I've probably experimented with close to fifty varieties of deciduous trees and shrubs for bonsai and niwaki creation since the early 80s and I must say I do have a list of my all time favorites and one for my least favorites. In my first ten years I did take the time to check out all the likely candidates of traditionals that were feasibly available either as plants or seed. With certain cultivars of Japanese maples (Acer palmatum, japonica and shirasawanum) comprising the bulk of my favs there are a few others I continue to work with. The beloved Korean hornbeam (Carpinus coreana) is most worthy with great structure, leaf and bark. The same can be said for Japanese beech (Fagus crenata), except viable seed is so difficult to obtain these days.
Although not suitable for most of the northern latitudes Nothofagus antarctica surely is a standout with excellent bark, small foliage and fine fall coloration. Tilia cordata offers some unique recent dwarf introductions that show great promise with short internodes and small foliage. The Ulmus group has always been fun to grow and exciting to create with so I'll continue with a couple varieties here as well.Some favs I'd love to get back to include Prunus incisa 'Midori' with its small chartreuse leaves, sakura flowers and its wonderful compact habit, Corokia cotoneaster, the semi-deciduous Japanese mountain azalea, Rhododendron kiusianum in assorted flower colors and the wild thyme azalea, Rhododendron serpyllifolium. I've kept the Ginkgo, Larix, and Metasequoia filed with the evergreen/conifer section, where they rightfully should be.
Looking for a particular plant? Search the deciduous tree catalog below or go directly to our deciduous store.
Year-round color interest is provided with this multistemmed shrubby tree from the Pacific NW. New red stems and shoots combined with orange leaves in the spring give way to green summer foliage which later turns a brilliant gold in fall which contrasts nicely with the pink bark and red stems of the dormant season. A close relative to the maples of Japan, Acer circinatum will adapt to life in sun or shade, moist or dry soil and is used to growing under the canopy of coniferous forests. Pacific Fire does best in afternoon shade. 6-8' in 10 yrs. Zone 5
A round dense shrub with notable red-brown shoots and small deeply divided 5-lobed palmatum-type leaves. It is a robust yet slow growing tree reaching 6' when mature. New leaves appear pinkish-red then turn deep green for the summer. Fall colors are vivid reds and orange. Akita is excellent for containers, bonsai and small landscapes. Full sun/partial shade. Zone 5
Here's a spectacular dwarf with typical palmatum growth habit. It can reach 15' in height and width with lots of horizontal branching. Outstanding is the deep red twigs and branches that keep their color for a couple of years. Contrasting features include the spring fresh green medium size foliage and the bright yellow fall display with the brilliant red bark behind. Beni Kawa is desirable for Bonsai, containers and the landscape.
From a witch's broom discovered in Australia, this dense twiggy gem will grow 2-3" annually and not exceed 6' in height or width. The tiny 3/4" green leaves in summer start out and end the grow seasons with yellow/orange with pink overtones. An excellent subject in the small landscape and real nice for Bonsai. Full sun. Zone 5. A Wabi Sabi Favorite!
Bright red linearlobum leaves cover this dwarf upright in spring darkening to a deep red during summer and then back to scarlet red with orange accents for the fall display. Hubbs starts out narrow with multiple fastigiate trunks but soon adds horizontals to eventually become an outstanding 8' tall and wide garden gem in 10 years. Zone 5
A possible Sango Kaku relative, this one shows red bark on sun exposed sides of stems/branches and yellow-orange on the sheltered sides! Leaves show yellow-green in the spring then a lighter fresh green for summer. Fall provides stunning gold and crimson foliage. Sunrise grows as a narrow, vase shaped form up to 20+ feet tall at maturity. Zone 5
This one's a Wabi Sabi Favorite for the landscape and bonsai creation. Small green five-lobed leaves and dense twiggy growth couple with the ability to be grown as an upright or a low and wide mound makes for many styling possiblities. Left to its own Kashima will grow towards the most available light source and form a 5'h x 6'w x 6'd shrub. The new light green growth shows brick-red margins for a nice spring offering. Full sun/Partial shade. Zone 5
Spring growth is a stunning yellow-orange with bright orange showing along the edges. This all changes to light green for the summer. The leaves are small with each having a slight nodding center lobe which creates a unique overall appearance. Fall colors are back to a yellow-orange display. Katsura is a excellent choice for bonsai creation. The leaves will reduce in size and the internodal spaces get shorter. In the landscape mature height can be 12' or more. Zone 5
