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The Japanese maple - Acer japonicum - comes from the Japanese mountain regions. The temperature there is similar to that in this country, so that it can spend the winter in the garden relatively easily. However, if it is a maple in a pot, it needs special protection.

Is Acer japonicum hardy?

Basically, the Japanese maple is considered hardy, but it depends on the type of planting. Its original homeland ensures that the local temperatures are tolerated.
It must be neither too wet nor too dry, it is also important that regular sun exposure is possible. Furthermore, the following measures are necessary for care in winter:

  • Moisture must be avoided
  • Late frost can cause damage
  • Plants should be covered with a fleece
  • careful handling, so as not to injure young shoots
  • Soil should be mulched

When the trees get older, around the age of five, temperatures of down to -10 °C can be tolerated without any problems. If it gets even colder, older trees must also be protected from frost.

Acer japonicum 'Vitifolium'

protection tip: If you don't want to cover the plants with fleece, a frame made of lightweight plywood is also suitable. This can then be covered with a fleece and serves as protection on cold nights.


Cultivation in the planter

If Japanese maple is to be cultivated in a bucket, the roots in particular must be protected. A pot offers more contact surface for cold and therefore there is a higher risk of frost. Young maple trees need a lot of protection. The best maintenance measures are:

  • The vessel should be protected in winter
  • a covered spot on the balcony is a good choice
  • Styrofoam is used as a base for the planter
  • Soil must be thickly mulched
  • the pot should be wrapped with brushwood
  • Pots can also be stored frost-free in a cool cellar
  • moderate brightness is sufficient


Overwintering in the house is not possible because the Acer japonicum loses its leaves in autumn. In living rooms, it is no longer an eye-catcher and, in addition, heated rooms are too warm to spend the winter. In the garden, on the other hand, it is too cold, so a interim solution is necessary.

Locations on the terrace, if the pot is additionally protected with the help of brushwood. But a place in the garage, in the stairwell or in the basement is also well suited for overwintering.

Acer japonicum

Japanese maple in the garden bed

If the maple tree was cultivated directly in the garden bed, the plant needs special protection. Young trees cannot tolerate sub-zero temperatures. It is therefore generally advisable to cultivate young trees in pots for the first few years and only move them to the appropriate location after about five years.

Japanese maple that was cultivated directly in the bed should be given special care in winter to avoid damage:

  • Soil must be thickly mulched
  • Brushwood keeps the cold and frost out
  • Trunk should be wrapped with mats of brushwood, alternatively jute helps
  • Tree must be protected from too much sun
  • after leaf loss, the crown also needs protection from fleece


A young maple tree needs a lot of protection in winter because it does not yet have the weather resistance of a large specimen. But not only the location, but also the substrate and an existing drainage are important so that there is no winter damage. The best tips for the maple to survive the winter problem are:

  • wind-protected, semi-shady location where, above all, no easterly wind blows
  • well-covered roots, coconut, brushwood, leaves or straw are suitable
  • Protection of the trunk with brushwood or a straw mat
  • Beware of too much sun, the tree does not tolerate that

If too much sun falls on the Japanese maple tree in winter, the branches can burn. With a plant fleece this damage can be avoided by wrapping it around the trunk and crown.

Before the new one leaf sprouting begins in spring, the plant fleece must be carefully removed. This is the only way for the tree to absorb enough sunlight to develop new shoots. If surprising yet night frosts occur, the trunk must be wrapped again during the night.

Jute as winter protection

care in winter

Necessary water requirement even in winter

Japanese maples need regular watering, especially when cultivated in a sunny bed. Even in winter, watering should not be avoided. This applies to both indoor potted plants and bedding plants. How to water correctly:

  • use a frost-free day to water
  • only water when the soil is dry
  • excess moisture is not tolerated in the cold season
  • water only when the dry spells are very long
  • check the condition of the earth with your finger
  • also consider all tubs in the winter quarters and water as needed
  • avoid waterlogging at all costs

Fertilization measures in the Japanese maple

The tree catches beginning of September to throw off its leaves and from this point on it no longer needs fertilizers. The nutrient requirement decreases and the mulch layer applied in winter provides enough nutrients.
In late winter, fertilizer is used for the first time again, just before the maple sprout again. Container plants can be treated with liquid fertilizer. Trees in the garden bed should be fertilized with compost.

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