17 of the Best Dwarf Japanese Maple Varieties

To make a massive statement in a small space, the Japanese maple is one of the best options out there.

Dwarf types can fit into a pretty tiny spot, but their impact in the garden is anything but small.

A close up vertical image of a small potted Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) tree set on a decorative plant stand outdoors in a formal garden. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.

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You aren’t limited to weeping types, either.

There are upright growers and even one cultivar that you can train over arbors or espalier. You are limited, as they say, only by your imagination. Oh, and probably your budget, of course.

If your goal is to grow a Japanese maple tree in a pot, a dwarf option is ideal. But even just a little spot in the garden will be well-served by one of the following varieties:

What is a dwarf Japanese maple? There’s no official limit, but we’ll stick with those under 10 feet tall once mature in this roundup.

All of the trees on this list grow well in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 8 unless noted otherwise.

1. Crimson Queen

‘Crimson Queen’ seems to make everybody’s “best of” list and it’s no wonder – she’s hard to beat.

A horizontal image of a 'Crimson Queen' Japanese maple tree growing in the garden pictured in bright sunshine.

The dramatically weeping, compact shape requires no pruning to maintain.

‘Crimson Queen’ is a fairly slow grower, so you won’t have to fight to keep her petite either. Once mature, after about 20 years, she’ll be about 10 feet wide and tall.

The cascading form of this A. palmatum cultivar is pretty all on its own, but the red foliage is incredibly striking.

The extremely palmate leaves are heavily serrated, making them look like thin strips of red lace.

A square image of the deep red foliage of Acer 'Crimson Queen.'

‘Crimson Queen’

To bring this royal wonder home, hail a two- to three-foot-tall tree from Nature Hills Nursery.

Find more info about caring for ‘Crimson Queen’ cultivars here.

2. Elizabeth

Noted Japanese maple breeder Skeeter Rod discovered ‘Elizabeth,’ which he named for his wife, as a mutation. Thank goodness he did. This A. palmatum cultivar is an ever-evolving stunner.

In the spring, the leaves are bright red before changing to lime green and red in the summer. By fall, ‘Elizabeth’ changes her outfit once again to a vibrant scarlet.

A close up of the deep red foliage of Acer palmatum 'Elizabeth' pictured in bright sunshine.

‘Elizabeth’

A truly compact, slow-growing, upright option, she grows to about five feet tall and three feet wide in about 10 years.

You can find plants in one- and three-gallon containers available from Maple Ridge Nursery.

3. Fireball

It can be a challenge to find dwarf Japanese maples (or any Japanese maples) that thrive in Zone 4b, but ‘Fireball’ seemingly creates its own heat.

A close up of the deep red foliage of Acer 'Fireball' pictured on a soft focus background.
Photo credit: JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University.

It was discovered as a witches’-broom, or a genetic mutation marked by unusual growth, on a tree in New Jersey.

If you’re unfamiliar with Japanese maple types, witches’-brooms feature a middle lobe that is shorter than the surrounding lobes.

The bright red leaves on this plant have five lobes with a shorter middle lobe. Slow growing with an upright habit, this cultivar will reach just five feet tall and three feet wide in about 15 years.

A close up square image of a small Acer palmatum 'Fireball' growing in the garden surrounded by straw mulch.

‘Fireball’

To pick up this unique beauty, head on over to Maple Ridge Nursery to choose from plants in one- and three-gallon containers.

4. Germaine’s Gyration

This tree lives up to its name with twisting, turning branches that almost resemble a contorted filbert (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) only with classic Japanese maple foliage.

At most, it will grow to seven feet tall and up to 12 feet wide, with a gracefully arching habit.

A square image of a 'Germaine's Gyration' Japanese maple, with bright green foliage growing in a formal garden by a pond.

‘Germaine’s Gyration’

In the spring and summer, the leaves are bright green trimmed in burgundy. By fall, they turn bright orange with hints of red and yellow.

Gyrate your way to Fast Growing Trees to find a dance partner of your own.

5. Inaba Shidare

A. palmatum var. dissectum, ‘Inaba Shidare’ is striking. The foliage is bright, bold red and each leaf is massive, with each one spanning six inches wide or more.

A close up horizontal image of the bright red foliage of Acer 'Inaba Shidare' pictured in bright sunshine.

But the leaves don’t just produce a solid mass of color. Each one is deeply lobed and highly serrated, resembling massive strips of red lace. It’s delicate and arresting, all at once.

