Growing Japanese Maple Indoors

Growing Japanese Maple Indoors Image

Maple trees are best known for their stunning autumn leaf color and distinctive shape. They typically grow as massive deciduous trees reaching 33 to 148 feet. 

However, maple trees are also available in smaller varieties or shrubs that peak at heights below 10 meters. These dwarf varieties have small trunks that originate at ground level. They also present the opportunity to bring these beauties indoors as houseplants. 

Since maple is not a typical houseplant, you must know how to approach it to grow the tree indoors. 

Read along to learn everything you need about growing Japanese maple indoors. 

Growing Japanese Maple Indoors: Summary  

While the Japanese maple is a relatively big tree for a room, you can select its dwarf varieties and grow them indoors.

Ensure you grow the tree in well-drained soil with good moisture retention and provide it with afternoon shade to thrive. You must prune the potted plant regularly to maintain its size and repot it every two years. 

Your Japanese maple will also need protection from powerful winds. Its foliage is pretty fragile, so it is crucial to protect it from prolonged exposure to high winds that can quickly dry it out.

Can you Keep a Japanese Maple Bonsai Indoors?

While Japanese maple bonsai plants are best suited for growing outdoors, you can grow them indoors. This will require keeping the ambient temperature and humidity around the plant comfortable to mimic its natural habitat. 

The plant requires regular watering to prevent dehydration and enhance easier nutrient uptake. Watering the plant once or twice a week should be adequate. You must also prune it regularly to control its growth and spread and keep it looking its best. 

Like most houseplants, Japanese maple should not be kept in wet soil for too long. Overwatering can lead to root rot and eventual death of the plant. 

Indoor Japanese Maple Varieties

If you are considering Japanese maple for your indoor plant, you can choose one of these three types. These are the dwarf varieties that will grow indoors without being inhibited by the roof above them. 

i. Red dragon maple

This low-growing, compact Japanese maple grows slowly and attains a height of about five to 10 feet when fully grown. When fully grown, the shrub can reach a width of about five to eight feet. 

Unlike tropical plants that prefer bright indirect sunlight, the red dragon maple loves direct sunlight. It also boasts significant frost tolerance.

The red dragon maple is an ideal bonsai plant due to its small size and slow growth. You only need to prune it occasionally to keep it looking its best. Their preference for direct sunlight also means you should put them next to a window that receives lots of sunlight. 

An east-facing window typically provides this plant with the best light for growth. 

ii. Ribbon-leaf maple

Ribbon-leaf maple is another shrub that grows to approximately 10 feet when fully grown. It has dense foliage with an upright orientation, making it an excellent candidate for indoor living. 

This plant commonly grows in rock gardens. It is grown indoors for its ornamental value, making it an excellent addition to any indoor jungle. Its foliage is bright red in the spring, gold, and green during the early summer months, and dark burgundy by midsummer.

Most plant parents love it for its low-maintenance quality. It is easy to care for, so you should not have difficulty growing it in your space if you have some experience with indoor plants.   

iii. Velvet Viking Japanese maple

The Velvet Viking is the most compact of all three Japanese maple types here. It is a shrub that grows to a height of four feet when mature. 

This Japanese maple boasts the greatest tolerance to direct sunlight exposure. Most maple species prefer mild but direct bright sunlight. As such, they typically thrive in east-facing lighting conditions where they get plenty of the gentle morning sun.

However, the velvet Viking does not require shelter from the hot afternoon sun. Instead, it will do well in the west- and south-facing windows or rooms associated with plenty of sunlight and hot afternoon conditions. 

Requirements for Growing Japanese Maple Indoors 

Since Japanese maple is primarily an outdoor plant, growing it indoors will require certain conditions. Follow these requirements to make the most of your experience with this beautiful plant.   

1. Potting soil mix

The three main ingredients to have in your potting soil mix include the following:

  • Three-part potting soil
  • Two-part orchid bark or pine chips 
  • One part perlite or pumice 
Potting mix for growing Japanese Maple Indoors

You can use orchid bark chips or pine bark in the mix to help improve drainage and moisture retention. This ingredient makes the soil chunky, allowing enough air pockets to aerate the roots. They also retain moisture, helping to prevent dehydration. 

Perlite or pumice help improve soil drainage while providing aeration as well. Your Japanese maple won’t be happy staying in a wet environment, so including pumice or perlite in the soil mix can go a long way in preventing that problem. 

2. Watering and fertilizer use 

The frequency of watering will depend on the season. Compared to other house plants like blanchetii plant care, bonsai trees can use watering every once or twice a week during warm months like summer and once a week in cooler months of the year.

Consider watering in the morning and applying enough water to moisten the soil but not drench it. 

Japanese maples are not heavy feeders. But you can apply a slow-release fertilizer twice yearly to promote better growth. We recommend feeding your maple with fertilizer in March and early July.

3. Growth location

Since these plants are partial to some sunlight, they will do well in a south-facing room or window. 

The idea is to expose the plant to cool temperatures with partial sunlight, mimicking its natural habitat.  

Since the plant enters dormancy during winter, you must simulate its natural environment and give it the right conditions for becoming dormant during this cold season. You can create an enclosure around its pot to insulate it or set up a microclimate in the unheated garage.

4. Pruning

Pruning is crucial for controlling the growth of your indoor Japanese maple and helping it maintain its shape. Consider cutting off all the diseased or broken branches when running to promote healthy growth.

