Japanese Maple Emperor vs. Bloodgood: Differences & Care Tips

Japanese maples are often seen in many landscapes due to their unique foliage and graceful growth patterns.

Among the numerous varieties, the Emperor and Bloodgood stand out due to their unique characteristics and striking coloration. 

While both are popular choices for gardens, there are subtle differences between them that could influence your selection based on your garden’s specific requirements and your personal preferences.

What’s the difference between Emperor Japanese maple and Bloodgood Japanese maple? The Emperor, also known as ‘Emperor 1’ or ‘Wolff’, tends to leaf out later in spring, reducing the risk of frost damage. It has a dark-red foliage color in spring and summer that turns bright red in fall. The Bloodgood is known for its hardiness and its brilliant scarlet-red fall color.

Now let’s take a look at the unique characteristics of both Emperor and Bloodgood Japanese maples, comparing their appearances, growth rates, and hardiness.

We’ll also share essential care tips to help these trees thrive in your garden.

Key Takeaways

  • The biggest difference between the Emperor and Bloodgood Japanese maples is that the Emperor variety leafs out later in the spring, reducing its risk of damage from late frosts.
  • Both varieties thrive in full sun to partial shade, prefer well-drained and slightly acidic soil, and require regular watering, especially during dry periods.
  • Minimal fertilization, occasional pruning, and protection from extreme elements are key to maintaining a healthy Japanese maple.
  • Common issues include leaf scorch, verticillium wilt, aphids, and root rot. Regular monitoring and preventative care can help keep these problems at bay.

Japanese Maple Emperor vs. Bloodgood

The Emperor and Bloodgood are two standout varieties of Japanese maples. Both are widely available and offer unique characteristics that make them desirable additions to any landscape.

Botanical NameAcer palmatum ‘Wolff’Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’
Grow Zones5-85-8
Growth RateModerateModerate
Mature Height15-20 feet15-20 feet
Mature Width15-20 feet20-25 feet
Spring & Summer ColorDark redReddish-purple
Fall ColorBright redScarlet-red
HardinessVery hardyVery hardy
Light RequirementsFull sun to partial shadeFull sun to partial shade

Differences in Appearance

Both the Emperor and Bloodgood have a similar overall shape and size, with a rounded canopy and a mature height and width of about 20 feet.

However, the Emperor’s leaves are slightly larger and have a more pronounced lobed shape compared to the Bloodgood.

Differences in Spring and Summer Color

In spring and summer, the Emperor’s foliage is a dark-red color, while the Bloodgood has a reddish-purple hue.

The Emperor’s darker foliage tends to retain its color better in the summer heat, but without enough sun, both varieties may develop green leaves.

Differences in Autumn Color

When it comes to fall color, both varieties put on a spectacular show. The Emperor turns a bright red, while the Bloodgood transforms into a brilliant scarlet red.

Size & Growth Rate Comparison

Both the Emperor and Bloodgood have a moderate growth rate and reach a similar size at maturity, though Bloodgood can grow slightly larger. They are suitable for medium to large landscapes.

Hardiness Comparison

Both varieties are very hardy and can tolerate a range of conditions, including cold winters and hot summers. However, the Emperor tends to leaf out later in the spring, reducing the risk of damage from late frosts.

How To Grow a Japanese Maple Tree

Japanese maples, including the Emperor and Bloodgood varieties, are relatively easy to grow given the right conditions. Here are some tips to help you successfully grow these beautiful trees:

When To Plant Japanese Maple

The best time to plant a Japanese maple is in the spring or fall. Planting in the spring gives the tree a chance to establish its root system before the hot summer weather.

Fall planting also works well as the cooler temperatures can reduce transplant shock.

Where To Plant Japanese Maple

Choose a location that gets full sun to partial shade. While Japanese maples can tolerate full sun, they prefer some afternoon shade in hotter climates to prevent leaf scorch. The soil should be slightly acidic and drain quickly.

Japanese Maple Tree Watering

Water your Japanese maple regularly, especially during dry periods. The soil should be kept consistently moist but not saturated. Overwatering can lead to root rot.

Japanese Maple Tree Fertilizer

Japanese maples typically don’t require heavy fertilization. If your soil is poor, an annual application of a slow-release, balanced fertilizer in early spring can help promote healthy growth.

Japanese Maple Tree Pruning

Pruning is not usually necessary for Japanese maples, as they naturally maintain a beautiful shape.

However, you can prune to remove dead or damaged wood or to maintain a desired size or shape. The best time to prune is in late winter or early spring when the tree is dormant.

The leaves of an Emperor Japanese maple as viewed from below.

Japanese Maple Tree Care in Pots

Japanese maples, including the Emperor and Bloodgood varieties, can be successfully grown in containers. This is a great option if you have limited space or want to add a touch of elegance to your patio or balcony.

  1. Choose the Right Container: The container should be large enough to accommodate the tree’s root system with room to grow. Ensure the pot has adequate drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.
  2. Use the Right Soil: A well-draining potting mix is essential. Consider a mix designed for acid-loving plants to provide the slightly acidic conditions that Japanese maples prefer.
  3. Watering: Potted plants often require more frequent watering than those in the ground. Check the soil regularly, and water when the top inch feels dry. Be careful not to overwater as this can lead to root rot.
  4. Fertilizing: Use a slow-release, balanced fertilizer in early spring to provide the necessary nutrients. Be careful not to overfertilize, as this can burn the roots.
  5. Winter Care: In colder climates, consider moving the pot to a sheltered location or wrapping it with insulating material to protect the roots from freezing temperatures.
  6. Pruning: Pruning can help maintain a compact shape, especially important if space is limited. As with Japanese maples in the ground, the best time to prune is in late winter or early spring when the tree is dormant.

Japanese Maple Problems

While Japanese maples are generally hardy and easy to care for, they can occasionally encounter problems. Here are some common issues and how to address them:

Leaf Scorch

Leaf scorch is characterized by brown or dead areas on the leaves and is often caused by hot, dry conditions or exposure to harsh winds.

To prevent leaf scorch, ensure your Japanese maple is adequately watered, especially during dry periods, and consider providing some protection from the afternoon sun and wind.

Verticillium Wilt

Verticillium wilt is a soil-borne fungal disease that can cause wilting, yellowing, and death of branches.

If you suspect your tree has verticillium wilt, it’s best to consult with a local extension service or arborist for diagnosis and treatment options.


Aphids are small insects that can cause distorted leaves and a sticky residue on the foliage. They can be controlled with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil.

Encouraging beneficial insects, like ladybugs and lacewings, can also help keep aphid populations in check.

Root Rot

Root rot is often caused by overwatering or poor drainage. Symptoms include wilting, yellowing leaves, and a general decline in the tree’s health.

To prevent root rot, ensure your Japanese maple is planted in well-draining soil, and avoid overwatering.

Related Questions:

Are Japanese Maples Deciduous?

Yes, Japanese maples, including the Emperor and Bloodgood varieties, are deciduous trees. This means they lose their leaves in the fall and go dormant during the winter.

One of the highlights of Japanese maples is their stunning fall color before they shed their leaves.

What Is the Most Popular Japanese Maple?

While there are many popular varieties of Japanese maples, the Bloodgood is often considered one of the most popular, particularly in North America. It’s known for its hardiness, vibrant red foliage, and beautiful shape.

However, the Emperor is also gaining popularity due to its later leafing out in spring, reducing the risk of frost damage, and its vibrant red summer foliage.

Here are a few other articles you should check out: