The purple, paired leaves (greener the less sun getting to them) have 5 pointed, deep lobes with sharply toothed margins and they turn brilliant red in autumn. Buds are ovoid in shape, 2 to 3cm long and reddish in colour. Spring flowers are small and red/purple before the red, winged fruits (“samaras“) appear hanging in clusters in summer/autumn.
What to use it for
A good, and commonly used, tree for a small to medium size garden which can provide shade in the summer before its glorious autumn display. It suits most styles of garden, is low maintenance and can be an interesting focal point. It suitable for being grown in containers (so long as it is kept well watered) and could also be effective in a large rock garden.
How to look after it
Ensure that it is watered in drought conditions, particularly in the first few years of growth.
How to prune it
While establishing an Acer palmatum the plant should be staked to provide it with additional support and pruned to remove any badly placed or crossing stems. Once established pruning should be kept to the bare minimum – only removing dead, damaged, diseased and crossing stems.
Any pruning should be done in winter when the tree is completely dormant. If done at any other time the plant will ‘bleed’ sap and be weakened as a result. Minor pruning of thin stems could be undertaken in late summer or early autumn if necessary.
How to propagate it
Propagate by softwood cuttings in mid-spring (you may need to bring the parent plant under cover to get it to put on enough growth to take the cutting this early) or early summer. Alternatively carry out simple layering in mid/late autumn or early spring.
Other useful information
The ‘palmatum’ species of acers are so named since their lobed leaves resemble outstretched hands, ie ‘palms’.