Borderline Plants – Japanese Maple

Green Japanese Maple leaves in the sun
Green Japanese Maple

Do They Grow Here?

We’ll start by looking up the hardiness zones they grow in. In Apple Valley, Hesperia, Victorville, and Oak Hills we are between zones 8a and 9b for the USDA hardiness zones, and zone 10/11 for the Sunset Western Garden zones depending on which edition you’re looking at.

Sunset Western Garden Zones: 2-10, 12, 14-24

USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-8 (Some cultivars are zones 5-9 or 6-9)

Looking at the hardiness zones you would believe that they grow here, so why do people say they don’t grow here? They need special care to be able to survive and thrive here as we push the limits of our hardiness zones.

How To Care For Them

As someone who grows Japanese Maples as bonsai trees here in the Mojave Desert, I know they do grow here but that they need special care to do so. Japanese Maples struggle when met with alkaline soil, full sun, wind, and wait for it, hot wind. We unfortunately have all of these problems. That said, they can be protected from these problems with strategic placing or a lot of work.

Protecting Japanese Maples from the wind can be done with block walls, fences, structures, and other plants. Full sun can be avoided through shade cloth, larger surround trees, pergolas, and structures or walls (for smaller cultivars). The alkaline soil can be managed through amendments to change soil pH (a constant battle) or by planting in a container.

Mulching the soil heavily helps retain moisture which helps to deal with the heat and wind of our climate. Doing this will help dramatically, because lack of moisture in the soil of a Japanese Maple in our climate results in leaf scorch.


There are cultivars that lend themselves to hotter climates. Even though these would be better suited for our climate, I would still avoid full sun and be wary with any suggestions with what they can handle as we are the extreme of most cases when talking about climate and a plants ability to withstand certain things. A list of cultivars that would do better than normal includes:

  • Crimson Queen (‘Tamukeyama’ is an improved cultivar)
  • Bloodgood (‘Red Emperor’ is an improved cultivar)
  • Orangeola
  • Fireglow
  • Seiryu
  • Saiho
  • Sango-kaku
  • Matsumurae
  • Shishigashira

I only have experience with Bloodgood and Crimson Queen Japanese Maples myself, so I cannot speak to the ability of others to withstand our climate any better than the others. I have heard from multiple sources that the others listed will do well here.