Japanese Maple Indoors? Yes, It Is Possible! Here’s How

Japanese maple trees add a lovely touch to any location with their vibrant rainbow colors and elegant forms when planted.

If you’re an experienced plant owner, you may have considered inviting this beauty into your home.

After all, Japanese maples do need protection from strong winds and love a little afternoon shade, but is this possible?

Yes, it is possible to grow Japanese maple trees indoors provided that they receive ample sunlight (sometimes with the aid of supplementary grow lights) and they endure winter dormancy to preserve their natural growth cycle. Appropriate pot size and soil must also be considered to prevent root issues.

Aside from maintaining its health, you also need to know how to control growth on your indoor Japanese maple to prevent it from bursting through your roof!

From tips on stunting growth to a potting guide and overwintering, here’s our bite-size guide for successfully growing this gorgeous tree in your home.

Want to keep your Japanese maple vibrant and healthy? Discover the secrets in my comprehensive guide.

Japanese Maple Indoor Care

As with acing the care of an outdoor Japanese maple, you need to consider the key growing conditions of your indoor maple for the best chance of success from the easiest types to care for to the ideal potting soil and watering schedule.

Best Japanese Maple for Pots

Numerous dwarf varieties are ideal for indoor growth as well as several medium-sized varieties because the Japanese maple is naturally slow growing.

The Pixie Japanese maple has a dense, compact habit that is ideal for small spaces. The Velvet Viking Japanese maple with its closely-packed weeping habit is also perfect for container growth.

Let’s look at a few of the best candidates for indoor growth:

VarietyAverage SizeKey Features
‘Beni-Maiko’4-6 feet tall/widePinkish-red to green leaves with red vein detail, fiery orange coloring in fall
‘Inaba Shidare’4-5 feet tall/wideRounded, cascading form, feathery rich burgundy leaves with thin veins
‘Mikawa Yatsubusa’5 feet tall, 4-5 feet wideThick crown, bright green foliage turning orange in fall, extreme hardiness
‘Red Select’5 feet tall, 6-7 feet wideLacy dissected leaves of maroon, excellent frost/heat resistance
‘Beni Hime’4 feet tall, 5 feet widePale pink to rusty-red penny-sized leaves, ideal for bonsai

Potting Guide for Japanese Maple

The pot size, soil type, and pot material all play a crucial role in how well your Japanese maple will fare indoors.

Let’s take a look at the ideal potting conditions plus directions on how to correctly pot your Japanese maple.

Best Container for Japanese Maple

Most container-grown Japanese maples do well in a 3-gallon pot. A good rule of thumb is that the pot should be no larger than twice the size of the tree’s root ball.

The editor of Plant House Aesthetic Nicholas Holt warns against using too large a container:

“It’s better to have it planted in a small pot rather than a large one. The latter is likely to promote root rot due to a dead zone of very wet soil in the container.”

As for the pot material, opt for stone or terracotta with good drainage holes in the base. Stone and terracotta help air transfer more easily into the potting soil compared with plastic or metal pots.

Potting Soil for Japanese Maple

Keep your indoor Japanese maple happy in a fertile and well-draining soil type that is slightly acidic (between 4.0 and 7.0 pH).

Just bear in mind that the soil type will affect its watering needs.

For example, clay soil types retain moisture, sandy types drain fast, and loamy soils (a mixture of the two) maintain evenly moist conditions.

Potting Directions

  1. Layer the bottom of a 3-gallon pot with rock/gravel to improve drainage
  2. Next, fill the pot with your chosen potting soil. Ideally, use potting soil like this one designed for plants that prefer slightly acidic soil.
  3. Enlisting the help of a second person, gently remove the sapling from its nursery pot and remove the soil on its roots by hand. Then trim one-fifth of the roots to stunt growth using clean pruning shears.
  4. Place the sapling into its new pot, add additional soil, and water until evenly moist (not soaking) with room temperature water.
Pretty orange leaves of a Japanese maple in fall on a sunny day.