A lovely weeping cultivar, ‘Inaba Shidare’ grows to about eight feet tall and up to twice as wide. It’s also fairly quick growing, so you don’t have to wait long for the full show.

A close up of the foliage of 'Inaba Shidare' Japanese maple pictured in light sunshine.

‘Inaba Shidare’

Make this cultivar yours by grabbing one at Maple Ridge Nursery.

6. Jeddeloh Orange

A weeping, cascading type that grows to just eight feet tall and five feet wide, A. palmatum var. dissectum ‘Jeddeloh Orange’ will always draw comments.

The lacy, serrated leaves start the year with a pleasant orange hue before shifting to green with orange highlights in the summer.

A close up of the bright yellow and orange foliage of Acer 'Jeddeloh Orange' pictured on a soft focus background.

‘Jeddeloh Orange’

It changes color once again in the fall, transitioning to brilliant orange-gold.

Nature Hills Nursery carries this tree, which reaches eight feet tall and six feet wide at maturity, so you can add some orange delight to your yard.

7. Karasugawa

This Japanese maple cultivar, sometimes written as ‘Karasu Gawa,’ puts on an extremely dramatic show for such a tiny specimen.

Reaching a height under eight feet when mature, the early spring foliage is pink but transitions to white during the spring.

Not every leaf will become totally white, however. You’ll see speckles and streaks of white on a pink base, depending on the sun exposure. Some leaves develop green speckles as well.

By the fall, the entire leaf turns bright red, sometimes with green margins.

A square image of the green and purple foliage of 'Karasugawa' dwarf Japanese maple.

‘Karasugawa’

There are some drawbacks to be aware of with this Oregon-bred beauty. It burns in full sunlight and it only grows in Zones 5b to 8, or possibly in 9 with protection from the afternoon sun.

This means it’s just a bit temperamental, but it’s well worth the effort for the impressive show it puts on throughout three seasons.

Nab this upright A. palmatum at Nature Hills Nursery.

8. Orion

Providing a weeping constellation of leaves, ‘Orion’ grows just four feet tall and seven feet wide within about 15 years.

A horizontal image of a small Acer 'Orion' specimen growing in a botanical garden pictured in light sunshine.
Photo credit: JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University.

While the deeply lobed, heavily serrated leaves have a beautiful shape, it’s the color that will have you seeing stars.

In the spring, this huntsman’s cloak is solid, bright red.

By summer, the leaves have red margins and orange and copper-green veins. Come fall, the tree changes again with the seasons, transitioning to solid, bright orange.

A close up square image of the foliage of Acer palmatum 'Orion' growing in the garden.

‘Orion’

You can find trees in one- and three-gallon containers available at Maple Ridge Nursery, so you can add this one to your own tree constellation.

9. Red Filigree Lace

You’d be hard-pressed to find a Japanese maple with more finely cut, delicate leaves.

A horizontal image of Acer 'Red Filigree Lace' growing in the garden.
Photo credit: JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University.

Each leaf is heavily serrated and extremely thin, like red threads dangling in the breeze on a weeping tree. Within about 15 years, this variety reaches four feet tall and five feet wide.

Unlike some red maples, this one doesn’t lose its vibrant color in partial shade.

A close up of the foliage of 'Red Filigree Lace' growing in the garden.

‘Red Filigree Lace’

Need a little lace in your life? Grab a tree in a one- or three-gallon container from Maple Ridge Nursery.

10. Rhode Island Red

‘Bloodgood’ is one of the most popular Japanese maples in North America, but it isn’t a dwarf tree.

‘Rhode Island Red,’ however, takes all the things we love about ‘Bloodgood’ and smooshes it down into a perfectly reduced size.

A close up horizontal image of Acer 'Rhode Island Red' growing in the garden pictured in light sunshine.
Photo credit: JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University.

It leafs out in crimson red before settling into burgundy during the summer. And then it transitions back to bright red in the fall.

The tree itself is about six feet tall with particularly large leaves.

While most dwarf A. palmatum cultivars have heavily serrated leaves, this one looks like a more traditional maple with its simple palmate foliage.

‘Rhode Island Red’

If you love ‘Bloodgood’ but want something a bit more petite, bring home a ‘Rhode Island Red’ from Japanese Maples and Evergreens, available for purchase via Amazon.

11. Ryusen

‘Ryusen’ is one of my favorites of all the Japanese maples, dwarf or otherwise.

It’s incredibly unique, and for a tree that is so distinctive that even many gardening newbies can identify it, that’s saying a ton.