Removing decaying leaves and damaged or unhealthy branches help preserve the energy that would otherwise be wasted in them. You will also need to trim the roots once a couple of years with root-pruning shears to let them grow taller.

5. Repotting

Once the bonsai tree has outgrown its current container, you must transfer it to a larger vessel. You can do this once every two years, preferably between October and March. 

You can tell when it is time to repot your plant by observing the roots. A maple tree is ready for repotting when its roots start poking out through the drainage holes. 

Always water the plant about an hour before repotting exercise to soften the soil around its roots and make the process easier. 

Growing Japanese Maple Indoors Step by Step

Growing a Japanese maple is easy if you know the steps and care routine. Now that you know the growth requirements for this tree, growing one should be stress-free. 

This section walks you through the steps of growing a Japanese maple in your home. 

Step 1. Select a suitable dwarf variety   

The first thing you want to do when growing a maple tree indoors is select a dwarf variety from the various options available. Choosing a dwarf variety ensures the plant will not overgrow its space and become too large for the indoor space. 

The three dwarf varieties to choose from include:  

  • Velvet Viking Japanese maple—the most compact and hardy variety.
  • Red Dragon Japanese maple is a slow-growing Japanese maple shrub that thrives in zones 5-8. 
  • Ribbon-leaf maple—known for its dense, upright growth habit that thrives in 6-9. 

If you want a plant that will not grow too tall, Velvet Viking Japanese maple may be perfect for you. However, if you want a tall plant that can reach up to 10 feet in optimal conditions, Ribbon-leaf maple may be perfect. 

Step 2. Create the right potting mix   

The right potting mix for a Japanese maple tree has three main ingredients. 

  • Three-part potting soil to feed the plant roots with the nutrients they require. 
  • Two-part orchid bark or pine chips to aerate the soil, make it slightly acidic, and retain moisture.
  • One part perlite or pumice to improve soil drainage. 

Step 3. Soak the cutting in root hormones to develop roots (optional)  

You can grow maple trees from seeds, transplants, or stem cuttings. The option you use will determine whether to include this step or not. 

Skip this step if you will grow the plant from seeds or transplants of the plant. However, if you are growing the Japanese maple from stem cuttings, you can develop the roots using a rooting medium. 

Simply soak the ends of the branch cuttings in a rooting hormone of your choice to develop new maple tree roots. The product should come with user instructions for the best results. 

When using this option, ensure you take the stem cuttings in spring or early summer and not during winter when the plant enters dormancy. 

Step 4. Pot the plant 

Once your maple tree sapling is ready, this part is the same. Start by wearing protective gardening gloves and cover the base of the container with your potting mix.

Next, remove the sapling from its current container and gently remove any soil from its root ball. Then carefully insert the plant before adding the rest of the soil mix until it covers all the roots.

Ensure the soil does not reach the plant’s leaves. You should leave some space between the top of the soil and the leaves. 

Step 5. Water and fertilize the plant as recommended  

Once the plant is snugly in its new pot, gently sprinkle the soil with room-temperature water until the excess water flows out through the drainage holes. 

Thereafter, water the maple tree once weekly in the morning to keep it adequately hydrated. Ensure you water the plant only to make the soil moist, not waterlogged.

You can also feed it with a slow-release organic fertilizer once or twice a year. 

Step 6. Replicate its natural habitat  

Most dwarf Japanese maple trees can tolerate direct morning sunlight. Some hardy green-leaf varieties are happy with some exposure to direct afternoon sun. 

However, variegated or lacey maple varieties prefer partial shade, as direct sun exposure can burn them. 

So consider the type of maple you have at home and ensure you give it the quality of sunlight it needs. 

Step 7. Prune it to control its growth indoors 

Cut off damaged branches and decaying leaves or sections as the plant grows to keep it looking its best. Pruning with clean heavy-duty shears also helps keep the plant manageable and can prevent diseases from spreading.

Over time, you may also need to prune the roots when they start poking out of the drainage holes to encourage the plant to get taller. 

Step 8. Repot the Japanese maple every two years 

Like any indoor plant, your Japanese maple will outgrow its pot. So you will have to transfer it to a bigger pot. Repotting a maple tree should occur every two years. Ensure you schedule the exercise between October and March when the plant’s roots are dormant.


Can you keep maple trees indoors indefinitely? 

You can keep a maple tree indoors indefinitely as long as you prune it regularly to manage its yearly growth. You must also repot the plant on time to ensure it always stays in a pot with enough space for its roots. 

Can Japanese red maple be grown indoors?

Yes, you can plant the Japanese red maple in a pot and keep it indoors, just like any houseplant. This is possible because the plant has dwarf varieties that grow only feet tall, allowing it to thrive indoors with the right care and maintenance routine. 

Can I grow a maple tree indoors?

Yes, you can grow Japanese maple indoors if you meet its seasonal needs and make an effort to control its natural size with regular pruning and root trimming. These practices help stunt the plant’s growth to remain in a manageable size for indoor living.


Japanese maple trees are seasonal and incredibly beautiful. If you want to tap into this beauty, you can choose a dwarf variety and grow it indoors.

To succeed in doing so, ensure you prune the plant regularly and trim its roots to keep its size manageable.

This article provides all the necessary information about growing potted Japanese maple indoors. We hope it helps you through your plant parenting journey. 

Let us know your thoughts in the comments. 

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