Japanese maple maintenance



I was wondering what others have done with maintaining their japanese maple trees. I feel this one has gotten out of control with how close to the house it was planted. Any recommendations for pruning that won’t end up with the tree just rebelling with tons of new tiny branches?

Also, last year several branches had no leaves on the east side. I thought this might be from the shade created by a nearby tree we had removed this fall, but from what I can see there arent any buds on those branches again this year.

Ideally, I would like the tree to be close in height to the gutter line, if not like a foot or so below. But I feel like that might not be feasible with this type of maple.


Funny . . . I have the same problem - and was just outside this week, looking at all the bare limbs. I’m afraid to ‘top’ it. I don’t know if doing that will spur it on to create new lower growth or kill it. ?
They grow so darn slow. They are very pretty, but those stinkin’ whirly seed pods drive me nuts, blowing all over the yard and rooting!


Is it Japanese maple or red maple?


Beautiful tree. I suggest that you don’t simply top it but to remove a few of the taller limbs each year until it is near the size you want. Hard to explain.


A few cuts/limb removal each season will result in a smaller and more natural look but it will take time. Once the tree is smaller it only take a little pruning each year to keep the size you desire. Japanese maples are one of my favorite yard trees.
maple tree


Thank you everyone, this gives me hope. When I told my husband if there wasn’t a way to start to get it down in size in a few years I was considering (in a few year) having it removed and planting something more size appropriate. He looked sad, it really is a beautiful tree.

I’m pretty sure it’s a Japanese Red Maple, it was planted before we bought the house so I’m unsure of the exact kind. I’d guess it’s a good 20’ tall and at least 15’ wide with green leaves in the spring that turn a beautiful medium dark red.

Luckily I don’t have all the seed pods, or at least not enough to notice falling all over, I feel for you PomGranny. In Oregon we had a huge tree (I’m terrible with plant names I’m realizing, but my father-in-law said it was a tree common in the midwest) that had these big seed pods. In the fall, tons of leaves. In the winter old, hard, seed pod shells would drop. In the spring TONS of blossoms, which were beautiful until the entire yard was brown with them. In the summer new seed pods would drop. It was a crazy tree that just made a mess year round, and now that I live in the midwest I am thankful I don’t own another one of these trees.


After you do the thinning out and light heading during the winter, apply the principle of summer pruning to maintain the size of the tree.


I see no problems. It’s the perfect distance from the house and a gorgeous shape. I wouldn’t touch it. I’m not sure what’s going on with that leaning tree, however. Edit: It’s your neighbors tree. I see. And surely yes, some of the interior you might remove to improve the shape but don’t begin topping it Victoria. That’s going to open up a whole new bag of problems you don’t want to commit to, i.e. sparse/thin and thick new growth from newly pruned spots. It’s a sure way to ruin a perfect tree.

I would never remove that, Victoria.



I think if it were like 3 feet further from the house I wouldnt be itching to “fix” it. If you zoom in you can see the branches are getting all up in the gutters, and I’m pretty sure that’s one of the spots where the squirrels are getting in our attic.

I never noticed the lean to that tree before, I had to go take a look just now. It’s straight for the first good 12’ and then starts leaning out. It looks like it used to have a counter limb that was removed by neighbors or wind. They had a big tree removed from their front yard last year, I wonder if that one is next on their list?


What you want to do then Victoria is cut the side branches off on all sides of the tree to keep a more natural shape and while you’re at it get in the inside of the tree and (be very careful) and see if there are any branches that are growing inward or “crossing” and pruning those out will give the tree air circulation which trees always appreciate.

Don’t cut off the side branches all the way up though unless it’s necessary to get the branches off of the gutters. Just trim as necessary. Then go around the tree with your shoes circling several times to even it up with the cuts you started that are the ones heading toward your house.



That sounds like a good plan, thanks!

Do you recommend pruning maples now or waiting until next winter? I’m finding mix information online, unlike with oaks which the internet seems to fully agree they need to be pruned in the winter to lessen the chance of wilt.


Nah, prune it up now zone 5b IL.



I just noticed the cut marks you added to the photo, thanks! I’m excited that the two you marked on the left I think are the branches that did not have any leaves on them last year. Then the bark on the branch you marked on the lower right has some bad splitting bark on the other side. Not terrible splitting, but it does stand out when standing on the other side of the tree.


Perfect, thanks!


Sure thing.