15 Varieties of Japanese Maple Trees With Great Foliage

Japanese maple crimson queen tree with orange leaves on branches hanging across trunks and sunlight

The Spruce / Loren Probish

Japanese maple trees (Acer palmatum and a few other species) are prized for their delicate and colorful foliage throughout the growing season, including fall. This tree is a smallish, slow-growing species, with mature heights of 4–30 feet, depending on the cultivar. Although the tree blooms in spring, it's the palmate leaves with five-, seven-, or nine-toothed lobes that offer the real appeal. The foliage offers striking color throughout the growing season, becoming even more beautiful with the fall color change.

Most Japanese maples are suitable for USDA hardiness zones 5–8, though a few can brave zone 4 if planted in protected locations. Japanese maples should be planted in full to partial sun and in well-drained soil. In zones 7–8, they can benefit from a respite from the heat by planting them in an area with partial shade or dappled sunlight.

There are many popular cultivars that produce the familiar red foliage, but some provide brilliant green or gold tones—and even a few with bicolor leaves. While there are many ways to classify Japanese maples, leaf color is a helpful way, since the color is the reason most people plant this tree.

The following 15 Japanese maples are all great options, offering foliage ranging from red and yellow to green and variegated.

  • 01 of 14

    'Bloodgood' (Acer palmatum atropurpureum 'Bloodgood')

    Japanese maple 'Bloodgood' tree with reddish-purple leaves on branch

    The Spruce / Loren Probish

    'Bloodgood' is one of the most popular Japanese maple cultivars. It achieves a maximum size of 20 feet high with a similar spread, making it just the right size for patio landscaping. The leaves are reddish-purple in summer but tend to turn greener in full sun. At fall foliage time, the leaves deepen into crimson red. In Japanese maples, the word "atropurpureum" in the scientific name refers to plants with dark reddish-purple foliage.

    • Native Area: Japan, Korea, China
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5–8
    • Height: 15–20 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 02 of 14

    'Coonara Pygmy' (Acer palmatum 'Coonara Pygmy')

    Acer palmatum 'Coonara Pygmy'

    UBC Botanical Garden

    This dwarf cultivar grows only about 4 feet high. Bright-green spring leaves develop a yellowish cast in summer and then turn a deep pink-red in fall. The 'Coonara Pygmy' was developed from a "witch's broom" deformity found on a Japanese maple growing in Australia.

    • Native Area: Japan, Korea, China
    • USDA Growing Zones: 6–9
    • Height: 3–6 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 03 of 14

    'Crimson Queen' (Acer palmatum dissectum 'Crimson Queen')

    Japanese maple 'Crimson Queen' tree branches with weeping lace-like green and bronze colored leaves

    The Spruce / Loren Probish

    'Crimson Queen' is a small specimen, reaching a height of 8–10 feet and a spread of 10–12 feet. This petite monarch will grace any lawn with its pleasing weeping habit and dissected leaf type. It has dark-red summer leaves that mature to a crimson hue. Fall color is often a combination of yellow, red, purple, and bronze. When you see the word "dissectum" in the scientific name of a Japanese maple, it refers to foliage that's deeply cut, with a lacy texture. Such plants are sometimes referred to as "lace leaf" or "threadleaf" maples.

    • Native Area: Japan, Korea, China
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5–8
    • Height: 8–10 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 04 of 14

    'Red Dragon' (Acer palmatum dissectum 'Red Dragon')

    'Red Dragon'

    Simon McGill / Getty Images

    'Red Dragon' is a smallish cultivar with striking reddish-purple foliage that transforms into bright crimson in the fall. This tree has an upright, pendulous growth habit and makes a spectacular mounding plant in any landscape.

    • Native Area: Japan, Korea, China
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5–8
    • Height: 6–8 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    Continue to 5 of 14 below.
  • 05 of 14

    'Garnet' (Acer palmatum dissectum 'Garnet')

    Acer 'Garnet'

    Sue Taylor / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    'Garnet' is another lace-leaf Japanese maple with red leaves. The foliage remains reddish orange throughout the growing season, and then fades to purplish-green in late summer before turning bright red in fall. This cultivar grows to a mature spread of about 9–12 feet.

    • Native Area: Japan, Korea, China
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5–8
    • Height: 9–12 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 06 of 14

    'Full Moon' (Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum')

    Full Moon Maple with chartreuse leaves

    Piekiełko Szkółka Drzew / Wikimedia Commons

    The 'Full Moon' or 'Aureum' cultivar of A. shirasawanum has showy bright-yellow foliage rather than the bright green found in the parent plant. The foliage gradually deepens to yellow-green in summer, and then turns orange-red in fall. It often grows as a multistemmed shrub but can also be trained with a single trunk as a small tree.

