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I have a snake bark maple that has a bole diameter of about 8" also an Acer Brilliantissima with a bole diameter of over 12", both of which are growing too large for their site. Is it safe to prune them back? I would need to cut back about three feet or so all round.

Wait until all the leaves have fallen otherwise it might bleed as I suspect this is the same as what I have to do with my Acer Palmatum.

Alina W

It's not a brilliant idea with acer palmatum as the smaller acers don't like hard pruning - it is much better to prune them gently and regularly. If you must prune wait until early spring.


and do think about the overall shape, cutting back 3 feet all round could leave you with a sort of blob and acers have rather a fine shape naturally.

I prune in spring. Lightly removing extension growth and die back and always to a pair of buds. I agree with Alina W ...gently and regularly..but pruning this way makes for a bushier healthier looking bush. Mid spring rather than early spring when frosts are past.



After the first hard frosts is best. The sap will be low then. You can try hardwood cutting with the removed branches.


There was a piece about pruning Acers in a newspaper this weekend and it was stasted that Acers should be pruned very early in the year or they will bleed.

But best not to prune them at all.

I have an Acer platanoides 'Crimson Sentry', which I thought would be ideal for my small modern "development" (postage stamp), garden. I've since discovered that these trees grow quite tall (12m) and wide (5m). Given that my garden is only 10m deep, can I successfully keep it in check by pruning, or should I cut it down now? I planted it two years ago, and it is still only quite small (2m tall x 1m wide).

When I bought it the website said it was iideal for small garden, but on the same website it now says medium garden!
Hiya tim. I can only repeat how I do things. When frosts have gone I cut out die back and pinch back to buds. If you prune now how do you then deal with die back next spring? My only experience with acers is with palmatum varieties and Acer flamingo. However ....without, checking it out, platanoides varieties are much more vigorous. If you don't prune you will end up with large plant. I guess we have all bought plants that want to grow bigger than we want them to but I do manage to control them by yearly pruning in spring and "pinching" 2 or 3 times during the summer

@tim burr - Acer Crimson Sentry is different to Acer palmatum, a Japanese maple. Acer Crimson sentry is a palatnoide, so tall and tree like. You can prune them hard just like a fruit tree to keep them small.

Blairs, I prune my Acer flamingo hard ground level....every year so
can you do same with crimson sentry? I do this too with eucalyptus, cotinus and others

I prune mine like a fruit tree, so cutting back now back to a bud, where it will bush out next year. Feel free to prune back to buds all over the tree to give it the size you want. I am not easy at pruning like so many people are, but it works on this tree and you need it to work for you It will look fine when the leaves are back in spring.

Hi, can anyone help, I have an Acer which has lost its label, it has been growing in shade for a few years now and looks happy. it grows very slowly and has a brilliant red almost cerise colour in autumn.

It has a main stem and is shaped like an umbrella and it's about four foot high and five foot across with its outside leaves almost touching the lawn around it  which is no problem.

However I have noticed each year that three or four branches underneath are bare and look dead, this doesn't detract from the overall shape but I'm wondering?

1. Do I prune these bare branches and if so, when?

2. Will it eventually grow up into an umbrella shaped tree?


Hi it sounds like one of the acer palmatum dissectum atropurpureum family, hopefully there is a link here. But there are lots of varieties of these to choose from one called Crimson Queen which is a popular one.

I have had one of these for years now, originally in big pot and when the frost finally got to that decided to plant it in the ground in the same shady spot which it seems to enjoy. 

You do though every end of season get dead branches which I normally trim off in the winter before the new grow arrives. No one really know why this is and normally say its down to wind damage or just a natural progression. 

Its worth keeping this variety in away from wind and in a sheltered spot, as the fine dissected leaves do tend to get the worst of it in the summer and shrivel up. 

The tree will maintain its umbrella shape throughout its grown and is very slow growing and compact.

I have six Acers in the garden now all of them different and all of them have done exceptionally well even though I am on Chalk soil. Did dig a big hole before I planted them and are looking to reduce the size of a couple this year as they are getting too big. 

hope this helps


I have a lot of Acers including one like yours. I am lucky I have been getting advice from an expert who has trained in Japan. There is a lot of rubbish talked about pruning Acers. They can be pruned almost any time except early spring when the sap is rising. In your case as was mine the lower branches are dying back due  partly to the  natural habit of the tree but partly due to lack of light. (if you look in summer I suspect some of the lower leaves will be green & not red). In winter do the 3 D's  remove dead diseased or damaged.  Then look at which branches above are covering the ones below you may want to thin these, to let light into the lower canopy. Different cultivars require different treatment as you can see from comments above. The palmatum dissectum  types we have are slow growing so should only require light shaping to keep the tree in the space you have, and to enhance the natural habit of the tree.  It can take years of training & experience to know what to do correctly but most Acers are much tougher than people think. Think of the conditions they evolved in, Japan is mountainous & has very cold winters.

Hope this is not too late to help as I note your post was some time ago.


Doghouse Riley

Each year acer palmatums will shed branches. I say shed, they go white and I prune them off once it's dormant.

I've two, this is near thirty years old cost I think about £7. It must be about ten feet in diameter I'm quite proud of this one. Bents Garden Centre will sell you one this size but not as nice, for £3,000, but you'll get it in a huge tub. True!

This now fifteen years-old, I bought it in B&Q  for £49.

A month back I pruned a considerable number of dead "ends" and a few lower branches, as I do each year.If removing a branch results in a slight gap, the foliage is very much a thin canopy, I wire other branches together to make them fill the gap, When the wire comes off in the spring, they will stay in their new position.

I will shortly put a net over each to encourage the branches to keep the "dome shape" I like them to keep. Some of the top growth won't lie down, so that gets pruned off when the net comes off. In the summer I trim the "skirts" with shears.

I keep them well watered and they get an occasional feed of diluted "fish poo" when I purge my koi pool sump. It's slightly acidic and therefore has the nutrients they need. Winters don't bother them, but in hot sun I give them a bit of a spray early in the morning and late in the afternoon.(If I'm in) I don't get shriveled leaves.

Last edited: 26 January 2017 13:24:26


I have just bought an Acer Pal. Sango Kaku which looks very healthy but has a number of branches that cross in the middle and as the wind blows rub against each other, which is a no no for all the other shrubs I have.  It also has one very long whipping branch which to my eye spoils it's shape. 

My questions are should I remove this long odd branch to a suitable length by a couple of leaf buds and what do I do about these crossing branches? 

Any help is appreciated


If it were mine, I think the first thing I'd do is to re-pot into a larger pot using appropriate compost and keep it in a sheltered position. They don't like being in full sun.

As for pruning, acers do bleed if they are pruned in the growing season. This will weaken the plant and possibly allow infection.
Again, if it were mine, I'd trim back the 1 or 2 thin long whippy bits now, but not do any more until November-Feb. Then you can prune out crossing branches etc whilst it is dormant


Thanks Pete8, that's what I thought but it's nice to have it confirmed. It'll be repotted into the large white pot today in a mix of sharp sand, fine soil, multi-purpose compost and ericatous compost. Hopefully it'll find it good


I'm sure it'll be very happy there.