Acer palmatum

Foliage of Acer palmatum

A good small- to medium-sized deciduous tree with a dense, rounded crown, the basic Japanese maple (ht 3.5-6 m) may succeed in a sheltered position in many suburbs, given sufficient moisture and good soil. This tree needs to be protected from hot afternoon sun and scorching summer winds, which turn the leaves unattractively brown before they can colour. Its shallow roots need to be kept well mulched, and it suits a cool, moist woodland setting in the shelter of taller trees. A reasonable display of red or orange autumn tones will often occur in the dainty starry leaves in warmer suburbs, though they are generally seen at their best in cooler suburbs. They are one of the later trees to colour in Sydney. It can often be difficult to grow plants right beneath the maples due to the thick network of shallow roots, but suitable companion plantings to grow with them include azaleas and Camellia.

The more fancy-leaved Japanese maple cultivars (of which there are over 300) and many other Acer species certainly seem best suited to conditions in the cooler, elevated suburbs. Some of the compact 'Dissectum' cultivars of the Japanese maple make good subjects for tubs.