If you are wondering how to prune Japanese Maples, its easy to if you follow a few basic steps. They are pruned to produce a better shape, to remove dead wood and to open the canopy to prevent disease problems.
Here we are talking about the Acer palmatum dissectum types, those that have the naturally weeping habit and are relatively small growing.
Basic Pruning Techniques
What you are trying to do is produce an open and airy shape with enough foliage cover to prevent the sun from burning the trunk.
- Remove any dead wood.
- Lift the skirt of the foliage off the ground.
- Open the structure of the tree.
- Create a natural veiled look.
You can prune at any time of the year, however late summer is best. You need to prune from beneath the tree so you can see the structure as you prune. You also need to stand back an look at the tree as you prune.
Ask yourself, what will the tree look like if I prune that branch away. Remember that you can’t prune Japanese Maples for height and you can’t really prune them for width without spoiling the shape of the tree.
Start by removing any dead or damaged wood, use sharp secateurs or a pruning saw, always making sure they are sterilised before use. This is easy to do in summer when the foliage is still on the tree.
After this its time to get underneath the tree and look for cross over growth that is congesting the tree. See where this growth goes to, and if it can be removed without causing gaps in the external appearance, do so.
It is then time to selectively thin the tree from the inside.
Branches that are touching the ground need to be lifted. This is done by looking for the growth that is the lowest and following it up to a point where it joins a higher growing branch. Check for shape and form, and prune back.
You need to stand back and look at the overall shape of the tree after each cut. What you are looking to create is an umbrella shape, with a soft edge to it.
The growth should also be thinned, so that the structure of the tree is revealed. The Japanese believe that trees should be pruned to create a structure that looks good in winter when the folaige has gone, and this works well for Japanese Maples.
Although Japanese Maples are easy care, to get the best out them you will need to prune them, this is particularly true of the dissectum or cut leaf types.