Easily grown in moist, organically rich, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best performance is in sun-dappled part shade, but best fall color is usually in full sun. Best to avoid hot and dry sites. Plant in a location protected from strong winds.
Acer palmatum, commonly called Japanese maple, is a deciduous shrub or small tree that typically grows to 10-25' (infrequently to 40') tall. It is native to Japan, Korea and China. General plant form is rounded to broad-rounded, often with low branching. Each palmate green leaf (2-5" long) has 5 or 7 but less frequently 9 pointed toothed lobes. Small reddish-purple flowers in umbels bloom in mid spring (April). The flowers are rather attractive close up, but are not particularly showy from a distance. Flowers are followed by samaras (to 3/4" long) in pairs. Samaras ripen in September-October. Fall color includes shades of yellow, red-purple and bronze. Cultivars (often grafted) are quite variable.
Genus name of Acer is the Latin name for a maple tree.
Specific epithet is in reference to the palmate nature of the leaves. Each leaf has several lobes (typically 5–7) that all originate from one point looking like an open hand with outstretched fingers.
‘Shishigashira’ is an upright, compact, slow-growing form that typically grows to 7-15’ tall over a number of years. Palmate, 5- to 7-lobed, crinkled, bright green leaves (to 2” long) grow in tufts along the stems. Foliage on young trees may appear sparse. Foliage turns showy shades of gold and crimson in fall. Small reddish-purple flowers in spring are somewhat attractive on close inspection, but are not showy from a distance. Flowers are followed by samaras that ripen in late summer to fall. ‘Shishigashira’ means lion’s head, and this cultivar is sometimes commonly called lion’s head maple.
‘Shishigashira’ is synonymous with ‘Ribesifolium’ (referring to the resemblance of the leaves to those of Ribes alpinum).
No serious insect or disease problems. Susceptible to stem canker and leaf spots. Verticillium wilt may also occur. Watch for borers, scale, mites and aphids. Good resistance to leaf scorch. Foliage tends to leaf out early in spring and is subject to damage from late spring frosts.
Japanese maples are generally grown for their attractive foliage and shape. Specimen/accent or group around the home or yard or periphery of the border or rock garden. Multi-stemmed shrub forms are effective in small groupings in shrub borders. May be grown in tubs/patio containers.