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Did You Ever Wonder?????



All true Japanese maple cultivars are grafted. If you see a non-grafted Jm it is a seed-grown mongrel and not a true cultivar. The maple seed is not true to the mother tree. The father tree can be anywhere near by and cannot be 100% determined. These trees may or may not look like the mother tree and can take up to 4 years to develop their permanent characteristics. It is unethical to sell a seed grown tree as a named cultivar. Along with grafting, there are a couple of other ways to propagate Jms to get true cultivars: air layering or cloning. Neither of these propagation techniques has a good success rate and they don’t work on many cultivars so they are not used commercially and air layering is very costly. Grafting is still the best, least expensive and most common way to make sure your Jm is a true cultivar. Keep in mind some JMs are VERY hard to graft thus are pricier. AT DAVIDSAN’S we sell only named grafted trees.


There are so many different sizes!!!!  Classifying by size is very difficult. Some sell by age. Some sell by pot size or height.  AT DAVIDSAN’S we use many factors in sizing and pricing our trees but have found pot size to be the best way to communicate the tree’s value. We determine pot size by taking into consideration the root ball size, caliper, fullness and sometimes height to give you the most for your money.

At most places, pot size can be misleading.  Some sellers transplant from band pots (That’s the size pot the Jms are in when first grafted) to one gallon pots sooner than they should. Before their first season these young trees don’t have the root size necessary to be in that size pot. We think that a tree should have 2 full growing seasons to be placed in a 1 gal pot.  AT DAVIDAN’S we do not sell band pots of newly grafted trees. Unscrupulous sellers move these up to one gal and sell them as such. The same goes for larger trees when sold in a pot that is larger than needed.  Even more confusing is that the actual cubic inch size varies from “grower’s pots” to “standard pots”.  A “grower’s” three gal pot is about the same as a “standard” two gallon pot.  Most sellers use the smaller “growers” pots since they are less expensive and take up less room. “Grower’s” pots hold about a third less soil than standard pots of the same name. Even  the handful of premier U.S. growers use “grower’s” 1 gal pots that are actually 3 quarts not 4 quarts, but they have the best quality of Jms with tree size and quality superior to other folks’ 1 gallon standard size pots.

AT DAVIDSAN’S many factors are taken into consideration before we determine the “pot size” regardless of which type of pot is used. We include root ball size and and viability, caliper of trunk , type and fullness  of branching, the height and overall look of each tree to determine its value. Davidsan’s sells superior trees. Period.


The age of a JM can be exaggerated by sellers. If a tree was grafted in the fall it can be classified as a two year old graft as early as the next spring, so a “3 year old graft” may only have two actual growing seasons. At Davidsan’s we use a “seasons-old” classification. A “two season” tree has had two full season of growth. We are integrating this classification into our web site.


Burgundy Lime

The height of a tree is the most requested, least important and most deceptive means to determine the quality of a JM. A grower who is into making a lot of money quickly might make a high graft, with the graft being 12”, 24” and even 36” above soil line. This tree is deceptively tall and appears to be more mature than it really is. High grafted Jm’s  often are 90% root stock and 10% actual cultivar you are buying. It doesn’t take a mathalete to know this is a rip off.  Many call these “patio trees” and most are weeping dissectums. We do carry some weeping Ryusen grafted on pine bark root stock which makes much more sense since the pine bark offers a really nice second look for the tree with it’s rough bark appearance and the grafts are very nice.  The Ryusen weeps straight down, so it either needs a tall trunk or a tall pedestal to show it off!  With most all high grafted dissectums the trunk color is different below and above the graft and does not match.  Many have bad grafts that look like a big tumor and will only look good with a “Cousin It” type tree form covering that up. If you want to show tree structure by trimming you are out of luck.

AT DAVIDSAN’S If you really do want a tall trunk dissectum, we have a few grafted at 12 inches. That’s much less than big box ones at 24”- 36”. Just because we don’t care for them doesn’t mean someone might have a place for them. As said, we much prefer low grafts on all our trees and 99% of ours are low grafts. We always notify the buyer if they choose one of the few dissectums we have that are high grafted.

