Growing Japanese Maples

Last updated : 20 May 2015

21 Plants That Are Easy to Grow and Sell Like Crazy

Tips on Growing Japanese Maples from Seed.

Collect the seeds in the fall once they start to turn brown.  Here in zone 5 that happens near the end of September through October.

Break the seeds apart, there are usually two seeds growing together to form the seed pod.  Break of the wing from the seed.  After doing this you can store the seeds in a cool dry place until mid winter.  Or you can simply sow them in a flat right away and just set the flat outside under a shade tree.

When sowing in the flat in the fall,  the flat should contain a good seed starting mix that drains well.   Sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil in the flat.  Then sprinkle a little soil over the seed.  No more than 1/4″ soil over the seeds.  Lay a screen (hardware cloth) over the flat to keep the critters from digging in the flat and eating your seeds.

You can use just about anything for a flat, but if you use a cake pan, dish pan etc., you must drill a lot of holes in the bottom so no water stands in the flat.  The holes should be at least 1/4″ in diameter and about 1″ on center.

Just leave the flat outside in the cold all winter.  The seeds actually need this cold treatment before they will germinate.  Come spring you can remove the screen and allow the flat to get more sun.  Keep the flat watered, but allow the soil to dry between watering so the soil has a chance to warm up.  You need for the soil to warm so the seeds will germinate.

If you prefer to do the mid winter sowing method just store the prepared seeds in a paper bag in a cool dry place until about mid to late February.  Mark your calendar so you don’t forget about them.   Mix the seeds with some sand and peat moss or Perlite and peat moss.  After mixing together well just put the mixture in a freeze bag and put the bag in your refrigerator.  Not your freezer, and not way to the back of your refrigerator.  You want the seeds cold, but not frozen.

After 90 days in the fridge take the bag of seeds out and just put them on the counter or other suitable area at room temperature.  About 70 degrees.  Check the bag every few days for sprouting seeds.  As the seeds sprout you can pick them out of the bag and plant the tiny seedlings in a flat of seed starting mix.

The little white tail that appears first is the root, so buy seed root and all.  Once the first leaves appear make sure you bury only the seed and not the leaves.

Small Japanese Red Maples should be grown in an area that gets at least 50% shade for the first year or so.

Keep them watered as needed, but do not keep the soil soggy all the time.

Buy Japanese Red Maples for as little as $1.35 each!


  1. Sharron says

    Hi Mike,

    Please…no laughing, but I live in MN, Zone 4. We got wind chills this Winter as low as -35F.
    I bought a Japanese Maple (twig) from an Aldi grocery store 3 years ago. I think she is an upright type, Acer something.
    After 3 years, still scrawny.
    And after this Winter, I think she is still alive…but not sure.
    How do I know if she is still alive?
    Soil if good and she gets 50/50 shade/sun.
    I wrap her in burlap during the Winter.
    Right now she is borderline dorment.
    Should I fertilize?
    Should I prune her now to encourage more growth?

    Thanks for the help!

    • says


      Japanese maples really don’t like much fertilizer, I wouldn’t take the chance. This is how you test to see if a plant, or a branch on a plant has died. Just scratch the bark of your plants with your finger nail. If the tissue below the bark is green and firm your plants are fine. If the tissue is brown and mushy that part of the plant is dead.

      If the tree needs pruning then by all means prune it as needed.

  2. John says

    I used your method of starting seeds last year with great success! I picked a few seeds from some nearby JM’s of all different varieties and colors. out of 20 seeds, 15 of them sprouted. Some have progresseed faster than others. I have some that are almost a foot tall already and have around 10 branches. And I have some that still only have their first two true leaves. But.. they are ALL GREEN!! I know the seeds won’t be an exact copy of the mother plant, but every single leaf is green. I think I only picked around 5 seeds from green plants.
    The trees are getting full sun in the morning, dappled from 10-6 and shade in the evening.
    Any ideas as to why all of my trees are green?

