When to Prune Japanese Maple Trees and Make Proper Cuts


When to Prune Japanese Maple Tress and Make Proper Cuts

Japanese maples are expensive trees, and as you are reading this, you are probably thinking about a Japanese maple in your yard that you are nervous about pruning. So you want to get it right! 

There are a lot of things to learn about pruning Japanese maples. In this article, we will discuss the best time of year to trim a Japanese maple, as well as a basic trimming tactics in how to make proper cuts to your Japanese Maple. 


When Can I Prune My Japanese maple?


The summer (June, July, August, September) and in the middle of the dead winter (January, February) are the best times to trim your Japanese Maple. You really want to avoid pruning your Japanese maple when
the tree is putting on new growth in the spring. Also avoid pruning your Japanese maple when it is getting ready to drop leaves in the fall.

Aside from when new growth is coming in, or when leaves are about to fall, an established Japanese maple tree will handle moderate trimming any time. However, if you had to pick an absolute ideal time to trim your Japanese maple, it would be in the dead of winter when the plant is dormant and the risk of pests and diseases are at the lowest.

How to make Proper Cuts to your Japanese Maple Tree


Many people get nervous when pruning their Japanese maples due to the trees delicate appearance and branches (especially lace leaf verities). 

Tip #1- Never prune more than 25% of the tree at a time. Even if you need to prune over the course of months or an extreme cases, years, it’s best to prune 25% or less of the total tree at a time so that the tree can heal. Yes, cutting a tree is wounding the tree; however, if you cut the tree correctly you don’t have anything to worry about. 

Tip # 2- Never top a tree! Topping a tree occurs when the entire top of the tree is removed, or when the leader or major branches at the top of the tree is removed. Topping a tree will severely damage the tree and it may not recover. Only remove branches that are about 2/3 the size or less than the parent branches or leaders on a particular tree. 

Pruning Large Branches- Make Three Cuts (You do not want to rip off bark)


If you are pruning a large branch you will want to make three good cuts: (The reason for all of these cuts is to basically take weight off of the branch as you get closer to the truck, so that you can get a cleaner cut a the main collar, or branch. You do not want the branch to tear off the bark, thus resulting in a less than perfect cut.)


1. The first cut should be about 6 inches or so out on the limb from the collar of the branch you wish to remove. The first cut should be made on the underside of the limb 1/3 of the way into the branch. The second cut should be just slightly further out ( ½”) from your first cut. 

2. The second cut should be a top cut towards the branch. When you make the second cut the limb should cut going about 2/3” in. so that the branch snaps off cleanly. 

3. The third cut needs to be at the collar of the limb you are cutting. When making the third cut at the collar, it is important to make this cut at an angle. The closer you can get to a 90 degree cut the better, however, a 60 or 45 degree cuts will also work. The closer you can get to a 90 degree cut at the collar, the easier, and quicker the tree will seal the wound preventing issues such as fungi later on.

Japanese Maples are Cool


Japanese maples are known for the unique forms they can take, which means there is a lot more you can do with them. If you prune Japanese Maples in the summer or winter, and make healthy cuts, you are on your way to proper pruning of these trees.

We will discuss other techniques for trimming them and the reasons to do so in later articles.

If you find that this is just something that you do not want to mess with, we will be glad to help you out.

Feel free to give us a call at 866.228.5324 or click this link - Landscape Estimate.