I have a japanese maple lace leaf tree that is currently about 1.5 feet
high. It has a diameter of approximately 3.5 - 4 feet. The way it is now
it looks more like a low growing shrub. The problem is I want it to get a
little taller. I would prefer it to get about 3.5 feet tall. But it seems
since the branches are so long and filled with leaves that it is keeping
the tree from getting taller. I realize it is a slow process, but it just
keeps getting wider. I figured if I cut some of the branches so it isn't
as wide it might grow taller. The weight of the branches seem to bend the
main trunk down to one side. Plus I think it would look a little better if
it wasn't as wide. The tree is very healthy. Is it safe to cut the
branches? How much? Is now a good time to do it (MAY)?
Its natural shape is globose-- I'm fairly certain it's in the 'Yatsubusa' or
Dwarf classification of Japanese Maples. Mature specimens look like feathery
umbrellas in the landscape, wider than they are tall.
In addition to David's very appropriate comments, I would add that ultimate
heght of dwarf lace leaf maples is determined by their graft. If it has a
low graft, you should expect a tree that will stay low to the ground. You
can encourage some more upward growth by carefully staking and guiding the
top branches, but their natural habit will be to cascade and you will not
achieve significantly more height. Pruning will not alter this growth
pattern and can damage the appearance of the tree. Generally, summer pruning
on J. maples is recommended for mid to late June, after the sap stops
running.from the spring growth spurt.
Typically J. maples are not heavily pruned. You can always remove dead or
damaged branches and thin excess twiginess on certain cultivars, otherwise
pruning is usually limited to enhancing the natural form of the tree by
those who are accomplished in this technique. It is quite an art form.
pam - gardengal
I think that pruning Japanese maples ruins their natural shape. If it
doesn't look good, it is probably planted in the wrong spot. I doubt that
it will get taller because you prune it. Conventional wisdom says that
plants become fuller when you prune them because they tend to branch near
the point where you cut them. Look around at the trees that the power
company cuts. You can read more about pruning your maple here. It should
answer your specific questions:
The best Japanese maples I've seen were all carefully pruned as they grew
to achieve desirable form. They otherwise have a tendency to become very
densely leafed & shows little of their structure, a structure that can be
mediocre in winter when it does show. The problem of course is without an
artful sense of form, neither one's carefully trained little bonsai, nor
one's maturing maple, will look worth shit, & better to have a big dense
ball of leaves than a crappily trained tree.
Several years ago when we planted Oshio Beni maple, it grew so rapidly &
so well. For the first year or two it looked like a one-big-fat-cloud of
leaves, with no real form, more like bush than a tree. I did not have the
nerve to train it, I figured I'd wreck it, but my artistic sweety took it
upon herself to begin shaping it. This induced good growth with better
light getting through the branches, & it responded to the pruning's
directional training with amazing obedience. It has about doubled in size
& though still a small tree, only 12 feet tall, it already has a form
reminiscent of a big beautifully formed tree, & will probably never again
need more than touch-up prunings as it continues to mature.
This would depend on the cultivar, but judicious pruning induces swifter
growth because plants respond to pruning by putting on new growth,
including lengthening of unpruned limbs, because it has fewer branches
into which to put energy, & better light through the limbs. But some
varieties just never can be induced to grow at anything but a snail's
pace, it's in the nature of some varieties to only put on a couple inches
in a year, others spring upward & outward very rapidly; the swift ones
will look a mess if not trained as they go.
It varies from cultivar to cultivar, & also varies depending on how one
goes about the pruning job. But Japanese maples often behave marginally
different from fruit trees; it's much easier to restrain the growth of one
area & encourage another; nodes can easily be restrained from becoming
branches, inducing the tree to put more energy into the limbs one wishes
to become thicker & longer. If pruning is done in slow stages each spring
(with even more limited clean-up of small bits later in the season) it is
not nearly as inclined to produce scads of smaller branchings, but is
perfectly happy to bulk up those branches that are being encouraged.
The appearance of twiggy bits near old prunes can be safely removed out of
season before they take any energy from the tree's trained direction of
growth, though the appearance of too many new twigs is evidence of too
much pruning all at one time. But if one screws up & makes it look
lopsided, it's good to know that spot WILL produce new growth, a part of
which can be saved to repair the balance.
For our Oshio Beni I doubt Granny Artemis pruned out more than 10% on even
her most "brutal" year in three consecutive years of training, so she's
gone about it very slowly, with never a mistake. It has slowly gone from
looking like a solid dense ball of leaves, to such a shapely beauty. Of
course if one preferred the one-dense-ball look, such airiness of careful
form might not be desirable, but all the best Japanese maples I've ever
seen were thus trained while young.
Ideally the training starts when the tree is qui9te young & it will never
be necessary to lop off any large part of the tree when it has gained
good-sized branches. Trying to get good form out of an already well grown
tree can cause it harm without ever achieving a desired effect.
A tree pruned for aesthetic form & training as it grows is not the same
thing as trees butchered en masse after they have reached maturity.
Looks like a good article, & recommends pruning in slow stages over years
to achieve desired effect -- indeed, this article calls pruning for
training the "first and most important step" to achieving the eventual
mature & natural look. A maple won't achieve a classic form left to its
own devices, though one can certainly purchase a somewhat larger older
vastly more expensive specimen already well along in its training & that
one just might take care of itself from then on. I have my doubts about
that recommendation to use elmer's glue to seal pruned bits though -- this
seals in moisture where moisture is not desirable, which in turn invites
fungus & insects, when it would heal fine if not painted over. This is
certainly true of other trees, & I'd have to see more & very specific data
before I accepted that "Japanese maples are the exception" which prefer to
be treated by disproven methods of care.
-paghat the ratgirl
"Of what are you afraid, my child?" inquired the kindly teacher.
"Oh, sir! The flowers, they are wild," replied the timid creature.
I guess I will reconsider pruning my JM. I have bloodgood, and it was
planted too close to my deck. It was recommended and planted by a landscape
designer and I didn't have any idea that it would grow so fast or so tall.
I have been very hesitant to prune it, but maybe I should at least evaluate
its form and see if I can improve it while trying to adapt it to its
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