25 Japanese Maple Varieties with Stunning Foliage

Japanese maples are excellent additions to the garden, with so many cultivars to consider. Texas Master Naturalist Sarah Jay discusses 27 different varieties you can plant in your yard.

A closeup of a Japanese maple tree with colorful leaves in the garden. The tree has a powerful thick trunk forked towards the top. The leaves have autumn shades of orange, red and yellow. Many leaves fell to the ground.

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Fall is perhaps even more beautiful than spring, with cool temperatures and multicolored leaves glittering in the sunlight. While you can trek to nearby views, why not have your own festive fall display at home?

Japanese maples have notoriously lovely and increasingly varied leaves as more and more cultivars are bred. Some are stringy, and some are more robust. Some completely turn one color, and others take on multiple hues as they experience shorter days. Most are perfect for shade gardens, while others tolerate a bit more sun.

With all the variation, it may be hard to know which varieties are out there, much less which ones are most suited to your region and climate. Thankfully, we’ve compiled a substantial list of Japanese maples you can grow at home. 

The Three Main Species

Close-up of Japanese Maple leaves in an autumn garden on a blurred background. Japanese Maple leaves are palmate, meaning they have a hand-like shape with lobes radiating from a central point. The edges of the leaves are serrated.
Despite being understory trees, some cultivars are heat-adapted, and when caring for them, use rich and well-draining soil.

Before we get into the specifics, let’s discuss the three main Japanese maple species and their general characteristics. Each has been bred and cross-bred to create a seemingly insurmountable number of cultivars. Due to their nature as understory trees, they fit into shadier spots.

All three have made quite a splash in the plant trade and have earned the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. As you may notice, despite their native habitat, they do well in temperate regions worldwide. Each cultivar puts on a show in fall, just before the leaves drop. 

When caring for Japanese maples, you should know that as understory trees, they are unlike American maples. That means most aren’t direct-sun-tolerant, but there are a few heat-adapted cultivars. In terms of soil, stick to something rich and very well-draining. 

Acer japonicum

Close-up of Orange Acer japonicum in autumn garden. The Orange Acer japonicum features palmate leaves with typically five to nine lobes. The leaves have a rounded shape and are deeply incised. The leaves are bright orange with serrated edges.
Originating from Japan and southern Korea, this maple species grows up to 10 meters with a thinner trunk.

This species is native to Japan and parts of southern Korea. Unless you’re dealing with a dwarf cultivar, this species of maple will reach up to 10 meters tall. They’ll have a thinner trunk that reaches roughly 16 inches in diameter. These trunks initially have smooth bark that becomes rougher with age and exposure. You may see these with one central trunk or multi-trunked.

The leaves of A. japonicum are rounded, palmate, and have nine to 13 deeply-veined serrated lobes. Young leaves are covered with whitish hairs and eventually lose most of these by summer. In fall, you can expect wild displays of red, orange, and umber. 

In situations where the tree can flower, they’ll bloom in early spring as new leaves are forming. These minuscule blooms (roughly 1 cm wide) are dark purple or maroon and open on dropping inflorescences. As flowers fade, winged seeds form and spiral to the ground as they mature. 

Acer palmatum

Close-up of Acer palmatum in the garden. Acer palmatum, commonly known as Japanese Maple, displays palmate leaves with five to nine lobes. The leaves are characterized by their elegant and delicate appearance, deeply incised, creating a graceful, hand-like shape. The color of the leaves is burgundy-purple.
A. palmatum has pointier leaves with five to nine lobes, varying in size and serration among its three subspecies.

Perhaps the most widespread of the three main species, A. palmatum is indigenous to a wide area, including Japan, Korea, China, eastern Mongolia, and southeast Russia. Ideal conditions allow this tree to grow up to 10 meters tall, often with multi-trunks that grow to roughly one foot in diameter. 

The leaves of palmatum are pointier than japonicum and have five, seven, or nine lobes. There is a lot of variation among this species and the three subspecies it houses: A. palmtum subsp. palmatum, A. palmatum subsp. amoenum, and A. palmatum subsp. matsumurae.

That means you’ll see leaves ranging from 1.5 to 5 inches wide, with single or double-serrated edges. The seed wings vary in size as well, correlating with leaf size. All three subspecies have complex flower formations with five red or purple sepals and five whitish petals. 

