Can Japanese Maple Trees Be Pruned? [Best Time of Year and Pruning Tips]

Japanese Maple trees are popular due to their stunning looks but can be challenging to care for. So, can Japanese Maple trees be pruned, and if so, how should you prune them to help keep them healthy? Let’s find out!

Japanese Maple trees can be pruned as part of their care. However, you need to prune them selectively and be careful not to over-prune them, as this can negatively affect their health. Only prune dead, diseased, dying, low-hanging, and crisscrossing branches from these trees. 

This article will explore how to prune Japanese Maple trees successfully to help the tree thrive in your care, as well as w few tips to ensure you prune the tree correctly, so keep reading!

Can Japanese Maple Trees Be Pruned?

There are 24 species of Japanese maple trees that come in various colors that will bring life and color into your garden. 

When Japanese Maples are healthy, they can grow quite large and wild, which might not be the look you want in your garden, so the only option is to prune it carefully. 

Japanese Maples can be pruned if they are growing out of shape and are beginning to take over an area of your garden. 

Knowing how to prune these trees and what and why to prune from them before you start making your cuts is essential. 

Let’s look at why you may want to consider pruning them in the first place. 

Why You Should Prune A Japanese Maple Tree

There are several reasons to consider pruning a Japanese maple tree or any other tree. Below are some reasons you may want to consider taking on the job. 

Tree Health

Pruning Japanese Maples allows you to remove any dead or dying branches from the trees, which could begin to damage the tree’s health if they are left on the tree. 

You can also remove diseased branches before the disease can infect the rest of the tree, which could cause the tree to die. When you remove the diseased branches, you reduce the risk of infection and promote new growth. 

Proper pruning encourages better light penetration and air circulation, which can eventually prevent the tree from dying. 

Growth Control

When a tree is allowed to grow naturally, it will take on all shapes and forms. You’ve likely seen pictures of trees that are 100 years old or older. These trees are massive, with limbs hanging everywhere. 

While beautiful for trees out in nature, most homeowners opt for pruning to help control the size and shape of their trees. Eventually, as the tree matures, the tree limbs can start getting in your way as you work in your garden. 

Pruning these branches will make your life easier navigating through your garden. In addition, you won’t have to worry about the tree growing into your neighbor’s property, which can become a hassle when you sell your home. 


Pruning ensures the tree remains visually appealing. Without proper pruning, a tree can grow awkwardly or unbalanced, overgrown, or diseased. 

An overgrown tree can become too large for confined spaces, pathways or become a hazard when a strong storm comes. A strong storm can cause falling branches, injuring property or people. 

How To Prune A Japanese Maple Tree

Now that you understand why people prune their trees let’s look at how to do it. 

Before you begin pruning your Japanese Maple, you must ensure you have the right equipment to prune the tree. 

Here’s what you need:

  • Sharp pruning shears: These are small handheld shears you can purchase online or at any home improvement store. They are perfect for cutting branches up to one inch in diameter. 
  • Looping shears: Similar to pruning shears, but can cut branches up to two inches in diameter. 
  • Pruning saw: Use this to cut the larger branches. 
  • Safety gear: Remember the safety glasses, gloves, and a hard hat when working with electrical equipment or cutting branches. The gear can prevent injuries if a branch falls on your or a twig tries going into your eye. 
  • Ladder: A sturdy ladder like the Little Giant will help you reach those hard-to-reach branches. 
  • Rope: This comes in handy if you have to remove large branches and you don’t feel comfortable cutting it all the way through. 

If you feel unsafe pruning the tree, consider contacting a professional. 

Step-by-Step Pruning Process

Step 1: Depending on the type of tree’s age, will determine the best time to prune it. For instance, you can prune a mature maple tree in the winter but never want to prune a sapling during that time. 

Step 2: Identify which branches you want to prune. It’s best to prune diseased, damaged, or any branches rubbing against each other. Those are the ones you’ll want to remove first. 

Step 3: Gather your tools: Place your tools next to you. The last thing you want to do is get in the middle of the job and realize you don’t have the necessary tools. 

Step 4: Thin out the tree: Like us, trees need sunlight and air. So it’s essential to remove any cross-growing branches that are suffocating it. 

Step 5: Keep The Shape In Mind: When trimming or cutting the branches, remember not to cut too much; otherwise, the tree may look lopsided. Also, when removing diseased branches, make sure you remove the entire branch. Otherwise, you leave the tree vulnerable. 

Step 6: Clean Up: Remove all the fallen debris, branches, and twigs from the base of the tree. 

When Is The Best Time To Prune Japanese Maple Trees? 

One of the main questions asked by people caring for Japanese Maple trees is when is the best time to prune these Maples? 

This is an excellent question, as pruning your Japanese Maple at the wrong time can negatively affect the tree’s health, growth, and overall development. 

If you prune your Japanese Maple tree selectively, then you can prune the tree at any time of the year. However, Japanese Maples are easier to prune in the early summer and winter months. 

This is because the Maple will not have leaves that could obscure a branch that needs to be pruned, making it easier to prune the tree. During this time, the tree is not in its active growth stage, so you will not interrupt its development. 

Tips For Pruning Japanese Maple Trees Successfully

Pruning a Japanese Maple tree can be challenging, but it’s worth it to help keep the tree happy and healthy and keep your garden looking tidy. 

When you prune your Japanese Maple, you want to ensure you do the best job you can, so your Maple can thrive in your care.  

Let’s review some of these tips to prune your Japanese Maple correctly. 

Let The Maple Tree Establish Itself First 

Before you prune your Japanese Maple tree, you need to ensure the tree is established and fully matured. Pruning a sapling while it’s still in development can lead to unwanted growth and unhealthy growth to start developing on the tree. 

You must leave the tree and let it grow and mature for at least 15 years before you start pruning it and trying to shape it for your garden. 

During this time, you can do minor pruning to remove dead, dying, or diseased branches, but you need to keep the pruning to a minimum. 

Don’t Over-Prune Your Japanese Maple Tree

When you prune your Japanese Maple tree, be extremely selective in what you prune. You need to avoid over-pruning the tree as this can affect its overall look and make it look bare and unhealthy. 

Over-pruning your Japanese Maple can also affect the tree’s health, as it has fewer branches to help with its natural processes and protect it. 

So, prune the tree slowly and take a step back now and then. It’s better to under-prune the tree than over-prune it, as you can also go back and prune more later. 

Call A Professional If You Are Unsure

If you are unsure how to prune your Japanese Maple correctly or are nervous about over-pruning the tree, call a local professional tree trimmer to help you. 

They can advise on the best branches to prune and show you how to do it correctly the next time it needs to be pruned. 

Final Word

Pruning Japanese Maple trees can be challenging if you don’t know what you are doing. However, the steps above will help you get started. 

As you start pruning your trees, you’ll find a workflow that works for you. 

Good luck pruning your Japanese Maple!

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