A vertical image of a small Acer 'Ryusen' growing in a pot in a small garden next to the patio.
Photo credit: JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University.

While the green palmate leaves are beautiful and all, it’s the growth habit that makes it stand out.

This A. palmatum grows to about eight feet tall but only spreads a few feet wide, and the branches start by growing up for a bit before gracefully arching down.

This creates a waterfall effect that is dramatic left to its own devices, but you can actually train it over an arbor or feature it as an espalier as well.

As if that wasn’t enough, the foliage turns a soft reddish-orange in the fall, making it all the more lovely.

‘Ryusen’

Make this distinctive option a part of your garden by nabbing one from Japanese Maple and Evergreens on Amazon.

12. Skeeter’s Broom

Bred from a witch’s broom found on the classic, ever-popular A. palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ by Skeeter Rod, ‘Skeeter’s Broom’ has a narrow, upright growth habit.

The foliage is extremely bushy and dense, and starts out red in the spring before becoming purple in the summer and changing to a brighter red again in the fall.

A square image of Acer 'Skeeter's broom' growing in the garden.

‘Skeeter’s Broom’

This cultivar tops out at a petite six or so feet but it never expands more than three or four feet wide.

Want to sweep up this stunner and bring it home to your garden? Head to Nature Hills Nursery to grab a two- to three-foot tree in a #2 container.

13. Spring Delight

Some plants truly live up to their name, and ‘Spring Delight’ is one of them.

A horizontal image of an Acer 'Spring Delight' specimen growing in a botanical garden.
Photo credit: JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University.

If you look forward to the joy of vibrant spring color each year, you need to add this A. palmatum var. dissectum to your garden.

Once the warmer spring weather comes to town, the leaf buds open to reveal stunning neon green foliage tipped in bright crimson. In the fall, the leaves transition to yellow and orange.

A close up of the deep green foliage of 'Spring Delight' Japanese maple growing in the garden.

‘Spring Delight’

The tree itself has a graceful, weeping habit that highlights the unique coloring.

You can find trees available in one- and three-gallon containers from Maple Ridge Nursery.

14. Summer Gold

Japanese maples are known for shining brightest in the spring and fall, and most varieties fade to a more subdued, if just as lovely, color in the heat of the summer.

These plants are happiest when it’s chilly, after all. But ‘Summer Gold’ is at its peak when the days are long.

A close up of the foliage of Acer 'Summer Gold' pictured on a soft focus background.
Photo credit: JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University.

In the spring, this A. palmatum cultivar’s leaves are green with a red border. By summer, they transition to a vibrant yellow-gold.

That’s special enough as it is, but this tree doesn’t burn or fade in the heat either – even if it’s growing in full sun! If you know these plants, then you know that’s rare for a golden leaf type.

In the fall, the leaves turn bright, flaming reddish-orange on a tree that stays under eight feet tall, usually closer to six.

A close up of a 'Summer Gold' Japanese maple tree growing in a container.

‘Summer Gold’

Oh yeah, and did we mention this is an upright type? That’s hard to find in dwarf cultivars!

Pick up a tree at Maple Ridge Nursery. Choose from one- or three-gallon containers.

15. Tamukeyama

Good old ‘Tamukeyama’ is extremely popular, and deservedly so. It’s heat tolerant, vigorous, and hardy.

During the spring and summer, the leaves are burgundy before shifting to bright crimson in the fall. It’s a weeping type that stays under eight feet tall. No wonder it has been a mainstay for centuries!

A square image of a dwarf Acer 'Tamukeyama' growing in a garden border with a residence in the background.

‘Tamukeyama’

If you want to join the storied club, purchase one for your garden at Fast Growing Trees. They carry two- to three- or three- to four-foot-tall trees.

16. Viridis

‘Viridis’ is the cultivar that first made me take notice of Japanese maples.

A close up horizontal image of the foliage of Acer palmatum var. dissectum 'Viridis' growing in the garden.

It’s a truly head-turning option that features a cascading form which tops out at about five feet tall and wide, with bright chartreuse leaves.

In the fall, the heavily serrated palmate leaves turn golden-yellow and orange.

If you like the types that have leaves so finely serrated and palmate that they look like lace, you absolutely can’t go wrong with ‘Viridis.’

The leaves are so delicate, they almost look out of focus or like running green water at first glance. Utterly magical.

A square image of a dwarf 'Viridis' Japanese maple tree growing in a formal rock garden.