Genetic changes can occur from generation to generation, with seedling trees looking very different from their parent in color and shape. But all will take on a dome-like formation in their growth habits, losing their leaves in late fall, right after they put on their dazzling display.

Acer shirasawanum

Close-up of Acer shirasawanum leaves. Acer shirasawanum, commonly known as the Full Moon Maple, features palmate leaves with a distinctive, rounded shape and seven to eleven lobes. The leaves are green, deeply incised and have jagged edges.
A. shirasawanum features rounded leaves with pronounced veins and serrated edges, turning gold, rust, or bright red in fall.

This species is endemic to Japan, meaning the parts of Japan where it grows are its only native habitat. That doesn’t mean you can’t grow one at home, though! These top out at 15 meters in ideal conditions and grow trunks that reach a 20-inch diameter. 

If you prefer smooth bark, know that both young and old shirasawanum trees maintain it. The leaves are rounded like japonicum but not as deeply lobed, taking on a paw-like appearance. The veins are pronounced, and the edges are serrated in proper maple fashion.

Each leaf grows to about 4 inches wide with nine to 13 lobes. These leaves range from gold to rust to bright red in fall. The flowers are about 1 centimeter across, with five dark purple-red sepals, five white petals, and red stamens. The winged seeds that form after the flowers fade are bright red and grow above each leaf. 

There are two subspecies of A. shirasawanum: Acer shirasawanum subsp. shirasawanum and Acer shirasawanum subsp. tenuifolium. These are sometimes sold as individual cultivars.

Fall Foliage Japanese Maple Varieties

Now that we’ve outlined the main species and now that we’ve discussed their growth habits, let’s dive deep into the amazing cultivars in the plant trade. As you explore this list, note those that fit your hardiness zone and planned planting area. These are going to perform best for you. 

Fairy Lights

Close-up of Acer japonicum 'Fairy Lights' leaves against a blue sky. This compact and slow-growing tree features palmate leaves with deeply incised lobes, creating an intricate and delicate foliage. The edges of the leaves are finely serrated. The leaves are a rich pink-red color.
‘Fairy Lights’ dwarf maple is known for its thin, deeply serrated leaves that take on a furry appearance.
botanical-name botanical name Acer japonicum ‘Fairy Lights’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun, afternoon shade in warm areas
height height 4 to 5 feet tall and wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 through 9

We’ll start this magic maple journey with the delicately appearing dwarf maple, ‘Fairy Lights.’ You may not notice the deep lobes of this maple due to their thinness and deep serrations, giving them a wild and furry look. 

Often described as dissected, the foliage starts out light green, changes from gold to orange, and finally deep crimson in fall. The branches are horizontally spreading, and the roots appreciate consistent moisture. People in cooler and temperate regions can enjoy the loveliness of this tree year after year. 

Dancing Peacock

Close-up of Acer japonicum Aconitifolium 'Dancing Peacock' against a blurred green background. The tree showcases deeply lobed, palmate leaves that resemble the intricate feathers of a peacock. The foliage is deeply incised and finely serrated. The leaves are bright green.
This cultivar exhibits a fiery blend of yellow, orange, and red hues in fall.
botanical-name botanical name Acer japonicum Aconitifolium ‘Dancing Peacock’
sun-requirements sun requirements Dappled sunlight or full morning sun with afternoon shade
height height 14 feet tall, 12 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 through 9

This cultivar is similar to ‘Fairy Lights,’ but the lobes are thicker and more substantial. That makes it a great choice for people who like the lacey appearance of ‘Fairy Lights’ but want a taller tree with more robust foliage. ‘Dancing Peacock’ also climbs up to 14 feet tall. It will need some room as it matures to a 10 to 12-foot spread.

In fall, the tree takes on a fiery appearance, with shades of yellow, orange, and red creating a flame-like interplay. This is especially welcome in lower zones where ‘Dancing Peacock’ does quite well compared to other cultivars.   

