How to Prune a Japanese Maple Tree

What You'll Need
Safety Glasses
Work Gloves
Pruning Snips
Pruning Shears

Japanese maple trees are popular indoor and outdoor plants. Grown inside, the tree grows into a thick shrub with numerous branches. Outdoors, you can trim the lower branches and shape the crown to tailor the appearance of the tree as it grows.

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Kathy Bosin adds, "Never remove a limb that is greater than half the diameter of the tree's trunk. Prune out branches that cross or interfere with other branches."

Step 1 - Trim Lowest Branches

If your tree is outdoors, you should probably trim the lower branches. Indoors, trim sagging branches. Use the pruning snips to cut the branches at a 45-degree angle approximately ½-inch to 1 inch from the main stem or branch. Be careful to not remove too many branches at once to reduce stress to the tree.

TIP: Kathy advises, "Always start pruning by eliminating dead wood. Then, move around the tree, and remove small branches that interfere with the layer above them. By separating layers, you will create a balanced, visually appealing tree."

Step 2 - Raise the Crown

Japanese red maple trees will grow a thick crown if properly pruned. Snip the tips of branches 2 to 4 inches back from the tip, above a leaf or branch juncture. Each tip cut off will result in a double tip sprouting at the juncture, adding body and fullness the to crown of the plant.

Step 3 - Thin the Crown

Because you are working to make the crown full, trim back inner branches to prevent the limbs from growing into themselves. When thinning the crown, be careful not to remove limbs that are prominent in appearance. Outdoors, crown thinning can be used to shape the crown, say for a more pointed top or one that resembles a ball. How you choose to shape the tree is totally up to you.

Step 4 - Touch Up

Examine the tree for broken leaves or branches, and remove them. Look for errant branches poking out at angle that do not help to define the shape you want, and smooth the general appearance. This type of touch-up can be done throughout the growing season of the tree.

Step 5 - Compost the Clippings

Save the leaves and small branches you remove from the tree and add them to your compost bin. Recycling yard waste into fertile compost helps keep your lawn and garden looking its best without purchasing chemical fertilizers or other potentially harmful treatments.

Step 6 - Control Pests

Indoors, mix liquid dish soap with water and use that as a misting spray for indoor plants of all types to prevent insects. The same process can be used outdoors, and can be supplements with marigolds planted Near the base of the tree. If you have a problem with ants, plant a border of mint, and crush a few of the leaves now and then. Mint has been shown to be effective in repelling ants and some other insects.