How to Prune Weeping Japanese Maples

Red Dissectum Maple

Weeping Japanese maples, Acer palmatum var. dissectum, can make wonderful specimen trees for certain landscape spaces, particularly where their delicate leaf and branch pattern can be appreciated from up close. Urban Japanese gardens, courtyard gardens, along an entrance path to a home, or near a patio are some examples.

Pruning dissectum maples is similar to other specimen trees in the basic sense, where overall shape, creating branch “layers” and skillfully revealing the tree’s trunk and main branches through foliage thinning are the main objectives.

The major challenge faced when pruning weeping Japanese maples is making sure their delicate weeping nature is not lost. A specimen tree’s character is revealed when the trunk and major branches are discernible through the foliage, but great care must be taken that this is done so that a refined appearance is achieved. For example, if large spaces are created by removing too many major branches, not only might the tree’s health be impacted, but the result will look clumsy. This is especially true with dissectum maples. The entire tree is thinned out, and horizontal branch layers that end in soft weeping foliage are given added definition by leaving a thin band of space between these layers. The point is that, with weeping Japanese maples, these spaces should be much smaller then other specimen trees with larger foliage or less refined branch patterns.

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