How to Care for the “Bloodgood” Japanese Maple

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The Bloodgood Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum var. atropurpureum ‘Bloodgood’) is the most popular cultivar of the Japanese maple. Known for its beautiful foliage and resilient nature when faced with higher temperatures which would harm most other cultivars, the ‘Bloodgood’ maple is a wonderful addition when considering landscaping.

The Bloodgood features burgundy red foliage that turns brilliant scarlet in the fall and an interesting red-black bark, which provides striking interest during the winter. With leaves among the darkest of any Japanese maple, the ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese maple retains its color throughout the fall. It holds its color better and is more forgiving than most other red Japanese maple cultivars.

Growth and Size

The Bloodgood Japanese Maple typically reaches a mature height of 15-20 feet with a similar spread or width, making it perfect for Bonsai training. It grows at a moderate rate, adding about 1-2 feet of growth per year.

This maple has a dense and compact growth habit, making it suitable for smaller gardens or landscapes. The tree has a rounded, upright shape with thin branches that sprout from either a single trunk or multiple sub-trunks.

Bloodgood Japanese Maple

To ensure the health and vitality of your Bloodgood Japanese Maple, it’s important to provide it with the proper care and maintenance. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind:

Planting and Location

Spring and fall are ideal times to plant the Bloodgood Japanese Maple, but it can be planted almost any time of the year as long as you avoid freezing and hot temperatures.

The tree prefers full sun to part shade, receiving about four hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight per day, making it one of the few Japanese Maples that can handle full sun even in warmer zones.

They can also tolerate full sun, which is defined as six hours or more of direct sunlight. However, like other Japanese maples, the Bloodgood variety may experience leaf scorch when they are young, especially if they are not getting adequate water.

If you notice any leaf scorch, it is important to keep the tree watered. However, leaf scorch does not typically affect the overall health of the tree.

Watering

Bloodgood Japanese Maples should be watered often enough to keep the soil moist. The watering frequency will depend on various factors such as climate, soil type, and tree age. Initially, after planting, it is recommended to water the tree about two to three times per week.

To determine if your Bloodgood Maple needs watering, check the soil about 3 or 4 inches down. If the soil is dry at this depth, it’s time to water the tree. Do not allow the soil to dry completely or become overly saturated, as either condition can harm the tree.

When watering, it is important to provide deep and thorough watering. This encourages the roots to grow deeper into the soil, promoting a stronger and healthier tree. Water the tree until the soil is moist to a depth of at least 6 inches.

While it is important to keep the tree adequately hydrated, overwatering can lead to root rot and other issues. Make sure the soil has proper drainage to prevent waterlogging.

Soil

The ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese maple prefers well-drained, moist, nutrient-rich, and neutral to slightly acidic soil with a pH range of 5.0 to 7.0. However, it can adapt to a variety of soil types. If your soil is too alkaline, you can amend it with sulfur or other acidifying agents to lower the pH

Mulching is important to keep the roots moist and protect them from extreme temperatures in winter. Apply a layer of 2 to 3 inches of mulch, making sure it doesn’t touch the trunk. Adding organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, to the soil can also improve its structure and fertility, promoting healthy growth.

Fertilizing

Fertilize in early spring and when planting to give the tree a boost. Choose a slow-release fertilizer and mix it into the soil before placing the tree in the hole to avoid burning the roots. Look for a fertilizer with an NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) value of 10-10-10.

To fertilize an already existing maple, apply the fertilizer evenly around the tree, spreading it from about halfway between the trunk and the drip line, and extending it to approximately 1-2 feet beyond the drip line. The drip line is the area on the ground directly under the circumference of the tree’s canopy. This is where the feeder roots are concentrated.

After applying the fertilizer, make sure to water the tree well. This helps to ensure that the nutrients are absorbed by the roots and distributed throughout the tree

Pruning and Maintenance

Japanese Maples, including the Bloodgood variety, generally do not require pruning. However, if needed, prune when the tree is dormant to remove any dead, dying, or crowded branches, or to maintain its shape.

The best time to prune your Bloodgood Japanese Maple is in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. This allows the tree to heal quickly and minimizes stress on the tree.

Use the right tools for pruning, such as pruning shears, loppers, and pruning saws. Pruning shears are suitable for small branches, while loppers and pruning saws are ideal for larger branches.

To prune, start by removing any dead, broken, or diseased branches. These branches can hinder the tree’s overall health and appearance. Make clean cuts just outside the branch collar, without cutting into it.

To shape your Bloodgood Japanese Maple, remove any branches that are growing inward, crossing each other, or creating a crowded appearance. Also, consider removing narrow crotches (branches that meet at an angle of less than 45 degrees) and crowded branches in the crown area to improve airflow and overall tree health.

Try not to over-prune your Bloodgood Japanese Maple. Pruning should be done selectively and with caution to maintain the tree’s natural form and avoid stimulating excessive growth

Pests and Diseases

Bloodgood Japanese Maples can occasionally be affected by pests such as scale, mites, aphids, and Japanese beetles. These pests can be treated naturally with horticultural oil, neem oil, or insecticidal soap. For severe infections, pesticides like carbaryl (Sevin) can be used.

To control Japanese beetles, consider using parasitic nematodes and bacillus thuringiensis, which are effective organic methods. You can also manually remove them by handpicking or use insecticidal soap or neem oil to control the infestation

Another common pest is the crown dieback, especially in younger trees, due to late spring frosts. This can cause the top part of the tree to have no leaves or for the leaves to be faded brown instead of the vibrant red color.

To address this issue, you can prune away any dead or damaged branches and provide extra protection during late spring frosts, such as covering the tree with a cloth or burlap.

Is Bloodgood Japanese maple always red?

The Bloodgood Japanese Maple typically exhibits deep red foliage, especially during the spring and early summer. However, the intensity of the red color can vary depending on the geographical location, the depending on environmental conditions, and the specific tree. For example, in hotter climates, the leaves may turn more bronze or greenish due to heat stress.

Additionally, the color of the leaves can vary depending on factors such as sunlight exposure and soil conditions. To encourage vibrant red leaves, make sure the tree is getting enough sunlight, as more sunlight generally enhances the intensity of its colors.

Maintaining proper soil pH and providing adequate nutrients through fertilization can also help promote healthy leaf color. If you are specifically looking for a Japanese Maple with consistently red foliage, you may consider other cultivars such as ‘Fireglow,’ ‘Moonfire,’ or ‘Emperor I’ 

Are Bloodgood Japanese maples hardy?

Bloodgood Japanese maples are known for their hardiness and resilience, making them suitable for a range of climates. They can tolerate cold temperatures as low as -20°F (-29°C) and are recommended for USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9. While they can withstand extreme cold, it’s important to protect them from prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures.

On the other hand, they also have good heat tolerance and can thrive in regions with warm climates. Providing some shade during the hottest part of the day can help prevent excessive heat stress. These trees are adaptable to various soil types, including clay, loam, and sand, and can tolerate both partial shade and full sun, although partial shade is preferred for richer foliage colors.

In summary, Bloodgood Japanese maples are hardy trees that can withstand a range of climates. They are cold-tolerant, heat-tolerant, and adaptable to different soil types. Whether you live in a region with cold winters or hot summers, these trees can thrive and add beauty to your landscape.

Just ensure they are protected from extreme cold and provided with some shade during the hottest part of the day. With proper care, Bloodgood Japanese maples will continue to impress with their vibrant foliage and graceful form.

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