    • says


      A lot of things affect leaf color on Japanese maples. Not just seedlings, but even grafted plants will have different leaf colors at different times of the year. And it seems to be different from year to year. But for the most part grafted plants hold their color well. Seedlings not so much, but that too will vary from seedling to seedling.

      When selecting trees to collect seeds from pick a tree with deep red color. And the more color the tree has later in the season all the better. I’m guessing that many of your seedlings will have deep red color next spring, then as the season goes on it will fade to green. I have hundreds of Japanese Red maple seedlings in the nursery and for whatever reason this year they all seem to have more green in them than usual. Come spring they will be a nice deep red.

  3. Mick Bradford says

    Mike, it could be blight because the leaves gradually dried up. If I decide to try it again what is your recommendation to prevent the reoccurance? By-the-way, the two mature parent trees from where the seeds came from are healthy 30 year olds.



  4. Mick Bradford says

    I potted a few seedlings from beneath my Japanese maple several years ago and as they grew I would upsize the pots until the plants were about 2 feet tall. I planted two on my property and gave the others to friends. All of them did quite well and grew to between 6-8 feet before dying. All were grown in the same county, Shelby County, TN, and experienced the same weather conditions. I am stumped over this. Do you have any thoughts about it.

    By-the-way, the seedlings were collected over a three year time span from a 30 year old tree.


    Mick Bradford

    • says


      Lots of things to consider. Too wet or too dry. They really don’t like wet soggy soil and it will kill them. Mulch piled up too high around the stem. That seems to the trend these days and it’s killing lots of trees. Sometimes Japanese maples suffer winter damage, but probably not the case in Tn. And then sometimes they get attacked by a blight that just kills them. Doesn’t happen all that often, but it does happen. ??????

  5. Bennie Shifflett says

    Just bought my first greenhouse and I’m wandering how I should get started.
    I bought your program and someone through my book away by accident. Is there a way to get another book sent to my address?

  6. Mary says

    Mike, when cleaning out my grandparents’ home after they passed away I have found some japanese maple seeds from their beautiful japanese maple tree that died the same year as my 101 year old grandfather. He planted and cared for that tree for over 50 years. I am unsure of the age of these seeds but believe they are approx. 5 years old and have been kept in a ziploc bag (no signs of mold). Is there any chance they would sprout or are they too old? I would love to grow a tree from one of those seeds. Thanks.

  7. Chuck says

    Mike I have a very large mature forsythia and would like to move and separate. Is now a good time while it is dormant or will it keep from blooming come spring. Also in this process I would like to take cuttings very woody maybe 1in or more in diameter will these root or use some smaller.

  8. John Reist says

    We live in New Brunswick, Canada. I am looking at starting a tree business bringing in bare root seedlings, potting them and selling them along my wife’s daylilies.

    I am interest in native trees but can’t find the species I want from the Canadian growers. I am looking for Tulip trees, Sweet Gum,Buckeyes, Persimmons, Paw Paw,and Mulberry

    Are there any growers of bareroot tree seedlings in the US that will ship to Canada? I checked last yr and no one wanted to do the paperwork

  9. Phil says

    Hello…if the “wings” on the seeds still on the tree are red is it too early to pick them off? If I did pick them, can they be used later or are they no good now?

    • says

      Phil, if they are red and not green the seeds should be ready to pick. Pick them now, mid October, and store in a cool dry place or sow them right away which ever method you choose.

  10. nick says

    I am in hardiness level 7a i think in central Maryland. I would like to know when to harvest maple, pine, and oak. I would like to know all the information that you do about bloodgood maples, pines, and oaks. Mainly about when and how to plant them from seed, where to keep them, how much to water them, how much sun, how much fertilizer, and just really any techniques to help me. I want to start a nursery from see with these 3 types of trees.

  11. George Rolph says

    Hi Mike.

    Thanks for all the great information you are sharing. I live in England and this is off topic but I need to ask it. Could you do a video on how to package plants to send by mail?

    Thanks again Bro. You have given me a great plan for earning some cash for my retirement.

