By: Liz Baessler
Japanese maples are outstanding specimen trees. They tend to stay relatively small, and their summer color is something usually only seen in the fall. Then when the fall does come, their leaves become even more vibrant. They’re also relatively cold hardy and most varieties will thrive in cold weather. Keep reading to learn more about cold-hardy Japanese maples and the best Japanese maple varieties for zone 6.
Here are some of the best zone 6 Japanese maples:
Waterfall – A short tree at 6 to 8 feet (2 to 2.5 m.), this Japanese maple gets its name from the domed, cascading shape of its branches. Its delicate leaves are green through spring and summer but turn stunning shades of red and yellow in the fall.
Mikawa Yatsubusa – A dwarf tree that reaches only 3 to 4 feet (1 m.) in height. Its large, layered leaves stay green through spring and summer then change to purple and red in the fall.
Inaba-shidare – Reaching 6 to 8 feet (2 to 2.5 m.) tall and usually a little wider, this tree’s delicate leaves are deep red in the summer and shocking red in the fall.
Aka Shigitatsu Sawa – 7 to 9 feet (2 to 2.5 m.) tall, this tree’s leaves are a medley of red and green in the summer and bright red in the fall.
Shindeshojo – 10 to 12 feet (3 to 3.5 m.), this tree’s small leaves go from pink in the spring to green/pink in the summer to bright red in the fall.
Coonara Pygmy – 8 feet (2.5 m.) tall, this tree’s leaves emerge pink in spring, fade to green, then burst into orange in the fall.
Hogyoku – 15 feet (4.5 m.) tall, its green leaves turn bright orange in the fall. It tolerates heat very well.
Aureum – 20 feet (6 m.) tall, this large tree has yellow leaves all through the summer that become edged with red in the fall.
Seiryu – 10 to 12 feet (3 to 3.5 m.) high, this tree follows a spreading growth habit closer to an American maple. Its leaves are green in the summer and dazzling red in the fall.
Koto-no-ito – 6 to 9 feet (2 to 2.5 m.), its leaves form three long, thin lobes that emerge slightly red in spring, turn green in summer, then turn bright yellow in the fall.
As you can see, there is no shortage of suitable Japanese maple varieties for zone 6 regions. When it comes to growing Japanese maples in zone 6 gardens, their care is much the same as other areas, and being deciduous, they go dormant over winter so no extra care is needed.
This article was last updated on
Trees are the bones of your front yard landscape. A tree adds vertical interest, shade and color. Evergreens stay green year round, usually a member of the conifer family such as pine or spruce. Japanese maple trees (Acer Palmatum) turn brilliant colors of red, orange and gold in the fall. Your front yard will be graced by either. Base your choice on several factors.
There are currently four cultivars of these new hardy Japanese maples on the market. Here’s what I know about them:
Iseli Nursery in Boring, Oregon has launched three cultivars from its hybridization program as the Jack Frost® Collection. They continue to work on the collection and hopefully there will be more hardy varieties to come.
1. North Wind® Hardy Japanese Maple
Acer x pseudosieboldianum ‘IslNW’
Acer x pseudosieboldianum North Wind® in fall.
This is the most widely available variety, the one you ought to be able to find quite readily in your local garden center. I know it has turned up in garden centers near where I live. Extra-tough and of good size, more upright in its youth, but becoming broader as it matures, it makes a superb small tree or a large shrub. The palmate leaves are reddish in spring, fading to medium green in summer, then turn a fiery scarlet red in fall. The winged seeds too are red, adding a perk of color to the summer garden. To see it is to want it. Retailers have been telling me it simply flies out of their nurseries!
Height: 20 feet (6 m). Diameter: 15 feet (4.5 m). Zone 4.
2. Arctic Jade® Hardy Japanese Maple
Acer x pseudosieboldianum ‘IsIAJ’
Acer x pseudosiedoldianum Arctic Jade® in spring.