    • Native Area: Japan
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5–7
    • Height: 16–20 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 07 of 14

    'Autumn Moon' (Acer shirasawanum 'Autumn Moon')

    Acer 'Autumn Moon'

    Krzysztof Golik / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    The 'Autumn Moon' cultivar of A. shirasawanum is one of the few Japanese maples that's hardy into the lower portions of USDA hardiness zone 4. It has a yellow-orange spring foliage that brightens into chartreuse for summer. It then turns a brilliant reddish-orange in the fall.

    • Native Area: Japan
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4–8
    • Height: 6–10 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 08 of 14

    'Beni-Kawa' (Acer palmatum 'Beni-kawa')

    Acer 'Beni-kawa'

    Piqsels

    'Beni-Kawa' is an A. palmatum cultivar that tops out at about 15 feet and is known for having colorful red bark. Soft, green spring leaves gradually turn yellow-gold through summer and into fall. It grows slowly, remaining under 7 feet high until it's about 10 years old.

    • Native Area: Japan, Korea, China
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5–9
    • Height: 12–15 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    Continue to 9 of 14 below.
  • 09 of 14

    Coral Bark Maple (Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku')

    'Sango-kaku'

    David J. Stang / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    Coral bark maple is a full-size cultivar, growing to 25 feet in height, though it's quite slow-growing. This is another type of Japanese maple with red bark that can provide good winter interest. The leaves are yellow-green when they emerge, deepening into yellow-gold by fall. In the landscape, this tree should be positioned where the attractive winter bark can be appreciated.

    • Native Area: Japan, Korea, China
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5–8
    • Height: 20–25 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 10 of 14

    'Filigree' (Acer palmatum dissectum 'Filigree')

    Filigree

    Keith Szafranski / Getty Images

    'Filigree' is a smallish cultivar of the A. palatum dissectum species, and it has the familiar lacy leaves of others in the dissectum group. The leaves are solid green through summer, turning golden in fall. The branches create a mounded shape with a cascading habit that may droop all the way to the ground.

    • Native Area: Japan, Korea, China
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5–8
    • Height: 4–6 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 11 of 14

    'Butterfly' (Acer palmatum 'Butterfly')

    Acer 'Butterfly'

    Henryr10 / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    'Butterfly' is perhaps the most common of all variegated A. palmatum cultivars. It's a shrubby tree with a rather irregular growth habit, but the green leaves have white margins and are often twisted in a manner unlike any other Japanese maples. The white portions of the leaves turn magenta or red in the fall. The unusual leaves make this an interesting bonsai plant.

    • Native Area: Japan, Korea, China
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5–8
    • Height: 7–12 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 12 of 14

    'Peaches and Cream' (Acer palmatum 'Peaches and Cream')

    'Peaches and Cream'

    Robmm21 / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    'Peaches and Cream' is a dense, shrubby cultivar that is sometimes wider than it is tall. It has variegated creamy-white leaves with dark green veins. The foliage turns yellow in fall. It's slow-growing and has been know to live for as long as 60 years. Planted in a sheltered location, it's one of the few Japanese maples known to survive in zone 4.

    • Native Area: Japan, Korea, China
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4–8
    • Height: 8–10 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    Continue to 13 of 14 below.
  • 13 of 14

    'First Ghost' (Acer palmatum 'First Ghost')

    Acer palmatum 'First Ghost'

    Amazing Maples / Flickr

    'First Ghost' is a relatively small upright tree, topping out at about 7 feet wide with a 4-foot spread. In spring, creamy white leaves are tipped with red, featuring prominent dark-green veins running throughout the leaves. In summer, the leaves shift to various shades of green and then turn yellow and orange in fall.

    • Native Area: Japan, Korea, China
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5–8
    • Height: 10–12 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 14 of 14

    'Geisha Gone Wild' (Acer palmatum 'Geisha Gone Wild')

    Acer palmatum 'Geisha Gone Wild'

    Gardenia.net

    'Geisha Gone Wild' is a sport of the popular 'Geisha,' which is one of the most spectacular of all variegated Japanese maples. 'Geisha Gone Wild' is a larger, hardier plant than 'Geisha.' In spring, the new leaves are hot pink and then age to green with flecks of white and pink in summer. They change to spectacular orange in fall. It's a slow-grower, reaching 7 feet high in about 10 years (roughly 1 foot higher than 'Geisha').

    • Native Area: Japan, Korea, China
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5–8
    • Height: 5–7 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade