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How to Propagate Japanese Maples from Cuttings?

Welcome to the world of Japanese maples, where the beauty of nature and the joy of propagation are interlinked.

With their pretty foliage and graceful form, Japanese maple trees have captivated the hearts of gardeners and enthusiasts worldwide. Their vibrant colors and delicate leaves add a touch of elegance to any garden.

While many people choose to purchase mature Japanese maples, there is something truly magical about growing your own Japanese maple tree from cuttings.

But the problem is that most of us don’t know the right method to do so.

Today in this blog post, we will discuss the art and science of successfully propagating Japanese maple cuttings.

So, get ready to discover the joy of creating new life from cuttings!

How to Propagate Japanese Maples from Cuttings
Late Japanese Maple Cuttings -via Reddit

Propagate Japanese Maple Cuttings!

It is really challenging to resist the urge to get an extra Japanese maple tree when you see how beautiful and colorful they can become.


But if you desire to expand your collection of Japanese maple trees, there is a surprising solution for you.

You won’t need a trip back to the nursery to buy another masterpiece because here is a game change revelation:

You can produce a whole new Japanese maple tree just by using a cutting from your already existing Japanese maple.

Though it takes some time to grow into a full-grown tree, it’s a rewarding project for patient gardeners.

But how can you do that?

Well! There is a lot to discuss about Japanese maple and its propagation methods.

Let’s start with a basic introduction to the Japanese maples.

Japanese Maple Tree!

Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) is famous for its stunning beauty and charming presence.

These ornamental trees originate from Japan, and their popularity has spread worldwide due to their unique features and visual appeal.

Want to know why they are loved so much?

Japanese maple trees are cherished for their graceful, delicate form, plus the wide range of colors displayed by their foliage.:

From vibrant shades of red and orange to subtle hues of green and yellow, the leaves of this beautiful tree create an incredible display throughout the seasons.

One of the defining features is their unique leaf shapes, which can be:

  • Palmate

  • Dissected, or

  • Lacy

The palmate leaves have multiple lobes resembling an open hand.

Japanese Maple Tree CUTTINGS For Propagation - How to Propagate Japanese Maples from Cuttings
Japanese Maple Tree CUTTINGS For Propagation – via Reddit

While the dissected ones are finely divided, giving them a delicate appearance.

Japanese maple also comes in various sizes, ranging from dwarf varieties to larger cultivars.

Each variety has its own unique characteristics, such as:

  • Leaf coloration

  • Growth habit

  • Tolerance to sun or shade

Allowing for a different selection to suit different preferences and garden environments.

Looking to grow Japanese maple cuttings?

Here are some things you must know before moving toward the successful propagation of Japanese maples from cuttings.

What Do You Need for Successful Japanese Maple Propagation?

To successfully grow cuttings from a Japanese maple, you’ll need a few essential tools and materials to create the ideal conditions for propagation.

These items will help you take the necessary steps to nurture and cultivate healthy new plants.

Let’s talk about them in detail:

Pruning Shears or Sharp Knife

You’ll require a pair of sharp pruning shears or a sterilized knife to take cuttings from a Japanese maple tree.

Remember! The most crucial thing is that they must be sharp!

Sharp enough so that you can snip right through the branch in a single clean motion.

Doing so can minimize any potential harm to your Japanese maple tree while maximizing the chances of successful root growth of the cuttings.

Nevlers 8 Bypass Pruning Shears for Gardening How to Propagate Japanese Maples from Cuttings
Nevlers 8 Bypass Pruning Shears for Gardening – via

Sterile Containers

You definitely need some space to place your baby Japanese maple. 

  • A clean and sterile container is crucial for housing the cuttings for successful rooting medium.

  • Besides cleaning, your container must be deep enough so your cuttings can stand straight inside.

Small pots, trays, or propagation trays with drainage holes are also suitable options.

NOTE: Ensure the containers are sanitized to prevent the introduction of harmful bacteria or fungi that could hinder root development.

Well-Draining Rooting Medium

A suitable rooting medium can make or break the total attempt of propagation.

So, you better prepare something special from which water can easily pass through instead of pooling in the soil.

In an instant, the rooting medium you prepare should have the ability to retain moisture in order to prevent the roots from drying out.

Let me tell you what it is!

A rooting mix of peat moss and perlite or vermiculite is commonly used in this regard.

This combination offers good water retention and drainage, allowing the roots of your cuttings to receive adequate moisture while preventing excess water accumulation that can lead to root rot.

Rooting Hormone

Applying a rooting hormone can significantly enhance the success rate of rooting Japanese maple cuttings.

Rooting hormones contain growth-promoting substances that stimulate the development of roots.

Consider using a rooting hormone powder or a liquid rooting hormone to increase the chances of successful propagation.

Rooting hormone powder is easier to work with, but it is less effective than liquid form.

Related Article: What is the Best Rooting Hormone in the Market in 2023?

Plastic Bags or Humidity Domes

Creating a controlled environment with high humidity is beneficial for root cuttings.

Clear plastic bags or humidity domes can be placed over the containers to maintain moisture levels and create a greenhouse-like effect.

These clear plastic bags help prevent excessive moisture loss and increase the success rate of root formation.

How To Propagate Japanese Maple Cuttings? | Step-By-Step Guide!

Propagating Japanese maple cuttings offers several advantages for both seasoned gardeners and beginners alike.

One of the key benefits is the ability to maintain and propagate specific traits you love in a particular variety.

Let’s discuss in detail how you can propagate Japanese maple cuttings.

Identify the Right Time

The timing really matters in taking the Japanese maple cuttings.

Let me tell you how?

It is far easier to propagate softwood cuttings of a Japanese maple as compared to hardwood. 

So, determining the optimal time for taking Japanese maple cuttings is crucial for successful propagation.

The ideal period is usually during the tree’s dormant season, specifically in the late spring or the beginning of summer.

At this time, the tree’s energy is focused on root development, making it more receptive to cuttings.

Selecting Suitable Cuttings

Selecting healthy parent trees is essential to ensure the quality and vigor of the propagated Japanese maple plants.

Look for a Japanese maple with robust growth, no signs of disease or pest infestation, and display the desired traits you wish to propagate.

When selecting tree cuttings for propagating, opt for young, non-flowering shoots that are approximately pencil-thick in diameter.

These tree branches have a higher chance of successful rooting.

Avoid overly mature or woody branches, as they may be less responsive to rooting.

Apart from that, you must consider some other things for the successful propagation of Japanese maple tree through cuttings, including:

Right Habit

Check the tree thoroughly to determine the final size and shape.

There are three main types of maples regarding their size:

If you’d love to have a smaller Japanese maple in your small garden or a large container, go for the dwarf variety.

Don’t know which are the dwarf varieties of Japanese maple?

Don’t worry!

Dwarf varieties include “Red dragons” or “Little Princesses” that grow to a maximum height of 8 and 5 ft., respectively. 

Is it shorter for your garden?

Listen! A weeping Japanese maple variety like “Crimson Queen” provides more width for the people who want to grow a hedge.

Apart from that, if you are looking for a tall and colorful Japanese Maple, “Bloodgood” or “Purple Ghost” are better options for you.

They specifically range between 10 and 20 ft.

Correct Shape

When you find a suitable Japanese maple variety for your garden, it’s time to pick the correct shape of an individual tree.

Choose the tree whose shape is attractive to you. It is because the cuttings will naturally grow into that shape as the tree gets larger.

You can also have some pruning to maintain the shape of the cuttings.

But it is better to pick a tree with a shape you like when it’s young instead of trying to change it as it gets older.

Make Clean Cuts

When preparing the cuttings, it’s crucial to make clean and precise cuts to enhance their chances of successful rooting.

Follow these techniques for optimal results:

1.        Locate a suitable branch: Choose a healthy tree branch that is approximately pencil-thick in diameter and free from any signs of disease or damage.

2.      Position the cutting: Hold the branch securely and make a clean, 45-degree-angle cut just below a node (where leaves emerge). Aim to have a cutting about 4-6 inches long, including a few sets of leaves.