Another way to force a young tree’s growth is to beef it up with fertilizer. In that case, you get a very tall but thin tree with a small root system. This tree will take a long time to look like a nice Jm. Also with the small root system come the hazards of winter cold and summer heat affecting the tree’s survival.

AT DAVIDSAN’S We allow the tree grow at its own rate, without much extra fertilizer. This results in a strong trunk, well branched appearance, and a well developed root system.



A lot of folks would like a picture to help them buy a tree. Of course, that can give you some idea of what you will get as long as it is not a stock jpeg as some send, but a picture of the actual tree. Even then the camera angle can mislead  the appearance of the fullness of the tree, the caliper, etc. We sell so many trees that taking a picture of each one for our customers would be impossible. If we took photo after photo to find the “perfect” tree for you, we would be spending all our waking hours taking jpegs.  With a larger tree we often do send a jpeg because there is a larger investment on your part and we want you to be confidant that you get the tree you need. Before we send a picture we also make sure that the price is good for you and you are truly interested in purchasing from us. We cannot take pictures  for those just a-fishin’. We can only take jpegs of trees 5 gallons or larger, We ask that you trust us to send the best tree that we have on smaller less expensive cultivars.  We will not ship any cultivar we feel is not first class.


At Davidsan’s we do very little pruning on our trees. Since many folks like lower branches and bushier trees, we leave trimming up to the customer. They can be trimmed up to whatever form you want. However we do stake our smaller trees for stabilization and to help them keep their form.

Hana fubuki


A Japanese maple is NOT a street or shade tree to sit under. Japanese maples are ornamental trees. Many want no low branches, a perfect straight single trunk . Often, Jms either have lower branches, shorter trunks, or even multiple trunks. Most do not have perfectly straight trunks. With some cultivars, such as low grafted dissectums and some dwarfs, wavy trunks are actually preferred because they add character and individuality to the JM. IT also gives them a really cool look!  If you have an anal personality JMs are NOT for you. Instead you should buy a Sugar Maple or Red Maple or Red Oak or another common street tree. Davidsdan’s does not carry common street trees but we do carry rare and uncommon street trees like Franklinia, Tupelo, various rare and strange Oaks, Ginkgo, Beech, Yellowwood and many more. These special trees can be planted to set you apart from the suburban masses who seem to have the same trees that are planted in every yard by ho hum landscapers and builders or folks without an imagination. But if you want a street /shade tree, Jms will not be for you!

Ever Autumn


Most web sellers copy West Coast sizes and growth rates. These sizes are a 10 year growth estimate in ideal growing conditions of the west coast. Some also use J.D. Vertrees book as their bible not realizing he was from and had his nursery in Oregon Vis A Vis west coast sizes again. At Davidsan’s we use Midwest and mid to northern areas ( zone 5 and zone 6) as our 10 year growth size and never put yearly growth inches but we will say “fast growing” or “slow growing.” Unless you live in a very maple friendly area our figures will be more accurate. If you see West coast size estimates, you should take about a third or more off! This becomes VERY important if you are older or don’t plan on staying in your house for 20 years. You may be on oxygen or moved away before you can enjoy your tree. For those folks, we recommend that they buy a larger tree to start off with. Remember Jms take a year or two or more to grow out their root systems and then they will take off with variable amounts of yearly growth.

Autumn Fire


We hear people say over and over again they “want to watch their tree grow.” That usually means they don’t have the money to spend or are just bargain hunters. We do understand many people have a hard time making ends meet and for many, buying trees is frivolous. That’s fine but watching the JM grow while actually enjoying your tree generally requires a bigger, older, more developed tree.  We suggest save your money and buy the size of tree or trees you can enjoy from the get go. This is even more important in non Jm friendly places since it will take forever to enjoy. “Seeing it grow and actually enjoying it while it grows” makes a lot of sense to us. We usually suggest a 5 gal tree minimum for those who are older or want to have an immediate impact. If you are really on a budget our 3 gal size is nice, but there is usually a big difference in maturity compared to a 5 gal. To get a great looking JM of size, fullness and branching and caliper it costs very little more to get 5 gallon or larger JM that is more enjoyable. Again for those on a budget or those that want a Jm badly but can’t afford it, save your money and buy a larger tree at a later date.