O isami

Close-up of branches with leaves of Acer japonicum 'O isami' in a sunny autumn garden. The leaves are large, palmate, lobed, with jagged edges. They are greenish in color with pinkish-red-orange hues starting at the edges of the leaves.
The ‘O Isami’ tree distinguishes itself with unique fall features, as its leaves gradually turn red and take on a pinkish hue.
botanical-name botanical name Acer japonicum ‘O Isami’
sun-requirements sun requirements Dappled sunlight
height height 30 feet tall, 6 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 through 9

The open format of ‘O Isami’ is lovely, especially in the first ten years when it grows up to 10 feet tall and six feet wide. The fall features of this tree are what sets it apart from others. As the fall wears on, the leaf edges turn red, and that color eventually spreads inward, giving the foliage an overall pinkish appearance. 

While you can grow this one in zones 7 through 9, it does better in zones 5 and 6. The tender leaves can singe in hot weather and full sun. Give yours plenty of shade, and keep it safe in late frosts, and you’ll be able to enjoy its pinkish visage year after year. 

Aka Omote

Close-up of an Acer japonicum ‘Aka Omote’ tree in a garden with a blurred background. The leaves are large, palmate, lobed, with finely serrated edges and pointed ends. Leaves include shades of orange, green and red.
‘Aka Omote’s’ orb-like leaves exhibit a range of red hues in fall, and young trees can reach 10 feet tall within five years.
botanical-name botanical name Acer japonicum ‘Aka Omote’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade to full sun
height height 25 feet tall and wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 and 7

The orb-like leaves of ‘Aka Omote’ take on various shades of red throughout the fall season, giving you a wide spectrum of scarlet and crimson to enjoy as the winter nears. Young trees grow vigorously, reaching 10 feet within five years. Give yours a wide breadth to grow into. 

If you decide to grow it outside of its hardiness range in a warmer zone, give it plenty of shade to keep it out of the heat. Young leaves are particularly susceptible to burnt edges. This cultivar was developed in 1988 in Japan and has been a mainstay ever since. 

Attaryi

Close-up of Acer japonicum 'Attaryi' leaves in a garden. The leaves are large, deeply lobed, dark green with strongly serrated edges. Pale green veins are visible on the leaves.
‘Attaryi’ trees display dense autumn views with deeply lobed leaves ranging from apricot to red rose.
botanical-name botanical name Acer japonicum ‘Attaryi’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade to full sun
height height 30 feet tall and wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 through 9

The deeply lobed leaves of ‘Attaryi’ offer dense autumnal views on trees that most often reach an average of 20 feet tall but can grow to 30 feet in the right conditions. With a spread of about the same size, you’ll need to plan out a spot under some cover for this one. 

As the colder weather increases, you’ll get a range of hues from apricot to red rose. Keep the soil around ‘Attaryi’ moist, and offer some cover in hotter zones to protect leaves from singed tips. Dryness is also not suitable, as it can suffer without moisture at the root level.  

Meigetsu

Close-up of leaves of Acer japonicum 'Meigetsu' against a blurred dark green background. The Acer japonicum 'Meigetsu' is characterized by its distinct foliage, featuring deeply lobed leaves with a striking appearance. The leaves are vibrant green and exhibit a palmate structure. The leaves begin captivating transformation, turning into a rich and warm palette of reds.
‘Meigetsu’ has variegated leaves that change from orange to red in cold climates, thriving particularly well in zone 5.
botanical-name botanical name Acer japonicum ‘Meigetsu’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full sun 
height height 10 feet tall, 5 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5

If you want large leaves, look no further than ‘Meigetsu.’ These typically reach 5 inches across, providing ample fodder for your fall photo shoots. The overall form of the tree is widespread, with a rounded crown. You’ll have an 18-foot tree in no time, but in the first ten years, expect a tree that’s at most 10 feet tall and 5 feet wide. 

These big, waxy leaves change color in fall from orange to red, while the veins remain green, giving them a variegated appearance. This is also one of those varieties suited to cold climates and does very well in zone 5. Cold-weather gardeners, rejoice!

Aka Hosada

Close-up of Acer palmatum ‘Aka hosada’ branches with stunning purple-burgundy foliage. The leaves are deeply lobed, and their unique feature lies in the variegation of vibrant red veins against a purple background. The edges of the leaves are finely serrated.
‘Aka Hosada’ features thin, sharply-pointed drooping leaves that transition from bright red to deep purple-maroon.
botanical-name botanical name Acer palmatum ‘Aka Hosada’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial sun to full shade
height height 18 feet tall, 10 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6 through 9

‘Aka Hosada’ is perfect in a fall goth garden. The thin, sharply-pointed drooping leaves turn bright red and then deep purple-maroon as the cold draws near. It’s also an adaptable variety that can handle both heat and cold.  