    • says

      George, the best way to learn how to package plants for shipping is to buy plants from several different sellers and see how they packed them and which ones arrived in really good shape. Most importantly, keep the roots nice and moist and the tops as dry as possible. Then ship them the fastest way you can.

  12. Christine says

    Hi Mike,
    Great videos on Japanese Maples.
    I have a Lace Leaf Red. I bought it for 95.00 Can. about 3/4 yrs. I never thought about the seeds. I will try it.
    My tree got some branches broken off of it.
    So I dipped the ends in hormone dust and potted in soil. I will let you know how it goes.

  13. Mary Hook says

    I have a green weeping laceleaf Japanese maple in my front yard that’s at least 40 years old.
    it gets tons of seeds on it every year, but one side of each double helicopter is always smaller than the other. Can any of these seeds produce anything even remotely similar to the parent tree?

  14. Joyce Taylor-Smith says

    A branch broke on my elderberry bush during a storm this week. Is there any way I can save the branch,maybe glue it together with Elmers glue and use duct tape and splints to help it “heal”? Or would the branch root if I put it in water?

    Thanks for your advice.

    Joyce Taylor-Smith

  15. Doyce Wright says

    I’m new to your website (I happened on it by viewing videos on propagating pecan trees) and thanks for the great info and videos.

    I own some creek bottom land in Central Texas and there are many native pecans growing there. I would like to transplant and graft or bud a papershell variety on many of them. Some I could just graft/bud where they stand. I’ve never grafted or budded a tree so I’ve been viewing different methods on utube. Do you have any advice on which method I should use or any other info that could help?


    ps I just bought a laptop and it’s great to see all the info you can view via utube. I used to think it was for kids to get a laugh but I’ve learned a lot.

  16. says

    Hi Mike,

    I had no idea that you can grow one from a seed so thank you for your very clear instructions. I’m going to be on the look out for mine to start doing that.


  17. Marcia says

    I have a Japanese Maple in my front yard and have been eagerly waiting until I can collect the seeds. Not too much longer!

  18. Jennie says


    I have a red Japanese maple that I bought and planted about 3 years ago and it’s currently about 5 ft. tall; however, it’s never turned red and I’ve never noticed any seeds on it! What am I doing wrong? It gets lots of sunshine.

  19. Anonymous says

    Hi Mike,
    I watched your video on Japanese maple propagation.I have a mature red one in my yard, but I have never seen any seeds growing on it.Do you know why? Is there a way some type of fertilizer perhaps that
    will encourage seed crowing?

  20. utahhobbiest says

    Great video, love the emails, I heard some old timers talking about grafting almonds and apricots on to peach trees ,can this be done? Also can you graft roses on to apple trees ?

  21. Anonymous says

    Hi Mike. I have a small HorseChestnut tree I got from a nursey a few years back. The problem is it hasn’t grown in height at all. Every year it groes only about three or four stems with 3 or 4 leaves on them. What do you think is wrong with it? Should I dig it up and replant it, or forget about it?

  22. Bill says

    Hey Mike. I have followed your directions for growing Japanese Rew Maple
    trees for the past 8 years. I am not in large production like you are. I
    have gotten my seeds from the same mature tree every year and go thru your
    step by step directions. I usually am successful with around 15 or so
    seedlings each year. After two or three years of growth I enjoy just giving
    them to the neighbors.
    This past summer has been a very funny year for me and I am not sure
    exactly what happened and thought you might help me with some advice. I had
    an unusual success with finding at least 30 or 40 sprouted seeds in the very
    early spring. I was really excited. I carefully removed each as I always
    have done and carefully planted them in individual pots. All grew their
    first real double leaves. But then over half of them began to die. Only
    around 10 survived and grew into sturdy one year plants. Upon careful
    examination of the ones that died I noticed that their roots never
    developed. I have no idea what caused this. Also one that did survive
    started a surge of growth I also have never seen before. To date it is still
    growing under light and indoor warmth where they have been most of the
    summer. This darn tree is still growing straight and is at least over 12 in
    tall and very healthy…any ideas? Thought I would run this by you and see
    if you have experienced both these situations before…ps I really enjoy
    your web page….thanks…. Bill

    • says

      Bill, my first thought is that the growing medium holds too much water. That’s usually what affects root develop. Japanese Maples do not like wet feet or fertilizer.