3.      Remove excess foliage: Trim away the lower leaves, leaving only a few sets of leaves at the top. It reduces moisture loss and directs the plant’s energy toward root development.

Apply Rooting Hormones

Now prepare a small container with the rooting hormone according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Dip the cut end into the rooting hormone, ensuring that the hormone covers the lower 1-2 inches of the cutting.

Tap off any excess hormone powder (if you used hormone powder instead of liquid rooting hormone) and carefully insert the treated end of the cutting into the prepared rooting medium.

You can prepare the rooting medium by these simple steps:

  • In a clean container, combine equal parts peat moss and perlite or vermiculite.

  • Thoroughly mix the components until well blended.

  • Moisten the mixture to a slightly damp consistency, ensuring it’s not too wet or dry.

Grow Gardener’s Note: Remember to handle the rooting hormone carefully and follow the instructions provided, as different products may have specific guidelines.

Providing Optimal Conditions!

To promote the successful rooting of Japanese maple cuttings, it’s crucial to create a suitable microclimate that mirrors the ideal conditions for root development.

This microclimate provides the necessary warmth, humidity, and protection to support the growth of new roots.

To create the microclimate:

  • Place the container with the cuttings in a location that offers bright, indirect light. Avoid exposing them to direct sunlight, which can cause excessive heat and potential damage.

  • Shield the cuttings from harsh environmental conditions, such as strong winds or extreme temperatures, which can hinder root development.

  • Consider using a clear plastic bag or a humidity dome to cover the container. A clear plastic bag will create a greenhouse-like environment that helps retain moisture and increases humidity around the cuttings.

Maintaining the correct moisture level is necessary for the successful growth of the cuttings.

But it is not a simple task regarding Japanese maples.

So, it is also vital to discuss how to water correctly to maintain the moisture level.

  • Keep the rooting medium slightly moist but not soggy. Overwatering can lead to root rot, while underwatering can cause the cuttings to dry out. Water the medium when it feels slightly dry, using a gentle stream to avoid displacing the cuttings.

  • Use a fine mist sprayer to mist the leaves and the inside of the covering to maintain high humidity. It helps prevent excessive moisture loss through transpiration and promotes the health and development of the cuttings.

Regularly monitor the moisture levels, temperature, and humidity within the microclimate and adjust as needed.

By providing proper care and optimal conditions, you can see the signs of rooting within a few weeks.

Transplanting Rooted Cuttings!

Transplanting rooted Japanese maple cuttings into the final planting site should be done when the plants have developed a robust root system.

Proper planting site preparation and soil conditions are crucial for successfully establishing the rooted cuttings.

Follow these steps to transplant the rooted cuttings into the prepared planting site:

  1. Gently remove the rooted cuttings, being careful not to damage the roots.

  2. Place the root ball into the prepared planting hole, ensuring the top of the root ball is level with or slightly above the surrounding soil.

  3. Backfill the hole with the amended soil, firming it gently around the root ball to eliminate air pockets.

  4. Water the newly transplanted cuttings thoroughly to settle the soil and provide moisture for root establishment.

  5. Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the plant, leaving a gap around the trunk to prevent moisture buildup.

Monitor the transplanted cuttings closely during the initial period after transplanting.  

Related Article: How to Transplant a Japanese Maple – A 12 Steps Guide

With proper care, the transplanted rooted cuttings will establish themselves in their new location and grow into healthy and beautiful Japanese maple trees.

Are There Any Alternative Methods for Propagating Japanese Maple Tree, Apart from Cuttings?

Aside from using cuttings, alternative methods are available for propagating Japanese maple trees.

These methods offer gardeners additional options to expand their collection or share their favorite cultivars.

Let’s explore some of these alternative propagation methods:


Grafting is a common and effective technique used to propagate Japanese maple tree.

It involves joining a desired variety, the scion, onto a compatible rootstock.

The scion is a small piece of the desired tree, often a bud or shoot, which is carefully attached to the rootstock.

This method allows for the replication of specific characteristics found in the scion, such as leaf shape, color, or growth habit.

Grafting is typically done during the dormant season, and with proper care, the grafted Japanese maple can develop into a mature tree.

