Acer Palmatum in zone 4

canadianplantSeptember 4, 2012

I did, what many people in my city have fallen for, and purchased a Japanese Maple. The difference is, I usually grow things that "shouldnt" grow here anyways (like bamboo).


I seen a foot tall, 2 gallon, decent looking plant for 25 bucks (relatively cheap for a Jap maple as far as ive seen on the net) and got it. They had it in full sun on hot concrete, next to an aluminum rack. I put it in a place where it gets 3 hours or so sun in the morning and a few hours off and on during the evening. It gets full shade during the rest of the day (north wall of neighbors house). Also keep in mind, it is still in its pot.

How will I manage to get it to survive? One, I have reliable snowfall, average is 4-6 feet, last few years have been 2 - 3 feet. It will be planted in between 2 houses that are roughly 10 or 12 feet apart. I also mulch my garden with a foot or 2 of leaves.


Im pretty sure I can get away with growing this for a decent amount of time. Im wondering how well it does in competition with other plants. I know some plants dislike any competition.

Im also wondering how it does with heat and light? I always pictured the dissectums to be shade lovers due to their small stature, and red dragon (the type I have) is apparently small and slow growing. The best place to ensure survival is next to my house foundation, or next to the garage, both of which are planted beds (fruit trees, various shrubs, and vines etc). Those walls are both south facing.

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You are most certainly pushing the envelop with a zone 4 :-) But it can be done.......just realize your chances for long term success are not exactly high.

'Red Dragon' has a reputation for hardiness. Of all the laceleaf forms, this seems to have the greatest rate of survival in colder climates. Do not let its delicate looking foliage fool you - most of the dissectums and especially the red leafed forms are very tolerant of sun and are very tough little trees.

You want a situation out of winter wind and with some protection. Reflected heat from the west or south side of a structure or from bordering paved surfaces is a bonus. Very well-drained and acidic soil. JM's grow very well with a wide range of plants - just combine with things that do not require division or frequent cultivation as the trees dislike any root disturbance.

Top growth on Japanese maples is able to tolerate colder temperatures than the roots. From Vertree's text: "The exposed parts of most Japanese maple cultivars, once established, can withstand winter freezing and air temperatures down to minus 18 degrees Celcius (0 degrees Fahrenheit) and below. The roots, however, can only survive to minus 10 degrees Celcius (14 degrees Fahrenheit)." Winter mulching might be in order if deep soil freezing is anticipated. Be sure to keep any mulch well away from the trunk.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 2:52PM
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picea(6A Cinci- Oh)

One other thing I have noticed that seems to help plants in winter is steady temps. Wind can be a problem but so can sun in my view. If the plant is shaded in winter it wont experience the great fluctuations in temperature that the sun can cause. I repeatedly over wintered young Japanese maples in a shaded area protected from wind and sun above ground in 1 gallon pots with only oak leaves around the pot for insulation and never lost a plant here in zone 6 and we have gotten to at least -10F on a few occasions.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 10:36PM
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picea(6A Cinci- Oh)

You may also want to consider Acer Japonicum Green Cascade. Many report that japonicums are hardier than Palmatums

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 10:40PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

I agree with picea about having it shaded in winter. In addition to the reason mentioned, this also helps slow down bud growth keeping them dormant. Doing so makes it less likely to be nailed by a late frost in spring. Mulching heavily, as ggal mentioned, cannot be overstressed in zone 4.


    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 6:28PM
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In the Minneapolis area (borderline zone 5 in the urban areas), the usual recommendation is to not put them up against the south side of the house for the reason mentioned above, early wake-up.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 7:16AM
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Thanks everyone

My winters are generally "stable" temps. IF its a warm winter, the temps generally are stable, same with an everage or cold. The temps dont swing like Calgary, for instance (although, they do sometimes,weather isnt perfect :P )

I do have a space where it could go, north side of a fence, about 7 feet away from a south wall. It should get the wind blocked, as well as stay in the shade. Same general spot as a Fargesia I planted, hostas, mock orange and my Helikkii RHododendron.

OF course I would mulch. That makes all the difference here, same with the snow (which its insulation/mulch all in itself). The thing is to, the south wall of my house should be shaded with an apricot tree, but that wont be for a few years.

Thanks everyone!

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 8:08AM
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You have very sound growing advices from the above posts. As far as survival go, it is still a mystery to me (after playing with lots of maples for more than 20 years). I planted 3 Japanese maples at my Zone 4 cottage more than 10 years ago for experiment (1 Bloodgood and 2 root stock). One was eaten by deers. Two survive well but their heights never exceed more than 3 feet. They are all planted in the worst possible conditions for most Japanese maples; full exposure to wind from the lake, full sun, almost pure sandy soil.
I am curious to know how many years you have your Red Dragon and Fargesia, and what variety is your fargesia.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 12:02PM
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I just bought the Red Dragon, it isnt even planted in the ground yet. I have Fargesia Rufa, which I bend to the ground, bury it in leaves, then throw a tarp on it. The snow does the rest. Its been here 4 years, next year will be 5!

    Bookmark   September 10, 2012 at 9:49AM
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Next to a safe facing wall is not ideal. The plant will warm up on warm winter days and then get frozen at night when the sun drops. This will reduce the cold hardiness of the plant when compared to one that is in another location not subjected to the warming/cooling stresses on sunny warm days in January.

I would plant a Korean maple (Acer pseudosieboldianum) or one of the trifoliate maples (Acer triflorum, etc.) if I was looking for long term success with these trees.

The Japanese garden that I work at is technically zone 4 (old zone map), but is in a river valley protected and is on the edge of Zone 5. We have plenty of Japanese maples that never experience winter damage. So if you want to give it a try go for it. With global warming, hey you might be OK, just don't put them too close to the wall.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 10:43PM
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