  23. Barbara says

    Hi Mike,
    I have basically the same question as Todd M. I have a few Japanese Maple seedlings, all in one pot, that I dug from my yard during the spring. How do I get them through the winter in Northwest New Jersey?

    • says


      I’d just bury the pot in a protected area out of the wind. Come early spring, before they leave out pull the pot and get them separated and planted in your garden. They are tougher than you think and need to be out in the cold.

  24. Yelena says

    Hi Mike,
    I have red Japanese Maple for about 10 years.It was about 5′ tall when I planted it.It never was pruned since we have it (except once,little bit,last year).Is it still OK to change its shape,make more compact by pruning?
    Is it still going to produce seeds next year?I just collected 1 1/2 cup of clean seeds.

    And for sure I want to cut first 1 or 2 lower branches.Can I apply that method to make roots by damaging branches and wrapping with peat moss?and how long can I make those new plants?
    Can you give me some advise please? Thank you.(Sorry for my poor English…my second language)

  25. Todd M. says

    Hi Mike,

    Great video! I have four Japanese Maple seedlings in pots outside on my front porch. I found them in my yard last spring (April or May) and planted them in tiny pots. They are now a little larger than the seedling you held up in the video, but definitely still seedlings. What should I do with them during the winter (I live in Central Pennsylvania)? Should I just leave them on my porch or should I bring them inside where they won’t be exposed to the winter elements?

    Thanks! Any advice is appreciated.


    • says

      Byron, We have a lot of zone 8, 9 and 10 members. Some in the desert. Basically you are going grow and sell what people in your area use in their landscapes.

  26. Jusitn says

    Hi Mike,
    I live in Southern California and recently bought Fireglow Red Large leaf Japanese Maple and Threadleaf Japanese Maple ‘Waterfall’ in about 3 months.They are about 3 feet tall and healthy. Lately I noted that they both have dry out leaves start from the very end tip. Why that happen even I water them once a week and have them in the sunscreen protection area? Thanks for whatever you can provide.

    • says

      Justin, it’s not unusual for Japanese Maples, especially Laceleaf varieties to show some drying on the edges. It has more to do with sun, or just dry air being blown accross the leaves. Keep them watered but not soaking wet. Don’t fertilize them. If in pots get them in the ground if possible.

  27. Pat says

    Which species of Japanese Maple are sun and wind resistant and can be pruned to be maintained at 8 feet high and 4 feet wide.

    • says

      Pat, Bloodgood and Oshi Beni will both work out well for what you need. They are upright varieties. Also Butterfly which has varigated leaves. They’ll all do well in the sun once they are at least 3 feet tall. Smaller than that and they’ll need some shade for a year or two.

  28. Kathi says

    Hi Mike:
    Any suggestions for growing Japanese Maples in Colorado? We’re actually in western Colo. in the fruit-growing/vineyard area, so overall growing conditions aren’t bad. We are in zone 6a/6b, and our property is largely covered with very large pines and spruces, most 60-70 years old. We can provide a reasonably good sun/wind block for the baby tree, which we recently dug up from a relative’s house in Tennessee, but any suggestions you might provide would be appreciated. We’re also curious about how the Japanese Maple will do amongst the evergreens. If you have any input, it will be greatly appreciated. We’ll need to plant the tree shortly, as we dug it up several weeks ago, and it’s in an ill-suited pot that we used to transfer it back to Colorado. Thanks for whatever you can provide.

    • says

      Kathi, your zone is probably perfect for Japanese Maples. They need at least 50% sun or they’ll lose their color. They don’t like wet feet, they like well drained soil, and make sure you don’t plant it too deeply and do not fertilize it. It should do just fine.

  29. Jamie Dolan says

    Hello Mike;

    I bought your book on Amazon to get started and plan to buy the whole program later. I made the home made plant propagation system as you described in the book. I am using a mix of vermiculite and peat.

