Ask a Question forum: Mature Japanese Maple

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Birmingham, Alabama
Aug 3, 2017 6:26 PM CST
I have a mature Japanese Maple that I believe has never been pruned. It is quite leggy and big, probably 15-20 feet high. How would I go about pruning it to create growth from the lower and middle areas of the tree?
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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Garden Sages Plant Identifier
Aug 3, 2017 7:33 PM CST
Can you post a photo? Japanese maples don't take well to pruning and react by growing uncontrollably anyplace they are pruned. They usually have beautiful shapes very little pruning. Cleaning out the dead branches is about all they need.

Mature Japanese maples have a clean center with growth in layers. If you stand in the middle, you won't be standing in a thicket. When they are pruned, the pruning enhances that openness.
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Birmingham, Alabama
Aug 19, 2017 5:51 PM CST

Thanks for your response! Here is a picture of my Japanese maple. I tried to get a picture that would show its size.

Thumb of 2017-08-19/mandybpierce/83b597

Name: Yardenman
Maryland (Zone 7a)
Aug 20, 2017 5:03 AM CST
In any case, this is not the time to prune it (or almost any specimen tree). It will just grow weak suckers at best. Wait until mid winter and consider shaping the tree then.

And then, from the inside outwards and no more than 1/4 (less is better). I've seen too many neighbors prune their trees outside in, and it never works well.
Birmingham, Alabama
Aug 20, 2017 4:32 PM CST

Thanks for your response, Yardenman. When you say "from the inside out", what do you mean? At the trunk? And by "1/4", meaning, 1/4 of the total tree?

So at least November is what you're saying, regarding when to prune?


Name: Deb
Pacific NW (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Deer Ferns Herbs Dragonflies
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Aug 20, 2017 6:32 PM CST
I find Japanese maples very amenable to pruning. Perhaps it is a difference in growing regions? In any case, I prune mine pretty hard from early spring through mid summer. I like to keep the trees light and airy and find if I don't do pretty severe pruning they will just turn into bushy messes. I especially like to prune to show off the branching. Here's a good example of one that was nicely shaped when I bought it, and I have to be diligent about trimming off a good portion of the new leaves every spring.
Thumb of 2017-08-21/Bonehead/bc6012

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