This cultivar produces broader leaves than the others, rather like those of the full moon maple (Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’). They are incised at the margin and jade green in both spring and summer, becoming orange and red in fall. This maple is on the market, but in more limited quantities than North Wind™.
Height: 20 feet (6 m). Diameter: 15 feet (4.5 m). Zone 4.
3. Ice Dragon® Hardy Japanese Maple
Acer x pseudosieboldianum ‘IslID’
Spring growth on Acer x pseudosieboldianum Ice Dragon®
This is the smallest of the new cultivars and also probably the one that most closely resembles our image of a Japanese maple, with its somewhat arching habit and finely dissected leaves. They are reddish in spring and medium green in summer, becoming yellow, orange and red in fall. Launched only in the spring of 2017, this cultivar is currently the hardest to find in nurseries and also the most expensive. It will likely become easier to find and cheaper as time goes by.
Height: 8 feet (2.4 m). Diameter: 10 feet (3 m). Zone 4.
The only hardy cultivar not developed by Iseli Nurseries is the following, created by Professor Ed Hasselkus at the University of Wisconsin. It was introduced by J. Frank Schmidt & Co. Nursery in Boring, Oregon.
Northern Glow® Hardy Japanese Maple
Acer x pseudosieboldianum ‘Hasselkus’
Acer x pseudosieboldianum Northern Glow™
This is the largest of the hardy Japan maples, naturally taking on more the form of a tree than a tall shrub. Its growth is quite upright at first, then becomes rounded and spreading as it matures. Its palmate leaves are incised along the edges, although not as dissected as Ice Dragon™. The leaves are reddish green in spring and medium green in summer, becoming reddish-orange to dark red in fall.
Height: 20 feet (6 m). Diameter: 24 feet (7.5 m). Zone 4.
With the move to smaller gardens and tiny town gardens there is often a need for a tree, but most shade trees grow too large for small spaces and quickly become problems that mean they have to be removed, often at considerable expense. The larger forms of Japanese Maples make ideal small trees, staying less than 15 feet tall for a long time and only very slowly reaching 20 feet or more. With some pruning they can be kept small indefinitely. This also makes them ideal for growing in planter boxes and large containers too, where they can be moved around as needed and where they will not have to compete with larger trees for water and nutrients.
In larger gardens they are ideal for growing under mature, large trees and will thrive happily in the shade of deciduous trees, where they can be grown directly underneath them. Beneath evergreen trees they can be grown on the north-facing or east-facing side, in the shadow, but they will find the continuous shade directly underneath dense evergreens less than ideal. Beneath open pines and trees that do not have dense shade they will however grow well.
These trees can also be grown in full-sun and there they will develop a denser crown and often show stronger fall colors. In cooler areas this is an ideal location but in warmer regions it becomes more likely that the leaves will dry and shrivel, so shade, especially from afternoon sun, is best in zones 7, 8 and 9.
Choose a location where you tree can easily be seen, so that you can enjoy it at any season. Cascading trees look very beautiful on slopes or by water, while upright trees make great background plants or specimens. They make beautiful companions for other shade-loving plants like Azalea, Rhododendron, Holly and Hemlock. A beautiful and special garden can be created beneath large shade trees using these plants, which will be interesting at all seasons of the year.
If you have a courtyard garden or just a deck or terrace, you can successfully grow a Japanese maple by planting it in a container or planter box. For a young tree this does not have to be very large, but remember that smaller pots need more frequent watering, especially during the summer months. All sorts of containers can be used, but make sure that whatever you use has a drainage hole. Trees in containers can be moved around so that they can be admired at special seasons and also to give them more, or less, direct sun depending on the season.
Although in the minds of many people these trees are connected with oriental style and Japanese gardens, in fact they can and do fit well into almost any garden style, so don’t think that you have the ‘wrong’ garden for them. From woodland gardens to town courtyard gardens, these trees always make a special impact. One of the best things about a Japanese maple is that they become more and more beautiful as the years go by. Old, mature trees have a dignity and grandeur that cannot be beaten and they also become valuable assets. Old trees sell for thousands of dollars.
