The Q&A Archives: Pruning Japanese Maple

Question: I have a Japanese butterfly maple. When I planted it, it was about 1" 6" tall. It is three years later and it is about 7' tall. The tree is very thick with branches and the leaves are very tiny? When do you prune it and how do you do this? I am afraid I will damage the tree.

Answer: The leaves on this tree are generally quite small, so I suspect the leaf size is normal, especially since the tree has grown so well. With regard to the number of branches, this tree can be a bit "shrubby" in form and some gardeners do like to thin it gently to create a more sculptured look. This would be done slowly and carefully over the years rather than all at once. Pruning, especially for form, is an art as much as a skill so you might wish to consult with a professionally trained arborist (tree specialist, not just a tree trimmer) on how best to train your tree into the shape you have in mind.

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