For people living in the far north, zone 3 and 4, you are not in a great Jm growing area, unless you are by water or similar micro-climate. Even our super hardy Psuedosieboldianum will have a hard time.  It has great fall color but its growth pattern stinks. I have lost them down here in really bad winters. You should consider container growing.  Then you can grow any Jm! These have to be brought in during the winter to an insulated unheated or lightly heated garage or out-building and will need repotting every few years but container growing gives you the whole spectrum of JM cultivars to choose from. Folks in zone 5 and 6 who have limited space should also consider planting in a container as an alternative.




There are some Jms specifically developed for the sun and heat of the south and many others do well there as well. The trick, just as with northern trees, is where you plant them and all the basic specifications of the tree (root ball size, caliper, branching, fullness etc.) so that it can withstand the southern conditions in summer. Planting any JM in full sun in the south is not recommended. Davidsan’s can help you find a Jm that can take southern temps better in difficult planting areas.




In addition to your state’s north/south location, where you actually plant your tree in your own yard is of the utmost importance to consider. Siting your Jm can be confusing and requires a lot of decisions. Poor and uneducated siting of your JM, along with not following the above buying information can make your Jm look shabby, or worse. The ideal siting is either morning sunshine and afternoon shade or all day filtered sun. This is not always possible. Most Jms will do okay in a lot of shade but they might not color well and have slower growth rates. A few seem to keep their color better than others in shade. The type of shade is also important. Full shade under any non-deciduous conifer is the deepest shade. Shade under deciduous trees can be a good place to grow Jms,  as there generally have smaller, less dense leaves in spring and smaller leaves in fall (or maybe none!) so your Jm will have better color during those times. Full sun can be pretty hard on most Jms. There are a few developed for south that are more tolerant to full sun. After it matures, a Jms will fare better in full sun. As the tree ages it is less sensitive to heat in summer and  winter damage. Excessive wind can be damaging to Jms. Receiving a lot of summer and winter wind is drying to the tree, can cause leaf damage in summer and die back or bark damage in winter. AT DAVIDSAN’S we can guide you to the JM that will work in your location. Just let us know where you want to plant your tree!


Hana matoi


OK WE HEAR YA!! We know most of you want a red JM. Most folks don’t realize there are so many more choices and that most collectors and expert growers search out a wide variety of colors. Reds do look boffo and no doubt it’s the first thing many people think when you say Japanese Maple. The problem is most “reds” are not red all summer (they tend to go green/bronze in the heat), they may get leaf burn in prolonged direct sunlight, but they need some direct sunshine to become their reddest. And don’t worry about “light” or “dark” red as that can change year to year depending on weather conditions; frosts, soil composition, humidity, amount of shade…. Don’t forget that the trees near your red JM will get bigger and give more shade each year. More shade means a darker red. Asking for red really limits your choices. Try using my Sap App and choose the “red” option for just the fall or just the spring color. See below for link.  A tree that has a mix of fall colors can be the most interesting: that tree might start out red in the spring, be green all summer and then in the fall, it becomes yellow, then orange and then red. These stages result in an ever-changing rainbow of gorgeous, saturated fall color! 


I hope this not-so-brief article helps you and doesn’t confuse you too much. Just be an informed buyer. It helps to have a pretty good idea what you want before you contact us, but be flexible about it because there are so many variables with Japanese Maples. Use Davidsan’s “sap app” to help you:

Try to visit us if you are within driving distance. We love visitors!!! Before you come, make a list of trees you like, where you want to plant, shade, soil, drainage, etc. Jms  are a special and variable investment, not the same as your other daily purchases.