Upright Japanese Maples [5 Stunning Varieties!]

Japanese maples have two branch-growing habits: Weeping and Upright.

I’ve previously written about weeping-style Japanese maples, so I will explore the maples that grow upright in this article.

You might want an upright maple over a weeping one for a few reasons. Their appearance resembles more-so of a standard tree and tends to grow taller than their weeping counterparts.

Five examples of upright Japanese maples include:

  1. Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’
  2. Acer palmatum ‘Wolff’
  3. Acer palmatum ‘Purple Ghost’
  4. Acer palmatum ‘Sherwood Flame’
  5. Acer palmatum ‘Fireglow’

Upright maples are ideal for those who want space under the branches, whether that is planting coverings or simply a path walkthrough.

Let’s have a look at the five mentioned upright Japanese maples.

1.   Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’

The Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’, commonly known as the Coral Bark maple, is a popular cultivar for its coral-colored bark and fall colors.

The Coral Bark is an upright Japanese maple, a slow to moderate-growing woody tree. It does well in full sun to partial shade in well-draining soil.

The Coral Bark maple is a small deciduous tree that grows 5-lobed leaves open pinkish-yellow and light green in summer before turning yellow in the fall as they shed to the ground. What remains is the bright coral-red bark on the twigs and branches.

The red bark is probably the most unique feature of the Coral Bark maple. This tree will stand out during winter, showing off its bright blood colors in any garden. It can also be planted as part of a mixed border or used for creating visual interest along walkways.

2.   Acer palmatum ‘Wolff’

The Acer palmatum ‘Wolff’, also known as the Emperor I Japanese Maple, is a classic upright Japanese maple. It’s a mid-sized tree and grows upright branches with unique red colors.

According to MrMaple.com, the Emperor I Japanese Maple is their shop’s most famous red maple.

The popularity of this Japanese might be due to its resilience against the colder and hotter climates.

The Emperor I Japanese maple grows well in zones five through nine but may require a little more shade on the east coast zone nine.

The tree grows chocolate-colored bark and dark maroon leaves, adding a beautiful scene to the winter landscape. It’s also good at holding the deep red throughout Spring and Summer.

The Emperor I Japanese maple grows fairly quickly as an upright Japanese maple, with a nice rounded shape with red glowing against the sunlight.

Compared with the Acer Palmatum ‘Bloodgood’, the Emperor I grows faster but smaller in the long term.  

What’s beautiful about the Emperor I is that it has a green underside to the leaf that gives a unique appearance in the late summer when there’s a breeze going through. The effect is that it gives flaps of flashy light green showings that contrast to the red.

The Emperor I Japanese maple is an all-year-round red upright Japanese maple for any landscape.

3.   Acer palmatum ‘Purple Ghost’

Simply known as the Purple Ghost Japanese Maple, this upright maple grows beautiful ruffled foliage with a spreading canopy. The deep purple-red-spring foliage has prominent black veins.

This upright maple tree is highly sought after due to its dynamic color. Iridescent summer foliage turns green while maintaining purple undertones. Fall foliage is a vibrant garnet-red.

The Purple Ghost grows up to 8-10 feet tall and wide. Morning sun followed by filtered evening light will bring out the best colors of this tree. The Purple Ghost captures the attention of any landscape with its deep lavender and purple colors.

4.   Acer palmatum ‘Sherwood Flame’

The Acer palmatum ‘Sherwood Flame’ is an upright deciduous small tree that grows between 10 and 25 feet tall. It’s native to Japan, Korea, and China.

Here are some interesting facts about the Sherwood Flame:

  • Foliage: ‘Sherwood Flame’ leaves are deeply lobed, palmate, and serrated. They are known for their vibrant and striking colors throughout the seasons. In spring, the leaves emerge with a reddish-purple hue, turning green as they mature. In autumn, the foliage transitions to shades of fiery orange, yellow, and red, creating a captivating display.
  • Habit: The ‘Sherwood Flame’ has an upright and vase-shaped growth habit, with branches that spread outward gracefully.
  • Landscape Use: It’s often used as a specimen tree in gardens, courtyards, or small urban landscapes. Its vibrant colors make it a focal point in any setting.

The Sherwood Flame is the perfect tree for smaller gardens!

5.   Acer palmatum ‘Fireglow’

The Acer palmatum ‘Fireglow’ is a mid-sized upright maple. It’s neither the tallest nor smallest amongst the upright maples.

The Fireglow is perfect for landscapes and small gardens because it doesn’t outgrow other plants. It brings premium bright color in a smaller setting.

The Fireglow is popular because of its amazing glowing habit.

When the tree is exposed to morning or afternoon sun hits the leaf, it will get an orange-red back side to the leaf, creating a glowing effect.

In the fall, the foliage shows orange undertones, giving it an even brighter fire glow appearance.

If you’re in heavy zone 8 and considering getting the Fireglow, you may need to give it some protection from the hot afternoon sun. You will definitely need to do so in zone 9.

The ideal situation is placing the Fireglow somewhere it can soak in the morning sun and has good drainage.

The Tree Centre
Coral Bark Maple

Image Credit
Acer palmatum ‘Sango-Kaku’ from Longwood Gardens
Acer palmatum ‘Sango-Kaku’ from Conifer Kingdom
Acer palmatum ‘Wolff’ from F. D. Richards
Acer palmatum’ Purple Ghost’ from The Greenery Nursery and Garden Shop
Acer palmatum ‘Fireglow’ from Mark Bolin

Plantician Guy (Mike)

Hi I'm Mike, a self-proclaimed plantician (an invented profession to describe a plant enthusiast). Based in Sydney Australia, I enjoy the great outdoors and the greenery things around the garden, in particular, indoor climbing plants.

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