    I am in Wisconsin. Would I have any luck taking cuttings from my Japanese Maple this time of year and putting them in the plant propagation system? Would I have better luck with cuttings in a cloning machine like the ezclone where the bottom of the cutting is constantly misted?

    Should I try for softwood or cuttings that have started to harden off?


    • says

      Jamie, I think the Home
      Made Plant Propagation System
      is as efficient and effect as any cloning system. When you get my program I’ll teach you some super effective ways to propagate all kinds of plants. The Japanese Maple? It might root. They are difficult, but they have been rooted in the Homemade Plant Propagation System. They would not like to be misted constantly, they really like a growing medium that is on the dry side.

  30. Charles says

    I could not find a Contact Us link on your website. Sorry this is not on the subject.
    I want you around a long time. This site has found a way to reverse Heart Desease.
    I hope you will take a look. I have been on their program. I can tell the difference.

  31. Quincy A. Wyatt says

    Mike, I have a holly tree about 3 1/2 ft. tall covered with green berries and I want to move it. How do you do this without damaging the tree? I mean uprooting it and transplanting it to another area? I live in Altavista Va. 24517. Thank you Quincy Wyatt

  32. Patricia says

    A few years ago you published directions for a “weed dabber” made of PVC pipe. I changed computers and was unable to download the stored memory. Could you provide those directions again please. Thanks!

    • says


      Plum trees are usually budded onto a hardy rootstock, but you can try doing them in my homemade plant propagation system.

  33. SHIRLEY says


    • says


      Are you sure you have Bradford Pear seedlings and not Washington Hawthorne?

      I don’t think you should see any thorns or a bradfor pear seedling.

    • Anonymous says


    • Mule says

      Sounds like you have a grafted tree and the root stock is sprouting. I have several pear trees that put out the thorny growth from the root stock.

  34. Cindy says

    Mike, You talked about starting Japanese Maples then went on to Elderberries. You mentioned more information in the script below but I don’t see more information on rooting elderberries.

    Elderberries in my region are in bloom. When is the right and wrong time to take cuttings or does it matter? I want more elderberry bushes but don’t want to buy them. How can you help?

  35. Martin Ratliff says

    I live in central fl. zone 9. Hot and humid most of the year. Does your system still work here?

    • says


      Florida is actually a good climate to grow plants in because they grow much quicker than they do here in the north. We had an elderly couple that were members of our group and they did really, really well in Florida. They sold a lot of plants to others on the board and received nothing but raving reviews. They finally retired for the second time.

  36. Brigitte says

    Love your posts! It’s so nice to see somebody who cares to shoot a video about what they are trying to explain!

    My question: I bought an (American Beauties Pink Ribbon Plant)4 foot Acer Palmatum “Orido Nishiki” last year from a local nursery. It has Pink & green/white variegated foliage in the spring and red maroon in the fall. The tag says it is “Hardy Northern Grown” with Cold Hardiness Zone 6 -10F, Sun to Part Shade, Water needs- Regularly as needed, Fertilize in Spring, Height/Width 10-15’T x 10 -15’W. I live in Zone 5/6 just like you, the tree is planted on the side of my house where it receives about 50% shade. Tree was doing great all last year, came back this spring but after that second hard frost we had the trunk turned black and the leaf buds didn’t finish coming out. I thought it was dead and was really broken hearted. Most of the wood on the tree is just snapping off but recently I noticed it putting out little leaves near the bottom of the trunk. Trunk is about 1 1/2 – 2″ thick. Is it OK to lop off 3+ feet of the tree top and try to encourage the little suckers or will this cutting kill any chance I have of bring it back to life? Should I wait a while to see how the suckers do before I cut? If OK to cut, how long do you think it will take for it to grow the 3 – 4 feet it was?