Its mature height of 18 feet tall gives you even more options for planting. What’s exceptional about ‘Aka Hosada’ is its ability to maintain these red hues throughout the year until leaf drop. So you won’t ever have to miss fall’s brilliance

Alpenwiess

Close-up of branches with leaves of Acer palmatum 'Alpenwiess'. This cultivar features deeply lobed, palmate leaves with serrated edges. The leaves are green with shades of cream and pink at the edges.
‘Alpenweiss’ offers varied autumn hues and unique foliage with white-edged variegation.
botanical-name botanical name Acer palmatum ‘Alpenwiess’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 12 feet tall, 10 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 through 8

‘Alpenweiss’ gives you varied autumnal hues and an interesting shape when it matures. Instead of a round crown, this tree grows in a columnar fashion, up to 12 feet tall. Add it to your garden as a centerpiece because the white-edged variegation remains as the green leaves turn various shades of red. 

Add to the white edges deeply colored veins. You’ve got some unique foliage to include in your yard. And you don’t have to plant this one in the ground, as its small stature makes it a good candidate for a container garden. Like many of these on our list, it also has a wide hardiness range.

Amagi Shigure

Close-up of Acer palmatum 'Amagi shigure' foliage next to conifers. The leaves of this cultivar are deeply lobed and display an elegant, cascading form. Leaves are deep purple.
‘Amagi Shigure’ has a leaf pattern featuring deep purple veins blending with reds and violets in fall.
botanical-name botanical name Acer palmatum ‘Amagi Shigure’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full sun
height height 12 feet tall and wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 through 9

Yet another incredibly-colored leaf pattern and smaller stature come with ‘Amagi Shigure.’ While there are no pronounced edges on this tree, lovely deep purple veins meld with the reds and violets that present themselves in fall’s light. However, initial color changes are yellow to whitish. 

‘Amagi Shigure’ has a smaller stature, and a rough translation of the cultivar name means “heavenly rain shower in late summer.” The serrated, almost fuzzy near indigo leaves are a particularly wonderful view in cold times. Give yours a fairly shady spot, and enjoy!

Baldsmith

Close-up of Acer palmatum 'Baldsmith' foliage. The Acer palmatum 'Baldsmith' is distinguished by its remarkable foliage, featuring deeply lobed leaves with a delicate and finely dissected appearance. The leaves have a lacy texture and emerge with a beautiful blend of burgundy and green hues.
‘Baldsmith’ is ideal for warmer climates and offers a small, texture-softening addition to the garden.
botanical-name botanical name Acer palmatum ‘Baldsmith’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 10 feet tall, 15 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6 through 8

For growers in warmer climates, ‘Baldsmith’ has just what they need. Not only does this tree offer lacey foliage, but it’s also a dwarf cultivar. Add this smaller tree to your garden to soften the textures within it. In summer, the red leaves turn light green. They then slowly take on a pinkish tinge in fall and eventually become bright red again. 

While full sun is fine for ‘Baldsmith,’ shade plantings work well too. Songbirds love to hang out in its branches, and deer generally leave it alone. Because this is a small tree, container growing is an option. 

Beni Maiko

Close-up of a young small Acer palmatum 'Beni Maiko' tree in an autumn garden against a backdrop of yellow and green leafed trees and blooming blue flowers. The Acer palmatum 'Beni Maiko' is renowned for its captivating and vibrant foliage. This cultivar exhibits deeply lobed leaves of rich red color.
‘Beni Maiko’ provides ever-changing leaves from red to green to pink in spring, transitioning to orange, yellow, and red in fall.
botanical-name botanical name Acer palmatum ‘Beni Maiko’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial sun
height height 6 feet tall and wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 through 8

As a true dwarf, ‘Beni Maiko’ won’t take up more than 6 feet in height and width. Grow it in a container, or plant it in the ground for ever-changing leaves that go from red to green to pink in spring, then to orange, yellow, and red again through fall and winter.

