Viridis vs. Waterfall Japanese Maple: Is There a Difference?

Japanese maples are renowned for their beautiful appearance and captivating foliage, adding elegance to any garden or outdoor area.

Among the many cultivars available, Viridis and Waterfall are two popular choices that often spark curiosity and comparison. 

What’s the difference between Viridis and Waterfall Japanese maple? Viridis is a weeping variety showcasing green foliage that turns golden in fall. Waterfall is also a weeping variety with cascading branches, but its leaves are a richer green and slightly smaller. Its foliage turns from bright green to yellow with hints of orange and red in autumn.

Now that we have an overview of the key differences between Viridis and Waterfall Japanese maple, let’s delve deeper into each variety’s specific characteristics, growth habits, foliage colors, and unique attributes.

Viridis vs. Waterfall Japanese Maple

When it comes to selecting the perfect Japanese maple for your garden, understanding the distinctions between different cultivars is essential.

Whether you’re looking for an upright beauty or a graceful weeping specimen, this comparison will help you make an informed decision and find the ideal Japanese maple for your landscape.

Viridis, also known as Acer palmatum ‘Viridis’ or Green Japanese maple, is a popular cultivar renowned for its pretty green foliage.

It is widely available in nurseries, garden centers, and online shops, making it easily accessible to gardening enthusiasts. 

Waterfall, or Acer palmatum ‘Waterfall’, is a captivating weeping variety. While it may be slightly less common compared to Viridis, it is still readily obtainable from specialty nurseries and online plant retailers.

Now, let’s delve into the specific characteristics of Viridis and Waterfall Japanese maple to further understand their distinctions and unique qualities.

Viridis Japanese MapleWaterfall Japanese Maple
Botanical NameAcer palmatum ‘Viridis’Acer palmatum ‘Waterfall’
Grow Zones5-85-8
Growth RateSlowSlow
Mature Height6-8 feet6-8 feet
Mature Width8-10 feet8-10 feet
Spring & Summer Color Green to pale greenBright green
Fall ColorGolden yellowYellow with orange and red
HardinessExcellent, slightly less hardy than WaterfallExcellent, slightly more tolerant of hot weather
Light RequirementsPartial shade to full sunPartial shade to full sun

Differences in Appearance

Though these two varieties are quite similar in appearance, there are some slight differences.

Viridis Japanese Maple:

  • Features a weeping growth habit with equal proportions for height and width.
  • Laceleaf leaves are palmate, deeply lobed, and green to pale green in color.
  • Overall appearance is compact and well balanced, creating an elegant and structured look.

Waterfall Japanese Maple:

  • Exhibits a weeping growth habit with cascading branches that create a graceful and flowing effect.
  • Laceleaf leaves are finely dissected, giving a lacy and delicate appearance.
  • Its weeping form adds a sense of softness and movement to the landscape.

Differences in Spring and Summer Color

The differences in foliage color during the growing season are minimal and somewhat dependent on the conditions in which it is growing.

Viridis Japanese Maple:

  • Showcases consistent light green foliage throughout the spring and summer seasons. The green color may become brighter as summer progresses.
  • The green to pale-green color adds a refreshing and calm feel to the landscape.

Waterfall Japanese Maple:

  • Displays bright-green foliage during the spring and summer months.
  • The foliage creates a striking contrast against other plants and adds a vibrant touch to the garden.

Differences in Autumn Color

As with the color seen during spring and summer, autumn foliage can vary depending on the tree’s growing environment.

Viridis Japanese Maple:

  • Transitions to yellow, gold, and orange hues in the fall.
  • The warm autumn colors provide a beautiful display before the leaves drop for the winter.

Waterfall Japanese Maple:

  • Transforms into bright yellow and golden tones with possible splashes of orange and red during the fall season.
  • The golden foliage adds a touch of warmth and elegance to the landscape.

Size & Growth Rate Comparison

There is only a small difference in mature size and average growth rate, but some people find that Waterfall grows at a slightly slower pace.

Viridis Japanese Maple:

  • Reaches a mature height of 6-8 feet and a similar width.
  • Has a slow growth rate, gradually developing its cascading form over time.

Waterfall Japanese Maple:

  • Attains a mature height of 8-10 feet with a slightly wider spread of 10-12 feet.
  • It has a slow growth rate, filling out its weeping form as it matures.

Hardiness Comparison

Both Viridis and Waterfall Japanese maples are considered hardy and can thrive in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 8, though Waterfall can do well in Zone 9 when given afternoon shade.

They are adaptable to different climatic conditions within this range and can withstand typical winter temperatures in these areas.

It is important to provide appropriate care and protection during extreme weather conditions to ensure their health and vitality.

Japanese Maple Garden Design Tips

Japanese maples, including Viridis and Waterfall varieties, offer exceptional beauty and versatility in garden design. Here are some design tips to help you make the most of these stunning trees:


With its weeping growth habit and light-green foliage, Viridis makes an excellent choice as a specimen tree, drawing attention and providing a focal point in your garden.

It can also be used as a backdrop for other plants or as a stunning accent in a mixed border.


The cascading branches and delicate foliage of Waterfall lend themselves well to creating an enchanting atmosphere.

Plant it near water features, terraces, or slopes to enhance the graceful flow of its form. It also excels in containers where its weeping habit can be showcased.

Companion Plant Recommendations

  • Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra): Pair the fine-textured, cascading foliage of Japanese forest grass with Waterfall Japanese Maple to create a soft and harmonious combination that adds movement and elegance to your garden.
  • Heuchera (Coral Bells): The colorful foliage of Heuchera varieties, such as ‘Palace Purple’ or ‘Caramel’, complements both Viridis and Waterfall maples, adding contrasting textures and pops of color to the garden.
  • Astilbe: The feathery plumes of astilbe provide a lovely contrast to the fine foliage of Japanese maples, and their shade tolerance makes them suitable companions for both Viridis and Waterfall.

Striking Color Combinations

  • Viridis: Pair Viridis with plants that offer contrasting colors, such as purple or burgundy foliage plants like Japanese barberry or purple-leafed coral bells. This creates a visually captivating display with the pretty green of Viridis as a backdrop.
  • Waterfall: Enhance the graceful weeping form of Waterfall by combining it with plants that have delicate flowers in shades of white or pastel hues. Consider companion plants like white bleeding hearts or pink-flowering astilbe varieties.

Japanese Garden Influence

Incorporate elements of Japanese garden design, such as stone lanterns, bamboo fences, and stepping stones, to create an authentic Japanese aesthetic that complements the elegance of Viridis and Waterfall Japanese maples.

Emphasize simplicity and balance in your garden design, incorporating moss, gravel, and carefully selected boulders to create a serene atmosphere that enhances the overall beauty of the Japanese maples.

Related Questions:

What Japanese Maples Turn Bright Red in the Fall?

Some popular cultivars known for their vibrant red foliage include Bloodgood, Emperor, Fireglow, and Red Dragon. These stunning maples add a burst of fiery color to autumn landscapes, creating a striking visual display.

Are Laceleaf Japanese Maples Deer Resistant?

Laceleaf Japanese maples are not typically considered deer resistant. Deer may browse on the delicate and attractive foliage of laceleaf varieties as they are known to have a preference for tender plant material.

To protect laceleaf Japanese maples from deer damage, consider implementing deterrent measures such as fencing, repellents, or planting deer-resistant companion plants nearby.

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