Sharp’s Pygmy Japanese Maple (acer palmatum)

A couple of years ago my parents purchased me this Sharp’s Pygmy Japanese Maple. It is considered a dwarf variety and tends to be more of a bush/shrub instead of a tree. This makes it perfect for bonsai since it already has a short compact style along with small leaves. Now I got this tree a couple of years ago when I first started doing bonsai and of course without knowing much I threw it into a bonsai pot and then did nothing more to it. So needless to say it’s in a pot that’s not really the best option for the tree and it has grown untrained.

Time to change that!

I decided that since the tree was already nestled into a pot that is giving it more than enough room to grow and that the tree itself is very healthy, I would concentrate more on the styling, shaping and branch ramification process and not worry about re-potting into a more appropriate pot until next year. The tree will be styled in a “broom” bonsai style.

And now onto the tree.


Here is the tree as it was being bought at a local nursery a couple of years ago. It was bought at a Stauffers of Kissel Hill Garden Center.


The japanese maple during its first winter. Here you can see the compact design of the tree which is one reason I think it works great for bonsai.


A short bit later and its out of control! As I said above it is in a pot that is not the best option. You all have been there and done that! Its time to start defining this tree into the bonsai it was meant to be.


A look into the interior of the foliage and there is already a problem forming. Without the proper care, the foliage as grown to thick to let in light and the interior leaves and some branches have started to die. This can be corrected, however it will just make the process a little bit longer.


Here are 2 stages of the leaves on a Sharp’s Japanese Maple. The very tiny leaf on right is a new fresh leaf and the bigger one on the left is a full-sized mature leaf. Yet another reason I believe these make a good bonsai species is due to the smallness of the leaves. At full size it’s not much bigger than a U.S. dime. If you have a dime or something similar in another country, put one in your hand and get a good visual of the leaf size 🙂


The best way to get a deciduous tree to back bud or to get smaller weaker branches stronger, is to defoliate the tree. This should only be carried out on strong healthy trees and only after the new growth has hardened off. Japanese maples can be defoliated 2-3 times a year depending the trees health and the purpose of the defoliation. Unfortunately I could not get any pics of me in the process but as you can see by the pile of leaves on the floor there was a lot to do. The pile was about 3 ft x 3 ft and 7-8 inches deep! A LOT OF LEAVES! The next time I decide to defoliate a tree, I will make certain I get in action photos and explain the steps.


Here it is after the defoliation. I did not do a full defoliation, only about 90%. I left the leaves on the smaller inner branches that are weak so they could grow stronger. My intent after I get some stronger inner growth and back budding is to cut back the exterior and shorten the overall tree a few inches. But with signs that a bunch of the interior was dying back, I want to make sure I get some back budding before I start chopping too much and potentially lose a main branch. After the tree drops its leaves this fall, I will give it its first official wiring and get some structure to it. I also scrapped the poor ugly soil top off and gave it some fresh better looking soil. I did not disturb the roots while doing this so no worries. That’s it for this tree until later this year or next after some work.

Onto a bit of a funny note:

I have had people in the past say about how much some japanese maple leaves look like marijuana leaves. I never really gave it any thought until it was brought up again as I was working on this tree. Now if you think about japanese maples such as any lace-leaf cultivar or a bloodgood maple you say that there is no comparing and not really any similarities. Since I have both styles in my yard and after looking at the leaves, that was my first response. However, after I compared a leaf from my Sharp’s Pygmy Japanese Maple I was shocked! All I can say is that I hope no police officer finds all the cut off leaves in my garbage or looks in my garage and sees any laying on the floor otherwise I will have some innocent explaining to do! LOL


Leaf off of my Sharp’s Pygmy Japanese Maple.

image from
image from

Photo of a marijuana leaf I found online when I googled it to see what it actually looked liked. AND NO! I did not know what it looked liked before I researched it online.

Only very small differences! The similarities are a bit to close for comfort and then the fact that people I hang around even mentioned it is a bit alarming. I might want to consider rethinking our friendship 😉 LOL.

As always thanks again for reading and don’t hesitate to sign up and follow my blog.


4 thoughts on “Sharp’s Pygmy Japanese Maple (acer palmatum)”

  1. Good work and I like the choice of pot for the later show of leaf colour.

    I put a call in to ‘you-know-who’ but they sat they’r to busy with their own bonsai’s. LOL

    Inspiring post, thanks Erick.

    1. I like the pot as well but once I shorten the tree it will be a bit too large. I guess I just have to go buy a bigger bonsai to fit the pot 😉 lol.
      I might go with a similar color pot when I get a different one for this tree but mainly it will be more shallow.

  2. Erick, I love this tree. Lots of potential! It has the features to make it a great tree.I would reduce the crown by almost half, if it was mine…remember you have to add the twiggy growth to this…which will make it somewhat larger. Think taper also… Aim for a great tree…not just a good one! Good luck!

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