How to Grow and Care for Bloodgood Japanese Maple Trees

A Nice Addition for a Small Yard

bloodgood Japanese maple tree

The Spruce / Autumn Wood

The 'Bloodgood' cultivar of Japanese maple is an ideal deciduous tree 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 often at its brightest. The color darkens in summer to burgundy, or even darker. The leaves can become showier in autumn than in summer, making the foliage attractive for a full three seasons of the year.

The leaves of this Japanese maple 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, this tree develops double-winged samaras that 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.

Common Name 'Bloodgood' Japanese maple
Botanical Name Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood'
Family Aceraceae
Plant Type Tree
Mature Size 15-20 ft. tall, 15-20 ft wide 
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Clay, loamy, sandy, well-drained
Soil pH Neutral, acidic
Bloom Time Summer
Hardiness Zones 5-8 (USDA)
Native Area Asia
closeup of Japanese maple tree leaves
​The Spruce / Autumn Wood 
bloodgood Japanese maple tree
​The Spruce / Autumn Wood
Japanese maple tree in front yard
​The Spruce / Autumn Wood
Japanese maple tree leaves
Joe Daniel Price / Getty Images 

'Bloodgood' Japanese Maple Care

If you plant this tree in the fall, it 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). Alternatively, you can plant your 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.

Light

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 can help prevent leaf scorch. The leaves tend to develop some green in them in summer if exposed to full sun.

Soil

The soil should drain well and not be too clayey; a neutral to slightly acidic soil is preferred (pH 5.0 to 7.0). Apply a loose mulch, such as wood chips or pine needles, over 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.

Water

After planting the tree, water it regularly twice or three times a week in the absence of rain. Established trees only need water 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 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; keep the soil around the tree mulched and adequately watered during hot weather to minimize damage.

Fertilizer

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).

Types 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).

Pruning

You can prune young plants to encourage a particular branching pattern. As the tree matures, pruning can be limited to standard maintenance tasks, such as removing dead branches, suckers, or branches.

Propagating 'Bloodgood' Japanese Maple

Nurseries propagate most Japanese maples by grafting, which takes elaborate skills and practice. Because 'Bloodgood' is a cultivar, growing it from seed won't produce a tree that is true to type. It is, therefore, recommended to purchase a young tree instead of attempting to propagate it yourself.

Common Pests & Plant 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 prevent these diseases.

FAQ
  • How fast does a Bloodgood Japanese maple grow?

    It grows moderately slow, about 1 to 2 feet per year. Heavy watering and fertilizer might lead to faster growth but are not recommended, as the slower, natural growth produces the proper branching.

  • Are Bloodgood Japanese maples hardy?

    Bloodgood Japanese maple is one of the hardiest Japanese maples; it can be planted as low as in USDA zone 5 but it does not tolerate harsh winter winds so it should be planted in a protected location, such as against the southeast side of a house.

  • How far from the house should you plant a Bloodgood Japanese maple?

    Plant it at least 15 feet away from the house to accommodate the mature spread of the tree, which is 15 to 20 feet.