Among the many varieties of Japanese maple trees beloved by gardeners, few can compare to the delicate beauty of the lace leaf types. Known as dissectum varieties in botanical nomenclature, Acer palmatum dissectum maples are characterized by their gracefully cascading branches and finely dissected foliage that unfurls in spring with a lace-like texture.
Unlike the typical five-lobed and rounded leaves found on most Japanese maple species, the lacy cut leaves of dissectum cultivars have between five to nine slender, pointed lobes that flutter attractively in the breeze and seem to dance along the delicate stems.
This fern-like foliage creates a soft and airy appearance, bringing unique visual intrigue and textural contrast when coupled with bolder plants. Prized as elegant ornamentals across temperate landscapes, lace leaf Japanese maples offer diverse forms, sizes, and foliage hues to fit any garden. They provide a graceful elegance unmatched by other trees and shrubs.
Overview of Lace Leaf Maples
Botanically classified as Acer palmatum dissectum, the foliage of lace leaf Japanese maples distinguishes them from other types. Their leaves are deeply dissected, with between five to nine slender, pointed lobes that emerge from the central leaf stem.
Delicate, Lacy Foliage
- This finely divided leaf structure creates a delicate, feathery appearance reminiscent of fine lace fabrics.
- The effect is light and airy, unlike the typical broad leaf forms seen in most maple trees.
Cascading Growth Habit
Lace leaf varieties also differ in their growth habit, generally forming gracefully cascading mounds rather than upright tree forms. They range in mature size from intimate dwarfs of just two feet tall to larger specimens reaching six to ten feet in height and width.
Despite variations in size, all lace leaf maples share their exquisite foliage and elegant structure.
Unique Landscape Qualities
They bring unique texture, vibrant color, and visual intrigue to landscapes, providing excellent contrast to plants with bigger, bolder leaves. With options suited to small spaces or grand gardens, lace leaf Japanese maples offer breathtaking diversity.
Popular Lace Leaf Cultivars
With leaves of striking crimson red that retain their colorful hue throughout the summer, Crimson Queen is one of the most coveted lace leaf varieties. Its graceful cascading branches are densely packed with deeply dissected fern-like foliage in rich tones of scarlet. Remaining quite compact at maturity, typically under 5 feet tall, it is well-suited to small gardens.
Distinctive for its vivid chartreuse green dissected leaves that seem to glow when backlit by the sun, Viridis is a medium-sized lace leaf maple. The electric green color is most pronounced in spring as the leaves first unfurl, transitioning to a lighter green by midsummer. Its cascading branches can reach up to 8 feet tall and wide at maturity.
With elegantly cascading branches covered in deeply cut leaves of deep crimson red, Garnet is a larger growing lace leaf maple. Its rich red foliage holds up well throughout the heat of summer without fading. At maturity it forms a gracefully weeping mound up to 10 feet tall.
Adding brilliant color, Orangeola emerges with bright vermilion-orange young leaves in spring. This color softens to golden chartreuse by early summer before transitioning to green. It forms a compact mound typically under 6 feet with delicate cascading outer branches.
Tamukeyama is beloved for its vibrant ruby-red lace leaf foliage that unfurls anew each spring. The color continues to intensify throughout autumn before the leaves drop. With a mature size around 8 feet tall and wide, it takes on a gently cascading rounded form.
There are many other excellent lace leaf maple cultivars that offer a diverse palette of cascading forms, sizes, and foliage hues to fit any landscape.
With their delicate foliage, lace leaf Japanese maples require specific conditions and care to thrive in the landscape.
Lace leaf maples need protection from hot afternoon sun to prevent leaf scorch. Site them in part shade where they will receive gentle morning sun but avoid intense midday and late day exposure. Provide at least some dappled sunlight for best growth.
Shelter from strong winds helps prevent tattering of the delicate leaves and snapping of thin branches. Areas prone to wind should be avoided if possible.
Consistent moisture is important, especially during periods of summer heat and drought. Supplemental watering may be required during dry spells. Mulching can help conserve soil moisture.
Well-draining soil enriched with organic matter encourages healthy root growth. Acidic soil pH between 5.5-6.5 is preferred, as lace leaf maples cannot tolerate alkaline conditions.
Pruning and Staking
Prune selectively in late winter to maintain shape, removing any dead or damaged branches. Staking of lower cascading branches may be needed on exposed sites.
Proper site selection and protective care is the key to keeping lace leaf Japanese maples healthy and allowing their beauty to shine.
Using Lace Leaf Maples in Landscape Design
With their graceful elegance, lace leaf Japanese maples offer many possibilities in landscape design.
Specimen Focal Point
A single lace leaf maple makes a stunning focal point specimen in a garden bed or lawn. The cascading mound draws the eye with its delicate beauty.
Grouped together densely, they can form an elegant hedge or living screen. Repeat a single variety or mix cultivars for multi-season color.
Smaller cascading varieties are ideal for rock gardens, stone walls, and sloping sites. They softly drape without obscuring the hardscape.
Dwarf lace leaf cultivars can be potted in ornamental containers for decks, patios, or entryways.
Color and Texture Contrast
The fine dissected leaves contrast beautifully with broadleaf evergreen shrubs or perennials like hosta.
Combine with azaleas, heathers, Japanese forest grass and other Asian-inspired plants.
With their versatility, lace leaf maples bring elegance and interest to both residential and commercial landscapes.
With their delicately cut foliage, cascading forms, and graceful elegance, lace leaf Japanese maples are some of the most ornamentally prized trees in temperate landscapes. Unlike the typical rounded leaves of most maple species, the lacy dissected foliage of lace leaf varieties creates unique visual intrigue and textural contrast.
Popular cascading cultivars come in a diverse range of sizes, shapes, and brilliant foliage colors to fit any garden design. While requiring some protective care, these exquisite trees can transform a space with their soft, feathery elegance if properly sited. For an unparalleled accent that brings four-season interest, few ornamental trees can compare to the beauty of the lace leaf Japanese maple.