or bring the pot into dark, cold s attached car garage? I also have a seedling Japanese Maple plant in a pot. What would you recommend in this situation when winter comes?
Both would be better outside in the ground for the winter.
Sandra Dix says
I have the opposite of cold as I live in Melbourne,Fl. (9b) & we have pretty mild winters here & short. Is there a JM that I could grow here? I can usually leave my orchids outside is I cover them at night.
Thanks so much for any suggestions.
see this https://japanesemaplelovers.com/growing-japanese-maples-in-hot-climates/
Hi I’m in Calgary zone 4. I bought a zone 5 Japanese Maple and I have it in a pot. I was hoping it would overwinter in my cold room but it doesn’t get cold enough at least that’s what I have researched. My garage is heated and we get to cold for my unheated shed. I brought in yesterday because it is blizarding outside. I think it is dormant but I don’t know what to do with it. Pleeese help me. Thanks
First of all, the tree should freeze to put it in complete dormancy. Your tree should be fine outside until the temps get down below 20 degrees F. Even then, I have all kinds of Japanese maples both really small and large that will be outside all winter, in the ground. Even when it got down to 15 below zero most of them fair pretty well. Not all, some were damaged, but not killed. Me? I’d find a protected area and bury the pot in the ground. But that’s just me.