Japanese Maples are a beautiful addition to any garden or landscape, but growing them in San Antonio, Texas can be more of a challenge. While they are more suited to be grown east of I-35 (where the climate is less arid than ours), Japanese Maples are so loved for their vibrant foliage color that many San Antonians find them irresistible.
We always want you to have gardening success, so we put together a quick blog about what you need to keep in mind if you choose a Japanese Maple.
Japanese Maples Need Protection from Late Afternoon Sun
One of the most important things to remember when planting Japanese Maples in San Antonio is to protect them from the late afternoon sun. It only takes living through one summer in San Antonio to know that the summer sun after 1 or 2 PM is BRUTAL. Japanese Maples prefer partial shade, so it’s important to plant them in a location that receives morning sun, but is soon shaded for the rest of the day. Full sun is out of the question!
Growing Japanese Maples as understory trees is a good way to give them the protection they need. Japanese Maples thrive in areas with filtered light, such as under the canopy of larger trees. Planting them here, or in locations that provide some natural shade, like on the north side of your home, helps to prevent the leaves from getting scorched; these truly are the ideal spots to plant your Japanese Maple.
You may even want to consider growing your Japanese Maples in pots, at least to start with. This way, if you are unsure about your light exposure, you can at least move the tree around to different areas to find the right spot.
Japanese Maples Watering Needs
Along with protection from the heat in Texas, Japanese Maples also need help through our dry spells. During our hot San Antonio summers, Japanese Maples will require even more water than the frequent water they already need. Japanese Maples thrive in humidity and when it is arid and hot, like our summers, they suffer. They will lose water through their papery-thin leaves as they work to keep their foliage cool. Their leaves generally give up more moisture into the atmosphere at a rate than can be faster than they can take it up through their roots. This water must be replaced, and if you can’t create a humid climate under the tree’s canopy (planting close to a pond or other water feature), you’ll have to focus extra attention on watering.
These are not ‘set it and forget it’ type of plants. It’s important to keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged (planting in areas with well-draining soil is important). The best way to water Japanese Maples is deep watering, rather than shallow daily watering. This will help the roots grow deeper and stronger.
If you notice leaf scorch and you’ve taken care to plant your Japanese Maples in enough shade, this can be a sign of your tree not getting enough water. You’ll need to take into account periods of rainfall and also periods of extended drought and adjust your watering schedule accordingly, but an hour or two of a slow trickle from the hose once a week, and twice a week in summer when hot spells are the worst, is usually recommended. Again, slow, deep watering is better than shallow watering or quickly blasting water into the soil.
You will need to gauge if you need to water more often or more deeply when you water, and honestly, you could need to do both. But in general, Japanese Maples tend to need more water and humidity than other trees. You should be aiming for the soil around the roots to be moist but not soggy, and you might have to poke your finger down in the soil to be able to tell.
General Appearance and Size of Japanese Maples
Japanese Maples are known for their beautiful foliage and unique appearance. The average mature size of these trees growing in San Antonio run around 10′-18′ tall with about the same canopy spread, but there are weeping and dwarf varieties as well. Most Japanese Maples have foliage that changes color with the seasons, some begin spring with a bang of vibrantly-hued new growth, while others turn red or orange in the fall, or green or burgundy in the spring and summer. Read up on your chosen plant to know what to look forward to. (Color can be affected by light exposure; read more about Japanese Maples here.)
What have we learned? Japanese Maples can be successfully grown in San Antonio, Texas by providing them with protection from afternoon sun, planting them as understory trees, and giving them ample water, especially through our hot and dry summers. With their unique appearance and beautiful foliage, Japanese Maples can be a stunning addition to any garden or landscape in San Antonio; it just may take a little more care and attention to achieve.
~ The Happy Gardener, Lisa Mulroy