    • says


      Don’t do any pruning yet. The tree is in serious trouble. It has either suffered a great deal of winter damage, or possibly it’s planted too deeply or in a wet area. Since it’s alread in trouble I’d try raising it up if you suspect either of the above conditions that I mentioned. The suckers are probably from the rootstock and will not resemble the tree at all. No fertilizer, just try and give the roots some air if you think that’s the problem. If it’s winter damage everything above the rootstock might be dead. This is how you test to see if a plant, or a branch on a plant has died. Just scratch the bark of your plants with your finger nail. If the tissue below the bark is green and firm your plants are fine. If the tissue is brown and mushy that part of the plant is dead.

      I hope this helps.

  37. mary mckenney says

    i’ve tried to grow these many times. they seem to die out after a good start? will try it again.. thnaks for the information.

  38. alisa says

    We just transplanted a mature Japanese maple. It is about 4 or 5 yrs old. Right after we planted
    It , it rained for a few days. It has been a week and a few of the leaves are drying and curling. I’d there
    Anything I should do to keep it from dying?

    • says


      The rain helped, but now the sun is playing havoc on the leaves. It’s always best to move plants when they are dormant. The only thing you can do now is keep the leaves wet without making the soil soggy. And even if you through something over the tree to keep the leaves moist and cool for a week or two. If you can keep the sun off the leaves that will help.

  39. Carlos says

    Hi Mike
    Do I have to take seeds out of refrigerator at day 90th and then sow them or wait until they sprout in there?

    • says


      After 90 days in the fridge if you take the seeds out and put them somewhere at room temperature they should start sprouting within a week or two. If you leave them in fridge it will take them longer and the seeds could rot.

  40. john kizziar says

    mike…does this growing method work for all japanese maples, reds and greens? secondly, do some nurserys sell plant seconds, those that are not healthy and have a good chance of dying in the near future and lastly, is there any way around this, save from buying the pricier ones?
    Beaumont, Ca.

    • says

      John, Anytime you grow a Japanese Maple from seed you are basically getting a generic, unamed Japanese Maple. If you collect the seeds from tree with deep red leaves there’s a good chance that many of the seedlings will also have red leaves. But some of them will have green leaves. Those are often used for grafting since the demand for a Japanese Maple with green leaves isn’t very strong on the retail market. So no matter what kind of Japanese Maple you collect seeds from, you will not get an exact clone of the parent plant. They only way that can happen is through asexual reproductions such as grafting, budding, or rooting cuttings. Rooting cuttings is difficult and almost impossible for the weeping varieties.

      It’s actually against the law for a nursery to sell an unhealthy plant. Believe it or not all of the nursery stock sold in the United States and many other countries is actually inspected on site by Dept of Agriculture inspectors. For the most part they are inspecting for pests.

      One way to get really nice Japanese Maples at reduced prices is to become a member of the trade and buy them on the wholesale market. One of our very own Backyard Growers sells thousands of dollars worth of Japanese Maples to our other members. Even I have purchased plants from him, and just this evening asked if he had any more available. Seems to me he sells the really rare varieties for about $13 or $15 each. Last year I only paid about $11 for some that I got from him. Details:

  41. Randy Kramer says

    I like your videos, but I just wanted to let you know that, at least I have trouble viewing them using Linux (vs. Windows). At this point, I don’t know why–if I get some insight, I’ll let you know.

    I can view them (using Linux) if I view the video at the youtube site. For example, this one is at

  42. Leonard Creech says

    How would our Garden Club buy the smaller plants from one of your suppliers/customers? Each Year we have a plant sale and raise speaker and scholarshiip money. We could buy the starter plants and tend them til the Fall Auction/Plant sale.
    I always read your e-mails with interest, but my home is surrounded by large Oak Trees and I settle for my back deck to have color in my yard.

    • says


      Actually that’s a pretty good idea. On our Backyard Growers Board we have an area where members buy and sell to and from one another. The deals there are fantastic and it’s a very busy place. However, you have to be a member of that group in order to buy from that board. But at the same time you can sell there if you have plants to sell. You can start out with the growing system:, then after you get the system we send you information where you can test drive the message board and get three more DVD’s for $18.00. If you like the board you can make payments and become a permanent, paid up member. I realize this may not work for you, but maybe somebody else in the club.


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