Japanese maples are known for their beautiful foliage that really stands out in the spring and fall. The colors of Japanese maples in the spring and fall can rival anything else seen in nature, but did you know that there are some Japanese maples that show out in the winter too? There are several varieties of Japanese maples that display colored bark in the colder months. Anywhere from bright red to bright green or yellow, these bark colors really make these trees stand out in an otherwise dormant winter. Here are some of our favorite varieties of Japanese maples for the winter garden:
Acer palmatum ‘Sango kaku’ is probably the most popular Japanese maple on this list. ‘Sango kaku’ is famous for being the “coral bark” Japanese maple. The name ‘Sango kaku’ translates to coral tower describing its coral red bark and its upright growth habit. ‘Sango kaku’ is a great tree for any time of the year but its distinguishing characteristic is the bright red bark that it displays in the winter. The red bark of Sango kaku really stands out in the winter landscape amongst the green of evergreens.
Acer palmatum ‘Aoyagi’ is known as the green bark Japanaese maple. ‘Aoyagi’ even means green coral. While many Japanese maples will have greenish bark when young, the bark of Aoyagi can be nearly florescent green at times. It generally won’t stand out as much as a coral bark Japanese maple will but it definitely provides a unique contrast to the coral bark and other darker green colors in the winter garden.
Acer palmatum ‘Bihou’ is famously known as the yellow Japanese maple. The bark of ‘Bihou’ is bright yellow pretty much all the time. New growth can have some orange color to the bark but it later transitions to the bright yellow. It’s yellow with green leaves in the spring and summer. It’s yellow with bright yellow leaves in the fall, and then it’s bright yellow without leaves in the winter. Bihou is almost a must have Japanese maple for the winter garden. The bright yellow stands out among any other combination of colors. The red bark color of ‘Sango kaku’, the green bark color of ‘Aoyagi’, and the yellow bark color of ‘Bihou’ all play very well together in the winter garden and make a great combination for anyone gardening with Japanese maples.
Acer palmatum ‘Wildfire’ is a coral bark Japanese maple with excellent reddish orange bark color. ‘Wildfire’ has a much different shade of red than the ‘Sango kaku’ with much more orange compared to the bright red of the ‘Sango kaku’. ‘Wildfire’ has an outstanding orange to red fall color that probably explains the cultivar’s name. ‘Wildfire’ is a shorter grower than ‘Sango kaku’ or ‘Beni kawa’ which can possibly make it easier to use in some landscapes. ‘Wildfire’ provides yet another bark color that can deliver more variety and contrast with the other bark interest Japanese maples.
Acer palmatum ‘Baton Rouge’ is a fantastic coral bark variety of Japanese maple. The name ‘Baton Rouge’ means red stick which is obviously a great name for a coral bark Japanese maple. ‘Baton Rouge’ is a very heat tolerant and hardy coral bark Japanese maple. ‘Baton Rouge’ does a good job of maintaining some red color to the branches throughout the year, but it is brightest red in the winter. ‘Baton Rouge’ does not get nearly as tall as a ‘Sango kaku’ which makes it great for smaller areas or smaller gardens.
Acer palmatum ‘Beni kawa’ is another popular coral bark Japanese maple for the winter garden. ‘Beni kawa’ compares well with ‘Sango kaku’. ‘Beni kawa’ grows a little shorter and wider than ‘Sango kaku’. ‘Beni kawa’ has a darker red bark color compared to the bright red of ‘Sango kaku’, and the fall color of ‘Beni kawa’ ranges more orange compared to the yellow of ‘Sango kaku’. ‘Beni kawa’ is yet another unique variety of Japanese maple that makes a great option for the winter garden.
Kawahara no midori
Acer palmatum ‘Kawahara no midori’ is a lesser seen Japanese maple with green bark. Like ‘Aoyagi’ the bark of ‘Kawahara no midori’ is bright green especially in the winter. ‘Kawahara no midori’ is a vigorous grower especially when young. ‘Kawahara no midori’ will develop into an attractive vase shaped tree that will provide a unique look with the bright green bark color.
Acer palmatum ‘Dixie Delight’ is another yellow bark Japanese maple. The yellow bark color isn’t as consistent as ‘Bihou’ but it is very attractive. The bark color ranges from bright yellow to a pale salmon color. Unlike other bark interest varieties, I suggest growing ‘Dixie Delight’ in mostly shade. The bark seems to burn and lose color when placed in too much sun. The pale yellow and pink bark colors give ‘Dixie Delight’ yet another unique look compared to these other bark interest Japanese maples. All of which are excellent for the winter garden given the array of bark colors.
Acer palmatum ‘Japanese Sunrise’ is another excellent coral bark Japanese maple that doesn’t get too large. The foliage throughout the year is very similar to ‘Sango kaku’, but it differs in bark color. ‘Japanese sunrise’ has variations in bark color depending on the time of year and amount of sun the tree gets. Bark color on ‘Japanese Sunrise’ can range anywhere from yellow to bright red, but typically settles in on an attractive orange color. ‘Japanese sunrise’ is yet another variety with unique bark color that provides even more contrast to our winter garden.
Acer palmatum ‘Red Wood’ is our final coral bark Japanese maple for our winter garden. ‘Red Wood’ is very similar to a shorter form of ‘Sango kaku’. ‘Red Wood’ is generally a full growing tree that branches out very well when young. The bark on ‘Red Wood’ can sometimes have more of a pale reddish color compared to some of the darker and brighter red colors of the other coral bark varieties. ‘Red Wood’ is another good coral bark variety for smaller winter gardens.
There are many ways to make your garden attractive during the winter months. Gardening with different varieties of evergreen conifers is one great way, but there are plenty of Japanese maples that can help beautify and differentiate your winter garden as well. Whether you choose to add one or two of these bark interest Japanese maples or if you add all ten, you will be adding excellent color and contrast not found in many other plants during the winter months. This is just another way that you can garden with Japanese maples.