Japanese Maple Companion Plants

Japanese maples are known for their bright autumn foliage of red, yellow, and orange shades and have long been revered by tree lovers and gardeners around the world. Truly a tree of four seasons, they offer beautiful leaves with textures ranging from bold to delicate; striking shapes and forms, they come in a wide range of sizes and shapes. Weeping, cascading, dwarf, straight and narrow, there are Japanese maples for every garden situation.

Also, many Japanese maple varieties show a new, colorful spring growth. And although they make large specimens in the landscape, they are also well suited for container cultivation. Depending on the selection, these robust trees grow from zone 5 to 9.

A single specimen of Japanese maple can provide an eye-catching focal point, but by combining it with shrubs, trees and herbaceous plants, you can turn your landscape into a garden that will provide beauty all year round.

If you are positioning your Japanese maples or maples (it is difficult to limit yourself to one), you should use evergreen trees as a background. This will help to show the structural qualities of your maple, especially in winter.

Evergreen shrubs such as tea olive, and osmanthus scents, contrast and complement Japanese maples. Their tiny but powerfully fragrant flowers are a bonus. Other evergreen trees with the broad leaves of the attractions and a garden include rhododendrons, the hollies of America, Ilex opaca, anise, anise of Florida, and Illicium floridanum and anise yellow, Illicium parviflorum. Florida leucothoe, also known as Agarista populfolia, provides a mass of cascading foliage.

Tall, upright conifers such as Cryptomeria and the native hemlock , Tsuga canadensis, are also an effective evergreen setting for Japan’s maple trees. Depending on the size and style of your garden, the hemlocks can be pruned as a formal hedge or allowed to grow into large, graceful trees.

Flowering trees include both native and exotic fringed Chionanthus virginicus and Chionanthus retusus, as well as apple trees and smoke trees. All these selections offer beautiful flowers in spring.

The Virginia cob, Itea virginca ‘Henry’s Garnet’ and the oak-leaved hydrangea quercifolia are two large native shrubs that contribute to the autumn scene with their own version of autumn foliage in red and bordeaux colors.

Do not forget about the soil layer. Among the ferns that thrive without much “trouble” are such local ones as Christmas fern, cinnamon fern and royal fern. A non-native fern, but which plays well with others, is the autumn fern, Dryopteris erythrosora. A gallon plant will spread quickly to cover an area of 3′ x 3′ or more, so make sure you give this badass plenty of room. All these ferns are excellent companions for Japanese maples.

The lenten rose, the Helleborus x orientalis and the amsonia hubrichtii, the bluestar of Arkansas offer months of interest in the landscape. Arkansas blue star has light blue flowers in spring and golden yellow willow leaf in autumn. The gold gingers rustic, native members of the genus Asarum, make great plant accents in combination with ferns and other plants in the forest. Their distinctive, often spotted evergreen leaves stand out on the forest floor.

These are just some of the options for companion plants that will happily coexist in the garden with the Japanese maple trees. When choosing plants to grow in combination with your maple trees, consider their cultural needs and group those with similar requirements (soil, moisture and light).

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