If you're looking for quick landscape shade, the diminutive Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) can't compete with its fast-growing maple cousins, but stands out as a specimen plant due to its graceful shape and delicate leaves. Classified as a slow grower, this small maple will perform best in the dappled shade of its larger counterparts.
Japanese maples generally grow at a rate of 12 to 24 inches per season. An average height is 10 to 15 feet in 15 years of growth, with much of their growth coming in earlier years. Most Japanese maples attain a mature height ranging from 10 to 25 feet.
Best Growing Conditions
Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9, depending on variety, Japanese maples grow best in slightly acidic, well-drained but moist soil. Since full sun may scorch their leaves in hot climates, plant them in partial shade and protect from strong winds.
Cultivar-Dependent Growth Rates
Extremely slow-growing cultivars include "Red Select" (Acer palmatum "Red Select," hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9), a lace-leaf variety that matures to 10 feet tall, typically standing only 4 to 6 feet tall after 10 years of growth. More typical is the widely planted "Bloodgood" (Acer palmatum "Bloodgood," hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8), which grows about 12 to 15 inches per year to a mature height of about 20 feet.