Propagating Japanese Maples from Cuttings


Propagate Japanese Maples to add color to your yard.


There’s a fun and inexpensive way to get Japanese maples for your yard. If you have kids, it could also be a great educational experience. (See end of article for link to science content standards and suggestions. )

I’ll never forget the day my black lab Maxine came up the driveway with a neighbor’s soon to be planted large Japanese maple in her teeth. Thankfully it was not damaged as I probably could not have afforded to replace it. This is definitely not the way to acquire a Japanese maple!

Get a Free Japanese Maple

The Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) is one of the most popular landscape trees. You can buy one for your yard from under $5 for a seedling to up to $200 or more for a good sized tree. You might consider growing one either from seed or from a cutting.

Ask neighbors or friends if you can take a couple of cuttings from their trees, or simply collect seeds from the ground in the Fall. Many plants can be cut and rooted. Some can simply be rooted in water. The Japanese maple should be rooted in soil. Here are instructions for growing Japanese maples for your yard from either cuttings or seeds.

Deciding Between Propagating Japanese Maples from Cuttings or Growing From Seed

If you root a cutting, it will look like the parent tree. However, if you grow from seed, the tree may be a little different. Some nurseries graft Japanese maples but this is a more complicated process than rooting. If you root a cutting, it will be important to either be very diligent in keeping the little tree misted throughout the day by hand, or use an automatic misting system.

Rooting the Japanese Maple Cutting

The process of rooting a cutting from a Japanese maple is very simple.

  • Prepare a pot or flat by filling it with moist potting soil.
  • Find new growth on the tree and cut that small branch.
  • Remove the lower leaves from the branch and leave two or three leaves toward the top of the cutting.
  • Place the branch into the soil being sure to bury at least one leaf node (be sure the leaf has been removed first). Before planting it, you can first dip the branch into water, then in rooting hormone as this may insure the branch will sprout roots. However,  you might have good success without it.
  • Place the pot inside a plastic bag, but leave the bag open for air. The purpose of this step is to keep the plant moist at all times.
  • The pot should be in a warm place, but not direct light.
  • Using a hand sprayer, mist the cutting several times a day and keep the soil moist. If you’re fortunate enough to have an automatic misting system, you won’t need to hand mist.
  • When you begin to see vigorous new leaves growing, that means you have successfully grown roots!

Plant Your New Tree

Hopefully you plant the tree before it becomes root bound in the pot. A plant is root bound when the roots inside the pot begin to go around the pot. If this happens, take a pair of scissors and trim the roots before planting. If you are planting shortly after new leaves begin to grow, your plant will most likely not be root bound.

Dig a hole about the size of the pot your tree is in. Put a little pile of soil in the center of the hole. Gently remove the tree from the pot and shake some soil off of the roots. Spread the roots out over the pile of soil and gently add soil to fill in the hole. Tamp gently. Water. Small new trees need to be kept moist. Their root systems are still shallow and they can dry out and die quickly, so keep a good eye on your tree.

The Soil for Your Japanese Maple

Give your trees a head start by providing rich live soil. One way to do this is to add mychorrizal innoculant into the soil. Mychorrizae will continue to give for the life of the tree, and the cost is so minimal. Do this simple and inexpensive step and your tree will look fabulous in no time at all! Learn how and why it is such an effective soil amendment.

If you want to, you can check the pH of your soil and make adjustments for a Japanese maple.

Growing Japanese Maples From Seed

Check back for a post on this topic.

Science Content Standards

You can use science content standards at home to enrich your child’s science education in a fun way. Here are simple instructions.

What are your experiences with rooting Japanese maples or any other type of tree?

About Christiane Marshall

Christiane Marshall is a freelance writer/copywriter and special education teacher living on 173 acres in Southeast Ohio. She is a minister's wife, mother of five grown children and a grandmother of one new baby girl. Christiane specializes in copywriting but also enjoys writing articles on many subjects including organic gardening, education, special education and advocacy, faith, travel, and animal rescue.
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5 Responses to Propagating Japanese Maples from Cuttings

  1. Marcie in Canada says:

    So glad I found this as I need a new project for the kids.

  2. Adam says:

    Hi Christiane,

    Thanks for such a great post. I’m anxious to try our method for rooting from a cutting. I just have two questions about the process.

    1. You say, “Place the pot inside a plastic bag, but leave the bag open for air. The purpose of this step is to keep the plant moist at all times.” What should this look like? In my mind, I picture a pot placed inside a plastic bag, as if it were in a trash can, with the opening at the top. The top of the bag is left open and untied, left to flop down over the to the side. Is the a correct assumption? Is there another wasy in which you do this?

    2. Is there a partcular time of year to perform this process? I’m assuming that, since this is an indoor process, it really doesn’t matter what time of year it is, but I’d just like to confirm.

    Thanks again for the great information!

    • Hi Adam, Thanks for your questions. I’ve been on vacation and I apologize for answering so late. Since writing this article I have learned that the best time to propagate Japanese maples is in the Fall after the parent tree has gone dormant. That also depends on where you are located as in some areas trees may not fully become dormant. You may want to call or visit your local extension service for the best time to do this in your area.

      I have also learned that a great way to give the tree a better chance at rooting is to make a small wound about 1/2 inch long below the lowest node on the cutting. Your tree will need to overwinter outside. That doesn’t mean you can’t root one earlier in the season.

      There is also an interesting technique used by professional nurseries where the cuttings are kept upside down until Spring. You may want to ask at a nursery for more information if you wanted to try that.

      For number 1, yes you are correct. You don’t want to close the bag. You can also simply put the cutting in a flat with some type of protection around it, such as straw.

      You may want to consider using economically priced soil inoculant in the Spring once your plant has roots. It will make a huge difference in the health, beauty and growth of your tree! The microscopic life of soil can always use a boost, and you only have to inoculate your tree once to give it a lifetime advantage! The microscopic life replenishes itself for the life of your tree!

      Hope this helps! Feel free to visit with more comments, and I’d love to find out how your project turns out! Blessings, Christiane

      • Adam says:

        Hi Christiane-

        Thanks for replying with the great information. I’ve actually already tried to root some cuttings. A friend was kind enough to let me take a few cuttings from her lace leaf shrub. I ended up placing the cuttings in small pots, which I placed into 2-gallon zip-lock bags (leaving the tops open), then placed a clear plastic waste basket liner over all the zip-lock bags. I just remove it when I need to mist the cuttings (2 – 3 times daily). I’m hoping that this will provide adequate light and air. If this doesn’t work, I suppose I’ll try again in the fall. I’m in the Baltimore, MD/Washington, D.C. area, so I think that the trees would definately go dormant.

        This is going to be a real test, with me not knowing exactly what I’m doing. I’ve already noticed a few of the cuttings starting to drop their leaves, and am hoping that this is normal. I’m just making sure that I keep the stems and soil moist.

        Thanks for the tips. I’ve talked to my local nurseries about some questions I’ve had about other plants, but they aren’t too helpful. Mostly, their employees are college students, employed for the season, so they aren’t too willing to go out of their way to help. It’s hard to determine which employees are the “experts” this time of year. I may have to wait until the late summer, or fall, the speak to someone who actually knows anything. From what I’ve read, this process may take as long as 2 months, before I see any new growth. If, by that time, the cuttings don’t do anything, I should be able to get some answers.

        Thanks again, and hope you had a great vacation!