For some the highest use of this wonderful tree is to grow it as bonsai. This ancient Japanese and Chinese art uses living trees to create beautiful art objects that can grace a terrace or a dining table. In Japan, houses have special niches for displaying objects and bonsai trees are often brought indoors to show their beauty. Bonsai is a specialized form of gardening that is not difficult but takes some special knowledge. Any Japanese maple can be used, from upright to cascading, and the training enhances the natural beauty of the tree. If trees are grown indoors as bonsai they must spend some time outdoors or refrigerated in winter to keep them healthy. In Japan bonsai trees are grown outdoors and only brought inside for short periods to admire them. Just as they do in the garden, trees as bonsai become more beautiful and more valuable as they mature.
‘Osakazuki’ has an upright habit and great fall color.
With their small stature, tremendous variety, and four-season beauty, Japanese maples always offer something to see. Dark, undulating branches sometimes crested with snow create a variety of graceful silhouettes in winter. The rest of the year, the branches provide a structure on which a slipcover of leaves spreads colors and textures. Lush, new spring growth emerges, filling the bleak landscape with a variety of hues we usually expect in fall. Summer brings maturity—new growth hardens off, pinks and yellows fade while greens and reds deepen. In autumn, these trees fill the garden with a symphony of colors.
Japanese maples offer countless variations in size, shape, and texture. While nobody knows exactly how many different Japanese maple varieties exist, there are more than 700 unique cultivars in circulation. Selecting the right one from so many can be overwhelming, especially because virtually all of them are charmers. Though it was difficult to single them out, we have selected some of our favorite cultivars that are neither too obscure nor too obvious while showing a hint of the range one can find in this group of trees.
USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 8
Height: 6 to 8 feet
Spring Color: Bright green
Summer Color: Green
Fall Color: Red, gold, orange
‘Waterfall’ is a cultivar that sports green leaves all spring and summer before bursting into passionate shades of yellow and orange in fall. The crown of this 6- to 8-foot-tall tree is wide and low, resulting in a broad, slightly domed habit. It gets its name from the layers of branches that cascade softly toward the ground. Appropriately enough, ‘Waterfall’ is an excellent choice for growing next to a water feature.Summer color of ‘Mikawa yatsubusa’
Name: ‘Mikawa yatsubusa’
Zones: 5 to 8
Height: 3 to 4 feet
Spring Color: Yellow-green
Summer Color: Green
Fall Color: Gold, orange, purple
Reaching only 3 or 4 feet tall, the dwarf cultivar ‘Mikawa yatsubusa’ has the charm and warmth of a sturdy, diminutive hero from a fantastic tale. Its leaves are large for a dwarf, growing to about 2 to 212 inches long and wide. This foliage is layered tightly one over the other so that the top leaf reveals only the outer edge of the one below. Spending most of the year covered in light green, ‘Mikawa yatsubusa’ changes to gold, orange, and purple in autumn.Fall color on ‘Inaba shidare’
Name: ‘Inaba shidare’
Zones: 5 to 8
Height: 6 to 8 feet
Spring Color: Deep red
Summer Color: Deep red, green
Fall Color: Bright red
‘Inaba shidare’ doesn’t wait for autumn to color its foliage. Drapes of delicate, deep red leaves flow across an architectural structure and down to the ground. Late summer brings out some green, but in fall that color is cast off in favor of a brilliant red. ‘Inaba shidare’ usually reaches 6 to 8 feet in height and spreads to a greater width. The growth habit is orderly and doesn’t necessitate frequent pruning.
Name: ‘Aka shigitatsu sawa’
Zones: 6 to 8
Height: 7 to 9 feet
Spring Color: Green, pink, red
Summer Color: Green, pink, red
Fall Color: Red
’Aka shigitatsu sawa’ is another tree with constantly changing color. In spring, this variegated cultivar has all the vibrant colors and texture of a strawberry-kiwi smoothie. These colors change steadily and dramatically during the summer: One week, there may be a lot of green the next week features a wash of silver the following week, yellow slips in. The foliage ultimately turns bright red in autumn. It grows slowly to about 7 to 9 feet high and gets quite broad with age.
