The Q&A Archives: Keeping a Emperor I Japanese Maple short

Question: I have a Emperor I Japanese Maple purchased last year,I would like to keep it as short as possible, is there any way I can do this? I have been bending the branches down & tying them with that green pyable plastic stuff. Will that hurt it? I wounder about a type of prunning, but I don't know how. Any advice would be helpful. Thanks

Answer: Tying the branches down will only annoy your tree so take the ties off and do a little pruning. If you leave the plastic ties on the branches, you will compromise the health of your tree.

The Emperor I Japanese Maple has the potential to reach 15 feet tall and wide. You can keep the tree smaller with annual pruning. Wait until this winter when the tree is dormant and reduce the length of the branches by two-thirds, then remove those that are crossing. The end result of your pruning should be that the branch scaffolding is equal in height and width all the way around. In the spring, just as your tree is growing new stems and twigs, remove about one third of them and reduce the length of the remaining ones. If you keep up this pattern of pruning, you'll keep your tree much shorter and thinner than it would normally grow. I've followed this pruning regime and now have a 15 year old Japanese maple that is barely five feet in height and three feet in width. It is a glorious specimen!

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