Plant this small tree under the cover of larger trees in exceptionally warm areas in summer. However, you may find it does just fine in the summer of zones 2 through 8. When you choose ‘Beni Maiko,’ you get to enjoy the multicolored leaves with their deep yellow veins!

Bonfire

Close-up of Acer palmatum 'Bonfire' leaves in a sunny garden. The deeply lobed leaves have a striking red coloration, reminiscent of a blazing bonfire.
Bonfire provides year-round flaming views, and is suitable for planting in the ground, in a large container, or as a bonsai.
botanical-name botanical name Acer palmatum ‘Bonfire’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full sun
height height 10 feet tall and wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 through 9

As the name suggests, you’ll have lovely flaming views through all seasons with ‘Bonfire.’ As a rounded dwarf cultivar, you can plant this tree in the ground or in a large container. It’s even a good candidate for bonsai if that’s your style. 

While the leaves need sunlight to develop their anthocyanin-laden reds, the tree will benefit from some shade in warmer temperatures. If your summers can be hot, plant below larger trees and under awnings. 

Burgundy Lace

Close-up of leaves of Acer palmatum 'Burgundy Lace' in an autumn garden against a blurred background. The deeply lobed leaves with jagged edges have a lace-like appearance, enhancing their ornamental charm. They have a burgundy color.
Burgundy Lace features serrated leaves with a deep purple-red color that requires sunlight but is sensitive to direct sun.
botanical-name botanical name Acer palmatum ‘Burgundy Lace’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial sun
height height 12 feet tall, 10 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 through 8

Another great candidate for the goth garden is ‘Burgundy Lace’! The serrated leaves of this cultivar need sunlight to maintain their deep purple-red color. But they are also sensitive to direct sunlight in hot weather. Therefore, keep them in a shadier spot in your garden. 

This is also great for gardeners who want to add multi-trunked plants to their outdoor spaces. With a round crown, ‘Burgundy Lace’ grows more like a bush than a tree, sending up shoots from the very base of the plant. The intense display of chroma is visible all year round, too. 

Fall’s Fire

Close-up of branches with autumn foliage of Acer palmatum ‘Fall’s Fire’.The deeply lobed leaves exhibit a brilliant display of colors, with hues ranging from green to gold and red. The leaves have finely serrated edges and pointed tips.
Choose Fall’s Fire for a full-color shift from spring to fall, with leaves shifting from light green to a fiery red with yellow veins.
botanical-name botanical name Acer palmatum ‘Fall’s Fire’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full sun
height height 10 feet tall, 8 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 through 9

If you like the idea of ‘Burgundy Lace’ but want to see a full-color shift from spring to fall, ‘Fall’s Fire’ is a no-brainer. Though the trees’ structures are very different, the leaves have a similar shape and start light green in spring. 

As the seasons pass, they take on a bright red with yellow center veining. This is what gives these trees a fiery appearance in autumn. Plant several of these trees in a grouping to create a stunning hedge that looks ablaze in fall. 

Garnet Tower

Close-up of Acer palmatum 'Garnet Tower' foliage. The foliage features maroon, spindly, and deeply lobed leaves that give the tree a lacy appearance.
‘Garnet Tower’ is a bonsai-friendly small tree with maroon leaves and a lacey appearance.
botanical-name botanical name Acer palmatum ‘Garnet Tower’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial sun
height height 8 feet tall, 12 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 through 9

‘Garnet Tower’ provides an array of maroon, spindly, lobed leaves with a lacey appearance. With a wider berth than its height, this small tree is often chosen for bonsai. Even though it has a small stature, the central trunk is substantial.

This is one of those cultivars that keeps its color all year, but new spring leaves have a light, fuzzy-looking silver lining. The cultivar emerged as a mutation among other laceleaf maples. However, the result of that mutation may lead one to believe there are no coincidences. 

Golden Pond

View of branches with leaves of Acer palmatum ‘Golden Pond’ against a blurred background. The tree has thin branched branches covered with shiny golden leaves. The leaves are medium-sized, deeply lobed, palmate in shape, with finely toothed edges.
This is a compact, container-friendly tree with shiny golden leaves that transition from green to copper to sharp gold in fall.
botanical-name botanical name Acer palmatum ‘Golden Pond’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial sun
height height 4 feet tall and wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 through 8

A true dwarf with shiny golden leaves is what you get with ‘Golden Pond.’ Its tiny stature makes it a perfect candidate for an attractive large container. Its leaves turn from green to copper to a sharp gold in fall. Ensure the tree gets enough light to enjoy the full array. 