Placement of Indoor Japanese Maple

Large rooms that get plenty of sunlight, like a conservatory or lean-to greenhouse, are ideal. Try to place the tree in a south-facing window to mimic its natural partially sunlit environment.

Former student at Chicago’s Botanical Gardens Chris Christensen also suggests considering putting the pot on wheels so you can roll your Japanese maple outside in good weather for optimal sunlight and ventilation.

In darker homes, you may need to supplement the light by using an HID (high-intensity discharge) grow light to mimic the sunlight strength required by your Japanese maple.

Indoor Japanese Maple Watering & Fertilization

Water your Japanese maple about twice a week, ideally with rainwater or filtered water to cut down on chemicals.

It’s a good rule of thumb (or finger, should we say?) to check the soil moisture before watering with a quick test:

Place your finger one knuckle deep into the potting soil. If it’s still pretty moist, check back again in a couple of days. If it’s dry, be sure to give it a thorough drink.

As for fertilizer, none at all is best if the aim is to stunt its growth. You can, however, add some organic matter to the potting soil.

Vermicompost contains beneficial microbes to deliver a slow release of nutrients and improve overall soil quality.

Potted Japanese Maple Winter Care

Japanese maples will go into annual dormancy to recover from the growing season.

To help encourage this important phase in your indoor maple, provide a deep watering right before winter to help it through the cold, and move it to an unheated basement or garage during winter.

The above directions are recommended for those living in Hardiness Zone 5, but for those in milder climates (Zones 6-8), simply keep your maple tree in a consistently cool room.

Once spring arrives, help coax your tree into the new growth period by using a grow light. This helps prevent shock when you eventually move it back into sunlight.

How To Control Growth on Indoor Japanese Maple

You can help to keep your Japanese maple small indoors with regular pruning measures:

  • Trim new root growth once or twice a year to keep the tree stunted. Slide a hand shovel down into the pot about 1 inch from the rim to trim the roots all around.
  • Cut back any diseased (soft, discolored) or broken branches using heavy-duty pruning shears once the tree is dormant.
  • Trim roots as a sapling. Before you pot your nursery-bought maple for the first time, trim a fifth of the roots to start stunting its growth.

Potential Problems When Growing Japanese Maple Indoors

Since sunlight exposure and air flow indoors are far from ideal, your Japanese maple tree is more likely to become stressed.

Without proper diligence and care when it comes to maintaining a good water regimen or living in humidity levels that are too high (Japanese maples can withstand moderate humidity), these environmental stressors can make the tree more susceptible to disease and pest infestations.

Be sure to perform weekly checks under leaves and branches to help catch any pest issues early on, and remember to always sterilize your pruning tools (shears, hand shovels, etc.) to prevent contamination.

Related Questions:

Can You Keep Japanese Maple Small?

Yes, annual pruning can help keep your Japanese maple tree small. In winter during its dormancy, you can cut back any diseased branches and some of the smaller branches at the lower part of the tree.

You can also shorten the oldest branches at the top of the crown to control height.

What Is the Smallest Japanese Maple?

‘Beni Hime’ (a red dwarf) is among the smallest Japanese maple dwarf trees. Its rusty red leaves are no larger than a penny and grow on short stalks in a compact, clustered habit.

Beni Hime is ideal for growing in pots or even bonsai as it will grow to a maximum height of 4 feet within 8-10 years.

Closing Thoughts

To sum up, it is entirely possible to grow a Japanese maple tree indoors. While it’s not the most demanding tree to care for, you must be attentive to its needs to help replicate its ideal environment and growth.

This means investing in a high-intensity grow light, moving it elsewhere in your home during its dormant winter period, and using the right pot size and material.

You’ll also need to control its growth with a few regular prunes and trims, which can help to increase airflow, improve root health, and keep it looking well-groomed.

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