Name: ‘Shin deshojo’
Zones: 6 to 8
Height: 10 to 12 feet
Spring Color: Red
Summer Color: Red, green
Fall Color: Red, orange
‘Shin deshojo’ changes color with the season like a chameleon does with its background. The small, palmate leaves emerge a bright pink-red in spring. As the foliage turns green in summer, it retains traces of deep pink. Autumn finds the leaves turning back to red. This cultivar’s form naturally becomes a 10- to 12-foot-tall haystack, or the tree can be opened up to reveal its architecture through pruning.Fall color of ‘Seiryu’
Zones: 5 to 8
Height: 10 to 14 feet
Spring Color: Green tipped in red
Summer Color: Bright green
Fall Color: Red, yellow
‘Seiryu’ is a standout among the eye-catching laceleaf Japanese maples. It retains the delicate foliage common to this group, but instead of the characteristic mounding habit, ‘Seiryu’ stands upright with a spreading canopy, reaching heights of 10 to 14 feet. The intricate form of the leaves provides interesting texture in spring and summer. But in fall, this cultivar, whose name means “blue-green dragon,” explodes into color as individual leaves develop a mix of red, green, orange, and yellow. ‘Seiryu’ grows happily in full sun or bright shade. If you want a tree that retains the upright habit and fall color of this tree but offers a heavier texture, try ‘Osakazuki’ (see the first photo in this article), whose leaves are fuller than those of ‘Seiryu’.
Name: ‘Koto no ito’
Zones: 5 to 8
Height: 6 to 9 feet
Spring Color: Green tinged with red
Summer Color: Green
Fall Color: Yellow, orange, red
‘Koto no ito’ may resemble a cheerleader’s pom-pom when it’s young. Age and good pruning, however, reveal a more dignified specimen up to 9 feet tall, featuring a strong interior architecture that contrasts with its fine leaves and outer branches. The deeply divided foliage is long and thin like fringe. It emerges with crimson tinges before turning to solid green in summer. In fall, it turns yellow, burnt orange, and red. The leaves on each year’s new growth are much larger than the rest. ‘Koto no ito’ is a durable tree that adds a unique texture to any setting.
Name: ‘Sango kaku’
Zones: 6 to 8
Height: 18 to 22 feet
Spring Color: Bright green edged in red
Summer Color: Green
Fall Color: Yellow, orange
‘Sango kaku’ is always exciting to look at, courtesy of its bright red branches. This cultivar, whose name means “coral tower,” features green leaves that turn from yellow to pumpkin orange in fall. Reaching a mature height of 18 to 22 feet, ‘Sango kaku’ has a growth habit that can get a bit messy, so it should be pruned annually from a young age. Plant it where it will have excellent drainage it is particularly vulnerable to fungi causing black stem disease and can quickly die from it.‘Aconitifolium’ in the summer
Zones: 5 to 8
Height: 15 to 18 feet
Spring Color: Green
Summer Color: Green
Fall Color: Yellow, orange, red, purple
When summer droughts have left most Japanese maples tired and ready to shed their foliage, Acer japonicum cultivars, with their heavier branches and leaves, are still putting on a dramatic performance. ‘Aconitifolium’ is one of the best of the group with large, heavily lobed, green leaves that steal the show in autumn. Starting out a rich, deep yellow, they move through orange to a vibrant red and finally to purple. The combination of color and large, deeply divided leaves makes this upright tree seem larger than its 15- to 18-foot stature. Its Japanese name is ‘Mai kujaku’, which means “dancing peacock.”‘Vitifolium’ in autumn
Zones: 5 to 8
Height: 20 to 30 feet
Spring Color: Deep green
Summer Color: Deep green
Fall Color: Gold, crimson
‘Vitifolium’ is another A. japonicum cultivar that is quite vigorous and gets up to 30 feet tall. With its 5-inch-long and 6-inch-wide green leaves, it makes a majestic impression.
Acer palmatum and cvs.
Related species: Though Acer palmatum is the most common, several other species, such as A. japonicum, A. sieboldianum, and A. shirasawanum, are considered Japanese maples.
Hardiness: While most Japanese maples are hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 8, some are recommended only to Zone 6 Acer sieboldianum can take Zone 4. Protect all Japanese maples from the afternoon sun if located in Zone 8 and from bitter winds in Zone 4 and the northern sections of Zone 5.
Conditions: Grow these trees in full sun to partial shade. They are tolerant when it comes to soil unless planted in a site with poor drainage or a high pH.
Planting: When possible, plant Japanese maples while dormant. If your tree has already begun to leaf out, wait until the danger of frost has passed before planting. In clay soil, ensure proper drainage by planting on a slope, or with the root flare about 3 inches above the soil line then mounding the earth around it.
Maintenance: Under normal conditions, established Japanese maples do not need additional watering or feeding. If you decide to add fertilizer, avoid synthetic options because maples abhor the salt they contain. Prune once every few years to improve air circulation and to enhance the form.
Pests and diseases: Japanese maples are not prone to harm from pests or diseases.
Japanese maples grow from 15 to 25 feet tall, so are considered small as far as trees go. Evergreen trees vary in height. Tiny Tower Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens "Monshel") grows slowly to 8 feet tall and then takes up to 30 years to reach 30 feet tall. The evergreen Douglas fir (Psuedotsuga menziesii) grows to 300 feet tall. If you have a spacious yard of several acres you might consider planting the taller evergreen trees, while a smaller yard would be overwhelmed with just one giant conifer. Both Japanese maples and evergreens can be grown in pots. A pair flanking the front entry would welcome visitors.
Green is what you get with an evergreen, although there are a few varieties that are streaked with yellow, such as Juniperus chinensis "Torulosa Variegata," or white, such as Tsuga canadensis "Albospica," where the new growth is white and gradually turns to green. Japanese maples are green during the spring and summer and change color in the fall. However, there are a number of varieties that don't wait until fall, but are brightly hued from spring. Ukigumo is a Japanese maple with green leaves streaked with pink and white.
Grow Japanese maple in filtered sun to part shade. It is a suitable tree for full shade if needed, especially in the warmer zones, but different cultivars have different needs, so look into them before making a purchase. Afternoon sun is rarely tolerated by any cultivar, often resulting in sunburnt leaves.
Japanese maple trees like moist well-drained soil. Loamy and sandy soil will work well, but avoid soil that has high alkalinity Japanese maples thrive with slight acidity.
|Family:||Sapindaceae (sap-in-DAY-see-ee) (Info)|
|Genus:||Acer (AY-ser) (Info)|
|Species:||palmatum (pahl-MAY-tum) (Info)|
|Synonym:||Acer palmatum subsp. palmatum|
|Synonym:||Acer palmatum var. palmatum|
Palmatum (deeply divided leaves)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)
From seed direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed stratify if sowing indoors
Allow seedheads to dry on plants remove and collect seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Average Water Needs Water regularly do not overwater
Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone
This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:
Fountain Valley, California
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
West Side Highway, Washington
On Mar 11, 2016, NancyBeck from Cornelia, GA wrote:
This is a wonderful tree to turn into an ornamental bonsi at any size (we accidently had a cement truck run over ours during renovation construction on our house, which broke 1/2 and left us with an extremely attractive bonsi in 2004).. we have had it since @ 2001 .. now it's quite tall.. do not have plants/grass around it, as in the middle of summer it will swallow them up with shade.. The birds love it.. grows rather thick.. small little 'hand' leaves.. really neat.. for two years now, we have had praying manthis hatch from it .. awesome.. beautiful year round.. it is now about 8-10' tall, full sun in Georgia
On Jul 15, 2015, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:
The mother species here has green foliage during the spring and summer that turns bright red in autumn. Many of the photos here show the common red-foliaged variety that has red foliage in spring and reddish-green during the hot summer, then back to bright red in the fall. The regular green mother species is a slow growing tree about 1 foot/year and expensive to buy. It is only occasionally planted, as its red-leaved varieties and cultivars are what is commonly planted, and they are slower growing and more expensive.
