Acers make an excellent focal point in the garden, particularly in autumn when their leaves turn breathtaking shades of red, crimson, orange or yellow.
Many acers are slow growing and compact, making them an excellent choice for small gardens. Grow them as a free-standing specimen, as a part of a border, or in a large container.
The most important thing to remember when growing Japanese maples is to give them a sheltered position. They need to be protected not only from northern and easterly winds but from frosts, too – protect them in winter with fleece, if necessary. Japanese maples will tolerate most soils except very heavy clay.
If you don’t have the space in the ground for an acer, try planting your acer in a container.
Discover 10 gorgeous acers to grow, below.
Acer palmatum. In autumn the foliage of this Japanese maple turns red, orange and yellow. Grow in a prominent spot with shelter from both late frosts and hot sunshine. The best colour is produced on neutral to acid soil. Height 6m.
Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’
Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ holds the Royal Horticultural Society’s prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM). A vigorous variety, its leaves turn scarlet in autumn. Grow in a sunny or partially shaded spot that’s well protected from cold winds. Height 5m.
Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Seiryu’
Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Seiryu’. Another holder of the RHS AGM. The leaves of this stunning variety turn crimson in autumn. Grow in moist but well-drained soil, away from bright sunlight and cold winds. Height 7m.
Acer palmatum ‘Kagiri-nishiki’
Acer palmatum ‘Kagiri-nishiki’. This variegated Japanese maple bears deeply lobed, mid-green leaves with pink and white margins, throughout summer. Leaves turn crimson-gold in autumn. Grow in sun or partial shade, and protect from harsh winds. Height 4m.
Acer rubrum ‘Northwood’
Acer rubrum is a beautiful maple native to north America. Its dark green leaves turn brilliant red in autumn. Grow as an ornamental tree in a medium to large garden, preferably in moist, slightly acid soil. Height 18m.
Acer henryi is a small tree native to China and rarely grown in Britain. The leaves are divided into three leaflets, which turn a rich orange-red before falling in autumn. Grow in a sheltered spot in full sun or dappled shade. Height 3.5m.
Acer palmatum var. dissectum Dissectum Atropurpureum Group
Acer palmatum var. dissectum Dissectum Atropurpureum Group. A round-headed tree with deeply lobed, red-purple leaves that turn a brilliant red in autumn. Grow in a sunny or partially shaded spot which is protected from cold winds, and with moist but well-drained soil. Height 8m.
Acer palmatum ‘Beni-otake’
Acer palmatum ‘Beni-otake’ is a medium-sized Japanese maple, with deep red-purple foliage from spring to summer, which becomes green with maturity. Autumn leaves turn a rich crimson. It is more tolerant of sun than other acers. Height 4m.
Acer palmatum ‘Little Princess’
Acer palmatum ‘Little Princess’ turns yellow and orange in autumn. With its slow growing, compact habit, ‘Little Princess’ makes an ideal Japanese maple for the small garden or patio pot. Grow in sun or partial shade. Height 1.5m.
Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’
Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’. This Japanese maple is round-headed with lobed, red-purple leaves that turn brilliant red in autumn. Grow in a sunny or partially shaded spot. Keep protected from cold winds. Height 8m.
Acer care tips
- Position: sycamores are tough, adaptable and thrive in most soils. Japanese maples like moist, well-drained, fertile soil in a sheltered spot. Varieties with gold leaves prefer more shade
- Care: only light pruning needed, but make sure green shoots are removed from variegated types. Japanese maples appreciate an annual spring mulch
- Hardiness: all acers are at least frost-hardy, though new shoots might be damaged by sudden frosts