As the tiny purplish flowers develop in spring, light green leaves grow, and a temporary color offset occurs. The resulting seeds are bright red. These do a lovely spiral dance as they fall to the earth. 

Hana Matoi

Close-up of leaves of Acer palmatum 'Hana Matoi'. This dwarf dissected maple presents droopy, lace-like leaves. The variegated pink and green foliage adds a touch of elegance to its appearance.
This dwarf dissected maple features adaptable, droopy, lace-like leaves with variegated pink and green foliage.
botanical-name botanical name Acer palmatum ‘Hana Matoi’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to full shade
height height 4 feet tall, 6 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 through 8

‘Hana Matoi’ is a dwarf dissected maple with droopy, lace-like leaves. It’s fairly adaptable to hot and cold weather and shows off its variegated pink and green foliage. ‘Hana Matoi’ translates to “adorned with flowers” in English, referring to the tree’s flowering shrub-like appearance.

This is your go-to Japanese maple if you like topiary. Throughout the year, the tree takes on greens, oranges, pinks, reds, and even cream. There is so much goodness packed into this one small plant, and chances are every gardener has room for ‘Hana.’ 

Moonrise

Close-up of Acer shirasawanum 'Moonrise' in a sunny garden. The large, palmate leaves exhibit a unique blend of colors, with shades ranging from chartreuse to gold and featuring red margins.
This maple boasts soft, round leaves that start green, turn bright pink, then chartreuse as the seasons progress.
botanical-name botanical name Acer shirasawanum ‘Moonrise’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full to partial sun
height height 10 feet tall, 6 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 through 7

This maple has soft, round leaves with shallower lobes than those we’ve discussed. They bud out in green, acquiring some reddish color in their centers, with green veins remaining. As the seasons continue, the leaves eventually turn bright pink and finally chartreuse. 

The branching formation of this tree makes it lovely in plantings where it can be the centerpiece. And hot weather isn’t an issue for this cultivar, with hardiness mostly concentrated in higher zones. Pair ‘Moonrise’ with other full moon maples for a kaleidoscope of color. 

Mikado

Close-up of Acer shirasawanum 'Mikado' leaf. The leaf is large, palmate, deeply lobed, with jagged edges. The leaf is a rich burgundy color with red edges.
‘Mikado’ features bronze leaves turning maroon-red while maintaining lime-green veins.
botanical-name botanical name Acer shirasawanum ‘Mikado’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 10 feet tall, 5 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 through 9

Is this maple a hybrid? Some sources say yes! Much like our last cultivar, this one maintains its lime-green veins amidst bronze leaves at first and then maroon-red. With a rounded shape and medium height, ‘Mikado’ is a good tree for people with the space to enjoy its changing foliage. 

Give it at least 5 hours of direct sun daily to ensure you view the deepest hues. Cold weather down to -20°F (-30°C) is totally okay for ‘Mikado,’ and hot weather is too. 

Palmatifolium

View of a tall, large, lush Acer shirasawanum 'Palmatifolium' tree in an autumn garden. Palmate leaves are lobed and come in shades of green, yellow, orange and red. The tree has many branches.
The classic ‘Palmatifolium’ cultivar thrives with some sun but benefits from shade in the hottest part of the day.
botanical-name botanical name Acer shirasawanum ‘Palmatifolium’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 20 feet wide and tall
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 through 9

This classic cultivar develops into a rounded shape over many years and tops out at a taller height than many of those on this list. The leaves are green in spring and turn orange and red in fall. 

Some sun is actually preferable for ‘Palmatifolium,’ but shade in the hottest part of the day in warmer areas is best. The leaves cup downward for an interesting look, making this a great choice for those who want a stand-out maple. 

Ruby Red

Close-up of an Acer palmatum 'Ruby Red' tree in an autumn garden. The leaves are a striking feature, characterized by their rich and intense red coloration. Leaves are palmate, lobed, with serrated edges.
This cultivar features waxy green stems and rounded leaves with a soft and inviting appearance.
botanical-name botanical name Acer palmatum ‘Ruby Red’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 6 feet tall, 3 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5

While ‘Ruby Red’ might be a better planting in the ground, its 6-foot stature looks stunning on a tall balcony or porch in a planter. With waxy green stems and rounded leaves, this cultivar has a welcoming and soft appearance. 

