Question of the Week: April 14, 2022

“I love the Japanese maples I’m seeing around town in landscapes and nurseries. How much sun will they tolerate?”

We featured Japanese maples here two weeks ago. However, many folks obviously didn’t see that story, because the questions keep piling up.

This handsome Japanese maple is growing in East Texas where it receives two hours of sunlight daily. Farther west that would be too much sun.

Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) aren’t fond of our intense Texas summer sun, and they don’t get along well with low humidity.

Continued Below

Therefore, my answer in general terms is that starting with the Louisiana border, the farther west you go, the more shade they’re going to require. They really do best as understory trees beneath taller shade trees even in East Texas, but by the time you get toward I-45 and especially by the time you’re anywhere near I-35, they need shade all day long. They are quite challenging in the western half of the state. Again, it’s the low humidity that causes them problems.

This Japanese maple was growing in an enclosed courtyard where it also received full sunlight for 7 or 8 hours daily. It suffered mightily.

They come from a part of Japan where daytime temperatures seldom get into the high 80s, much less the 90s and 100s. They can’t pull water through their systems fast enough to transport it out to the tips and edges of their leaves. Browning occurs and by mid-summer the leaves can be unsightly until they drop in the fall.

Summary answer: No sun after 9 or 10 in the morning. Highly organic planting soil (no rocky ground, please) that is kept consistently moist.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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