‘Viridis’

If you want to nab a practically mature three- to four-foot-tall tree to plant in a pot or grow in your garden, visit Fast Growing Trees.

17. Waterfall

‘Waterfall’ has been known to grow up to 12 feet tall after a long, long time. But at 10 years, most have reached just five feet at most.

Its growth habit lives up to the name, and It has a pendulous, weeping form made up of large green leaves that turn orange in the fall.

If you’re looking for a good container option, this one can’t be beaten. Keeping ‘Waterfall’ in a container will also constrict its size.

A close up of the vibrant orange foliage of 'Waterfall' Japanese maple.

‘Waterfall’

If all this has you looking around for the nearest place to nab one for yourself, head to Fast Growing Trees to pick up a two- to three-foot-tall tree.

Small Doesn’t Have to Mean Low-Impact

Dwarf Japanese maples are small in stature but huge in impact. It’s hard to think of many plants that pack so much into such a small package.

Whether you pair them with other species or let them shine all on their own, these petite wonders will draw all the attention.

A close up horizontal image of a dwarf Japanese maple growing by the side of a street in a formal rock garden.

So what do you think? Are you leaning towards a laceleaf? Do you prefer red or green? Are you looking for something upright or weeping? Share your plans in the comment section below.

Then, continue your Japanese maple journey with the following guides:

Photo of author
Kristine Lofgren is a writer, photographer, reader, and gardening lover from outside Portland, Oregon. She was raised in the Utah desert, and made her way to the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two dogs in 2018. Her passion is focused these days on growing ornamental edibles, and foraging for food in the urban and suburban landscape.
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Danielle
Danielle (@guest_26939)
1 year ago

Hi Kristine, If I post or send you a picture of our Japanese maple could you help me identify it? We recently moved to our house and there is a little maple in the back yard. We want to make sure it is a dwarf tree because we are planning to try to transplant it to the front but we want to know how big it will get. Thank you!! Danielle

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu(@allison-sidhu)
Reply to  Danielle
1 year ago

Please feel free to share your photos here and we’ll try to help!

Tavo
Tavo (@guest_27466)
1 year ago

What type is this very last photo?

Melissa
Melissa (@guest_29085)
1 year ago

Good afternoon! I was hoping you could help me decide which dwarf Japanese maple I should choose for this spot in the front of my house? I want the tree at full growth to be right under our picture window (no taller than 5ft)

Thank you so much for your time!

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu(@allison-sidhu)
Reply to  Melissa
1 year ago

Melissa, I was able to retrieve your photos and we’ll get back to you with a response ASAP!

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Kathy Joy
Kathy Joy (@guest_30104)
11 months ago

Can you tell me what variety this dwarf red japanese maple is. I’m looking to purchase another one but I don’t recall the name.

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu(@allison-sidhu)
Reply to  Kathy Joy
11 months ago

Kathy, I was able to retrieve your photos and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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Kathy Joy
Kathy Joy (@guest_30585)
Reply to  Allison Sidhu
11 months ago

I still haven’t had any response as to what variety this dwarf red japanese maple is.

paul galligan
paul galligan (@guest_30215)
11 months ago

Hello kristine looking for a little help if you dont mind the intrusion . I want to buy a weeping dwarf japanese maple no taller than 6 – 8 feet at full growth that is slow growing can stay outside for the winter in northern new jersey Zone 6 a and can remain in a large pot . probably 2.5 – 3ft wide and 2.5ft – 3 ft high what would be your top 3 suggestions that will work well in mostly shade. many thanks for your help . paul

Kathy Joy
Kathy Joy (@guest_30584)
11 months ago

I still haven’t had any response to the photo I submitted of the red japanese maple and what variety it may be.

Kathy Joy
Kathy Joy (@guest_30840)
Reply to  Kathy Joy
11 months ago

Well I guess I’m not going to get any response to my question. 👎

Clare Groom
Clare Groom(@clareg)
Editor
Reply to  Kathy Joy
11 months ago

Hi Kathy, apologies for the delay, Kristine will get back to you when she is able to – our writers work on a flexible schedule and like most people, take vacations and sick time as needed. Please be patient and you’ll get a reply when the author is available. Thanks!

Paul franco
Paul franco (@guest_30828)
11 months ago

Where can I purchase Japanese Maple.

Clare Groom
Clare Groom(@clareg)
Editor
Reply to  Paul franco
11 months ago

We have links in the guide to some of our trusted affiliates or you can check your local garden center or plant nursery.