On May 13, 2012, rickc304 from Niles, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:
This is an interesting large shrub or more often small tree. It does well in both sun and is also quite shade tolerant and care free here in NE Ohio with beautiful reddish foliage thrugh summer turning especially brialliant in autumn.
On Sep 15, 2008, spiny1000 from Lillestrшm,
Norway (Zone 5a) wrote:
This tree is one of the most beautiful trees in my garden, but winterhardiness is a problem in my area. Only trees in the most favorable situations will not be set back by frosts in my area. Especially the combination of late spring frosts and burning early sun may result in heavy stem damage. Light shade, and possibly some protections from conifers will protect the trees.
The pure species is more hardy than the cultivars, but may be too large a tree for smaller gardens. Of the japanese maples, Acer japonicum is a bit more hardy than the palmatum cultivars, especially A. japonicum aconitifolium has shown good hardiness.
On May 7, 2005, doss from Stanford, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:
A. Palmatum - or seedling Japanese Maple is probably the hardiest form of Japanese Maple. If your tree has a name, it's not a seedling Maple and has been grafted which means that it will be true-to-type. Seedlings are, as my Japanese Maple man says "Like Snowflakes". They can grow anywhere from 12 to 40 feet tall and be wider than tall, as wide as tall, dense or open and are most likely to take more sun and wind than the cultivars. Mine are self-sowing and seedlings emerge by themselves. I have three and they are all different but all are in full sun in zone 9. If you have not had success with Japanese Maples, and can find seedlings which are well identified and come from parents that meet your needs, this (these are) is the tree to try.
The flowers and the red seed po. read more ds in the spring are very attractive and this tree is less likely to experience leaf burn than most of the cultivars.
On Sep 1, 2003, pleb from Plymouth,,
United Kingdom (Zone 9a) wrote:
Can be easily grown from seed. The seed needs to be pre-chilled by putting it in the fridge, in moist compost, for a couple of months before sowing. Check regularly because the seed will often germinate whilst in the fridge!!
On Jul 19, 2003, PurplePansies from Deal, NJ (Zone 7a) wrote:
I garden in the Mid-Atlantic and Japanese Maples are very easy to grow here, as are all maples. Pretty, little trees with a graceful shape, deeply cut, burgundy leaves and stems and red leaves in fall. They like very cold to cool winters, and are tolerant of varying summer temperatures. They like moderate to heavy rainfall and are not what I'd call "xeriscape" plants. They like a normal to rich or hummusy soil. They don't mind neutral soils but seem to love acidic and also thrive in very acidic soils, (NOT a plant for alkaline soils). They require minimal to no, pruning, although you can prune in late winter/early spring to guide its shape. They like sun to shade, but hate scorching sun. They even do well in almost full shade. They set seed if two trees are present, but I have no exp. read more erience in growing from seeds. A beautiful plant for the east.
On Jul 3, 2002, lupinelover from Grove City, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:
In our neighborhood, these are lightning rods and are often struck, killing them. Tend to be short-lived.
Deciduous tree from China, Korea and Japan.
Has 5-9 lobed, mid green leaves. Young leaves can bear some reddish colours and in Autumn the leaves turn all colours between yellow and red. Bears very small, red/purple flowers and winged seed.
Likes a moist but well-drained, fertile soil in sun or light shade.
Must have shelter from cold and/or strong wind which will burn and kill young leaves.
In areas where the temperate drops below 15F mulch the roots in Autumn.
Makes wonderful bonsai subjects and good spot trees for sheltered garden.