The leaves’ colors start dark red in spring, lighten to orange, and finally take on a coppery appearance in fall. Throughout this time, they have a light set of pubescent hairs that creates a showy, silvery sheen. The hardiness range for this one is slim, but it’s an excellent choice for zone 5 growers.

Sensu

Close-up of the foliage of Acer shirasawanum 'Sensu'. The tree produces unique and fan-shaped leaves. The foliage buds out with a vibrant green color, complemented by captivating red edges.
This variety showcases fan-shaped leaves budding into green with red edges in spring.
botanical-name botanical name Acer shirasawanum ‘Sensu’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 8 feet tall, 4 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 through 8

‘Sensu’ translates to ‘fan’ in English, referring to the fan shape of the leaves. These bud out to green leaves with red edges in spring. As summer and fall pass in succession, they take on red and orange highlights that increase their showy appeal. 

The leaves always stay between green and yellow on the whole. You can plant one and watch these fans sway in the wind as they change across seasons. 

Tenuifolium

Close-up of Acer shirasawanum ‘Tenuifolium’ foliage. The Acer shirasawanum 'Tenuifolium' is known for its captivating and finely textured foliage. The rounded leaves branch out from a central trunk, starting off green and turning a rich red.
‘Tenuifolium’ features rounded leaves on a central trunk that transition from green to a deep red in fall.
botanical-name botanical name Acer shirasawanum ‘Tenuifolium’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 18 feet tall, 6 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 through 9

Another great choice for the bonsai enthusiast, ‘Tenuifolium’ has rounded leaves branching from a central trunk. It begins green in spring, eventually deepening and turning red in fall. This occurs from the edges inward, making it look like the leaves have been dipped in pigment. 

This cultivar is highly cold-tolerant but not as heat-tolerant. Therefore, give it lots of afternoon shade in areas where summers are bright and hot. 

Yasemin

Close-up of Acer Shirasawanum 'Yasemin' leaves against a blurred garden background. The leaves are lobed, palmate, serrated, deep burgundy in color.
‘Yasemin’ boasts intense red foliage from deep spring hues to bright crimson in fall.
botanical-name botanical name Acer Shirasawanum ‘Yasemin’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 10 feet tall and wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 through 9

This tree was bred by Cor van Gelderen of Esveld Nursery in Holland and named after his daughter Mirte Yasemin. Expect red, red, and more red! New spring leaves are a deep red that almost reaches purple. As the fall comes and goes on, the leaves light and turn bright crimson.

Cold tolerance is another benefit you get when you garden with ‘Yasemin’. In fact, its performance in cold weather is considered superior to other cultivars. The dark black bark of this cultivar also stands out among the leaves.

Wou Nishiki

Close-up of Acer shirasawanum 'Wou nishiki' leaves against a blurred background. The leaves stand out with their bright green color, adorned with orange edges, and possess a deeply lobed structure that almost resembles a compound leaf. The leaves have finely serrated edges.
‘Wou Nishiki’ maple stands out with deeply lobed, bright green leaves edged in orange.
botanical-name botanical name Acer shirasawanum ‘Wou Nishiki’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 15 feet tall, 5 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 through 9

The maple leaves of ‘Wou Nishiki’ stand well apart from other cultivars. They’re bright green with orange edges and so deeply lobed they almost look compound rather than palmate. While they start out light green, the centers eventually turn bright red in the fall season. 

This tree is tolerant to some cold and heat but does not enjoy wet feet. Plant it somewhere the soil drains exceptionally well (loamy or sandy soil is best), preferably in an elevated area. This keeps the sharp, pointed leaves healthy in their regular color-change cycle. 

Final Thoughts

It’s not hard to fall in love with Japanese maples, but knowing which will work for your climate, growing space, and conditions will ensure you can care for one, too! With this guide, there’s at least one you can throw in any situation. 

With larger trees and container dwarf trees, give them some shade, moderate water, and well-draining soil. You’ll see them change every year with the TLC they need. 

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