Related Article: How to Graft a Japanese Maple | 6 Effortless Steps!

Air Layering

Air layering is another technique you can use to propagate your Japanese maple.

This method involves creating a new plant by encouraging the growth of roots on a stem while it is still attached to the parent tree.

  • To air-layer a Japanese maple, select a healthy and flexible branch.

  • Make a small incision or remove a strip of bark from the chosen branch and apply a rooting hormone to stimulate root growth.

  • Surround the wounded area with a moist medium, such as sphagnum moss or a mixture of peat and perlite, and cover it with plastic wrap to create a sealed environment.

  • Over time, roots will form in the wounded area.

Once a substantial root system has developed, the rooted section can be separated from the parent tree and transplanted as a new individual plant.


The division method is commonly used for clump-forming Japanese maples or those with multiple stems arising from the base.

This technique carefully separates the plant into smaller sections, each with its own root system.

  • Start by digging up the entire plant and gently dividing it into smaller clumps using a sharp, clean tool.

  • Ensure that each divided section has sufficient roots and shoots for independent growth.

  • Transplant the divided clumps into suitable locations or containers.

  • Provide them with proper care and maintenance; ultimately, they will establish themselves as individual plants.

Tissue Culture

Tissue culture, also known as micropropagation, is a more advanced method of propagating Japanese maples.

  • It involves growing new plants from small tissue samples in a laboratory setting.In tissue culture, plant cells are placed in a nutrient-rich agar gel, allowing them to develop into tiny plantlets.

  • These plantlets are then transferred to a sterile growth medium to further develop into young plants.

This method allows for the rapid production of large numbers of plants in a controlled environment, ensuring uniformity and reducing the risk of disease transmission.

Grow Gardener’s Note: It’s important to note that some techniques, such as grafting and tissue culture, may require specialized knowledge and equipment. So, it is better to get a complete understanding of them before practicing.

re There Any Special Considerations for Winterizing the Propagated Japanese Maples?

Winter Preparation and Winter Care for Japanese maple Bonsai

Winterizing propagated Japanese maples is essential to their care, especially in regions with cold or freezing temperatures.

Providing proper protection during the winter months helps ensure the survival and healthy growth of these young plants.

Some considerations in this regard include:

Cold Hardiness

Different cultivars of Japanese maples have varying degrees of cold hardiness.

Before winterizing, it’s essential to understand the specific cold hardiness rating of the propagated Japanese maple.


It’s crucial to prepare Japanese maples for winter well before the first frost.

It allows the plants to adapt and become more resistant to colder temperatures.

Aim to begin winterizing preparations a few weeks before the onset of freezing conditions.


Applying a layer of organic mulch around the base of the propagated Japanese maple helps insulate the roots and protect them from temperature fluctuations.

Use wood chips, straw, or shredded bark and apply a layer approximately 2 to 4 inches thick.

NOTE: Ensure the mulch is spread evenly and kept away from the trunk to prevent moisture buildup and potential rot.

Anti-Desiccant Spray

Applying an anti-desiccant spray to the foliage of the propagated Japanese maple can help reduce moisture loss during winter.

These sprays create a thin, protective film on the leaves that helps prevent dehydration caused by cold winds and low humidity.

Follow the instructions on the product label when applying the spray.


Adequate hydration is essential for winter survival.

Ensure that the propagated Japanese maple receives sufficient moisture before the ground freezes.

A deep watering session is recommended to allow water to penetrate the root zone.

However, avoid overwatering, as this can lead to root rot in waterlogged soil.

That’s all.

Now it’s time to wrap up the talk here.


Propagating Japanese maples from cuttings is a rewarding attempt that allows you to witness the magic of creating new life while preserving and maintaining the desired traits.

You just have to gather some required stuff before getting started so that you can do the propagation correctly.

After getting the tools, propagate your Japanese maples by following the simple steps mentioned above.

Make sure to follow each step carefully to get the desired result.

Now it’s time to start and experience the wonders of propagating Japanese maples.

Begin your journey of growing and nurturing these magnificent trees and create a splendid garden.

Happy propagating!

Moiz Atiq.