Bloodgood Japanese maple trees are ideal for smaller yards. Most people use them as specimen trees, although they are also used in bonsai. They bloom in spring, and this is when the red in their foliage is sometimes at its brightest. The color darkens in summer to burgundy, or even darker. Although their leaves can become even showier in autumn than in summer, their foliage is attractive for a full three seasons of the year.
The leaves of Bloodgood Japanese maples form a rounded canopy in an attractive branching pattern: Rather than having a single leader, the plant will often have multiple sub-trunks. Many liken the leaf shape to that on a marijuana plant. The palmatum in the Latin name is also descriptive of the leaf. As on the human hand, where fingers radiate out from the palm, "palmate" foliage bears lobes that fan out from a central point. In late spring, they develop double-winged samaras which redden as they mature and add some ornamental value to the plant. This common tree may reach a height of 20 feet (with a similar spread) at maturity but is a slow grower.
- Botanical name: Acer palmatum atropurpureum
- Common name: Bloodgood Japanese maple
- Plant type: Deciduous tree
- Mature size: 20 feet tall
- Sun exposure: Full sun, part shade
- Soil type: Chalk, clay, loam, sand
- Soil pH: Slightly acidic
- Bloom time: Summer
- Flower color: n/a
- Hardiness zones: 5-8, USDA
- Native area: Japan, Asia
How to Grow Bloodgood Japanese Maple Trees
A full-sun to part-shade loving plant, the Bloodgood Japanese maple grows easily in moist, organically rich, slightly acidic and well-draining soil. If you plant in the fall, your tree will benefit from new root growth that occurs during the dormant season: Roots of maples continue to grow throughout the fall and early winter months if temperatures are not below freezing. Also, planting in the fall allows the carbohydrates that are produced during the summer to be directed to root growth since there is little demand from the top of the tree (which stops growing in late fall and winter). You can also plant your Bloodgood Japanese maple in spring; just be careful not to disturb any parts of the plant that have broken bud and are producing new, soft growth.
Mulch is key to growing your maple. Mulch shields the roots from summer heat and winter cold and ensures that the roots retain moisture. You also might want to stake the tree to prevent wind from rocking it back and forth as the new roots are becoming established. Just be sure to remove the stake after the first year, or at least change the tie if it's cutting into the bark of the tree.
Dappled shade is considered the ideal exposure in most regions for this tree, but a bit more shade won't harm it. In fact, in hot climates, a somewhat shady location could help prevent leaf scorch. The leaves tend to develop some green in them in summer if exposed to full sun.
While you want to water the leaves and branches of this tree semi-regularly, only water the roots and soil when the weather has been hot and dry for an extended stretch. If the soil gets too saturated, it can cause root rot.
Temperature and Humidity
Plant your Bloodgood Japanese maple where it will be protected from strong winds (which can dry out the soil quickly), and avoid hot and arid sites. Extreme heat can lead to distress, but if you keep the tree's soil mulched and adequately watered during hot weather you'll be able to minimize the damage.
The soil should drain well and not be too clayey. Be sure to apply a loose mulch, such as wood chips or pine needles, on the soil at the beginning of the summer to help retain moisture. Keep mulch several inches away from the trunk of the tree. Re-mulch every year at around the same time.
Don't try to force this tree to grow faster by fertilizing it more than is necessary. In spring, before leaves emerge, add a small amount of organic slow-release fertilizer to the soil. Then fertilize the tree annually, around the same time you add the mulch (early summer).
You can prune young plants to encourage a particular branching pattern. As they mature, pruning, if needed at all, can be reduced to removing branches that are rubbing against each other (and, as for all plants, dead branches).
Other Varieties of Japanese Maples
Red is the most common color for Japanese maples, although there are also various choices in other colors.
- Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum' (Golden Full Moon): Produces lime-to-chartreuse-tinged golden leaves; in fall leaves turn orange and red.
- Acer palmatum 'Beni-kawa': Leaves emerge in spring as rich green with slight red edges, then turn deeper green in summer before turning yellow and shedding in fall.
- Acer palmatum 'Harriet Waldman': Grows to 15 feet tall (same growing conditions as for Bloodgood); new leaves start out pink but eventually turn three colors: pink, white, and green (pink and white fade as the tree ages, leaving green leaves.)
Common Pests and Diseases
These trees are relatively immune to diseases and pests; however, insects such as aphids, scale, borers, and root weevils can be a problem, as can mites. Root rot and Verticillium wilt can strike if the tree is grown in wet, cold soil. Allowing the soil to dry out between watering sessions is a good way to avoid these diseases.