Chinese Maple Tree vs. Japanese Maple

11 Min Read
Chinese Maple Tree vs. Japanese Maple

Know that your Chinese maple tree will be the centre of attention in the fall season, no matter where you plant it. While many trees show brilliant colouration throughout fall, the Chinese maple’s red exceeds even the reddest of the reds. 

An extremely unusual discovery, the Chinese maple tree may reach 30–40 feet and can survive in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7a–9b. Chinese maple trees need much room to grow and frequent, in-depth irrigation.

Make sure the Chinese maple has plenty of space to expand into its new home in the garden. Before deciding on a planting spot, be sure there are no overhead electricity lines. Your tree’s true colouration can only emerge if it receives enough sunlight.

When the top inch of soil is dry, give the Chinese maple tree a good soaking. The dirt should be soaked thoroughly and then allowed to dry completely before being watered again.

Only fertilize the maple tree if the findings of a soil test say to. Most major garden stores provide soil testing at a reasonable price. You might also visit the county cooperative extension office and have a sample analyzed.

The best time to prune it is late fall or winter when the Chinese maple is dormant. Get rid of the high shoots and any dead or dying branches.

Maple Trees, Bud?

There are about 120 different kinds of maples. Hundreds of different cultivars exist within each species, each selected for a particular colour, size, or shape. 

Fall is when buds are often set. However, this might vary depending on the species and the year’s weather. 

The length of the limbs, twigs, and branches grows. These fresh shoots form buds in the autumn. The tree flowers in May in temperate zones but in March in tropical ones. After that, maple trees go into a resting period. 

This is the best time to prune since you won’t hinder bud growth, and the sap will hardly drip from your freshly cut branches.

Also Read: 12 Beautiful Small Corner Rock Garden Ideas

What Are Japanese Maples?

The red-line Acer palmatum, in which Japanese maples are a subspecies, is an evergreen shrub that thrives in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 9.

The plants may grow wild in the hills of Japan, Korea, Russia, and Mongolia, reaching heights of 20 to 35 feet (and even 40 to 50 feet in rare cases).

Regarding cold weather, Korean maple trees fare better than their Japanese counterparts.

However, the height of certain varieties may be limited to 2-20 feet. This means they range in height and width from dwarf maples to shrubs to tiny trees. Similarly, their forms vary.

Exactly how can one recognize a Japanese maple? Mounding, circular, cascading, vase-like, upright, etc., you could encounter some forms.

Japanese maples typically have 5-9 lobes and may be red or green. They are a vibrant green throughout the spring and summer months.

Later in the year, as the weather cools down, the green leaves with white and pink edges take on a wider spectrum of colours and take on a variety of shapes and textures, including lacy or wispy leaves, finely dissected or large lobes.

Comparison between Chinese Maple Tree vs Japanese Maple:

While both Chinese and Japanese maples belong to the same genus, there are notable differences in size, form, colouration, and environmental requirements.

The Japanese varieties may be found in a wider range of colours and forms than only red. They like shade and might suffer stunted growth if exposed to full sunshine.


Gardenias and Jasmines, which have pure white flowers, might benefit from adding a Japanese or Chinese maple tree to their landscape design.

However, the former comes in a wider variety of species, forms, and leaf sizes, so you may choose something suitable for your garden no matter how much or little room you have. 

The miniature variety, for instance, is ideal for decorating indoor spaces when grown in pots. If you’re into the age-old practice of bonsai, this is a great tree to have.

Origins & Growing Preferences:

The Chinese and Taiwanese variety came from China, whereas the Japanese variety came from Japan. While the Chinese kind is consistent, the other has multiple versions.

Colours, leaf shapes, and tree shapes all play a role in identifying one from another. Local names were given to cultivars of maples that were gathered, hybridized, and produced in Japan.

Meanwhile, others have been raised in the United States and Europe with names that seem English. Some are so well-liked that they are sent back to Japan from overseas.

Features and Interesting Information:

The leaves of a Japanese maple tree become bright red in the autumn, whereas the leaves of a Chinese maple tree turn yellow in the fall and orange in the spring.

The former has a more natural, tall, and erect form, whereas the latter is more variable in height (often lower to considerably lower) and not so erect.

The older a Chinese maple gets, the more purple-brown its trunk becomes.

These trees’ green or grey bark is thicker and more variable in form than its relatives.

Leaves from the Japanese maple tree are smaller, have a hint of red around the edges, and have serrated borders, while those from the Chinese maple are larger and green with a silvery tint on the underside.

The typical range for the lobes is between 5 and 7 and 5 and 9, respectively.

The latter provides more options for appealing hues. In the fall, the non-dissected mature leaves of the ‘Bloodgood’ cultivar are red, while the dissected leaves of the ‘Waterfall’ cultivar are yellow.

Both species of trees can survive in a combination of partial shade and early morning sunlight for at least four hours daily.

What Are Japanese Maples?

The red maple can withstand high temperatures and grow well in environments exposed to unfiltered sunlight from the sky.

Sunlight is essential for tree growth and flowering, particularly during the warmer summer months.

They may also be able to make it under partially shaded conditions. However, they may endure growth retardation or root rot because of the cooler temperatures and partial shade.

Japanese maples, on the other hand, are completely different.

They thrive in partially shaded environments, where they can tolerate the shadow, adjust to the light conditions, and produce more fruit. Root systems and photosynthesis are adequately supplied with the light.

Still, they may lose leaves and develop slowly if placed in intense sunlight.

Narrow Japanese maple trees signify that the tree was not planted in full light. They also need more sunbathing and monthly applications of liquid fertilizer.

Acer palmatum, which means “hand tree,” was named by Swiss botanist and physician Carl Peter Thunberg because of the form of its leaves. However, in its native tongue, the term Momiji, which translates to “baby’s hand,” is more often used.


Because regardless of the species you choose, you want your garden to be lighted by your plants.

Plant them where you can view and appreciate them in all four seasons. In addition, they need a roomy environment in which to flourish.

Small Japanese maples may be grown in pots and may not need a large space.

But if you like Chinese plants, give them plenty of room and watch for electricity lines.

Full light and thorough, consistent irrigation are importantly needed for vibrant growth.

As we’ve already established, Chinese maples thrive in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7–9, whereas heat-tolerant Japanese maples like Acer elegant plum prefer zones 5–9.

They need moderate to well-drained soil (they can’t survive in damp soil) and pruning to remove the individual branches.

Due to their propensity for shade, Chinese maples should be grown in dappled shade and given enough or more water to prevent wilting, leaf drop, and branch death during hot weather.

What’s the Best Option?

The plants from Japan are for you if you like bonsai or dissected leaves, various colours, and interesting shapes.

If you want a deeper red colour and more room, the Chinese variety is the choice. Your garden will be overshadowed by it.

The Results:

As a comparison, consider the Chinese and Japanese maples. Those two trees are picture-perfect specimens because of the stunning fall colours they display.

They develop at a moderate pace, so remember to be patient and provide them with the ideal growing circumstances to achieve the garden of your dreams.

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