This one is grown for its amazing growth habit. Reaching all of 5' in height Kiyohime can grow as wide as 12' across. The five-lobed leaves are small and medium green with red tinged tips in the spring. Fall colors are yellow-orange. Unique in the landscape and wonderful for bonsai creation this variety has a tendency to sprout earlier than most maples making Kiyohime somewhat susceptible to early frost if grown in lowland pockets where cold settles in before sunrise. I always keep a lightweight tarp with weighted corners handy in April here in the Pacific NW to protect this little beauty. Zone 5
Everyone loves this true dwarf maple. The five to seven-lobed leaves being a bit larger than most dwarf varieties are a medium green during the grow season and a bright yellow and red in the fall. The structure is upright with single or multiple trunks displaying plenty of movement as it works its way upward. Mature size can be 6' high and wide. The internode spaces throughout are short making for a unique densely branched small tree. Mikawa is an amazing subject for containers or the landscape. Zone5
Another low and wide dwarf cultivar that is excellent for bonsai, containers and that special place in the landscape.The new growth leaf colors are extraordinary on Murasaki and is enjoyed for many months of the grow season. The small deeply divided 5-lobed foliage is light yellow-green in the center with bright pink in the tips and margins initially then turning purple-red on the edges and more green in the center. Late summer color is a solid green. Fall time display includes gold centers and pink-orange edges with the red leaf veins showing throughout. MK can reach 3-4' in height and 6-8' in width. Zone
A slender multi-branched upright with amazing spring-colored foliage. New medium size seven-lobed leaves appear orange fading to a lemon-yellow with orange margins and tips. Summer shows light green foliage followed by a soothing yellow-gold in the fall. Like most light colored leafed cultivars, The Dream should be grown and enjoyed in partial shade. Eventually grows to 12' tall. Zone 5
This unusual cascading form of maple will be best displayed when planted atop high rock walls and allowed to nearly touch the ground. This new cultivar can grow to a length of 10' or more. As Bonsai I am growing them in tall pots and leaf-pruning them in late June to increase branching and reduce leaf size. A very unique plant indeed! Zone 5
This is a very unusual compact dwarf upright discovered as a witch's broom growing in a 100+ year old red maple cultivar. The five-lobed deeply divided leaves emerge bright red in the spring then darken to a deep maroon-red for the summer and eventually turn a bright crimson in the fall. Shaina grows quickly when young and eventually slows after ten+ years to mature into a 10-12' globe. Zone 5
This very nice dwarf form of Japanese maple has quickly become a Wabi Sabi favorite for its remarkable structure and appearance. Discovered as a selected seedling, the find turned out to be a real winner by 1990. The coarse toothed deeply divided leaves are nice and small, emerging green in the spring and staying there until the fall when they turn a deep orange and scarlet. The structure is compact, upright and spreading to 8' that needs no pruning to look great in the landscape. Pruned and trained it shapes up to a magnificent bonsai maple. Zone 5
A real winner in Australia, this dwarf upright is from a witch's broom found down under on a specimen of Aoyagi. With its bright green and yellow spring foliage plus its stunning fall gold display and then onto the winter silhouette of green trunk and branch bark contrasting with the current year's yellow twigs, Shidava Gold will surely provide interest and enjoyment year round. In 10 years SG can be expected to grow to 6 ' tall and 4' wide. Zone 5
This one is named for the resemblance of its bunched-up heavily clustered leaves with that of the appearance of the Japanese mythical female lion's mane. Tree structure is a multi-trunked spreading vase shape with dense branching and small crinkled green foliage. While slow growing to 20' when mature it can be kept smaller when pruned to accentuate the tufts of branch clusters and tips. Fall color can be gold to shades of orange. Bonsai creation is very popular with this garden beauty. Zone 5
Another upright dwarf witches' broom discovered on a 'Bloodgood'. This red cultivar has similar leaf lobes short and rounded like others in this group. Skeeter's maroon foliage is bright red in the spring turning a purple-red through the summer then back to a bright red for an excellent fall display. Ultimate height and width can be 7'H x 4'W. Zone 5
The drooping foliage on this spreading upright garden gem is the real focal point. Springtime shows pale yellow-green leaves dripping with purple-red nodding tips. During the summer the leaves darken to a deeper green. The fall display is combinations of yellows, reds and crimsons. Ultimate height can be 10'H x 10'W. Some shade in the afternoon will prevent possible scorching. Zone 5
This dwarf 'Bloodgood' relative is a compact narrow upright displaying bright red leaves in the spring, darkening during the summer then back to bright red for the fall. Twombley's is a very twiggy low maintenance shrub reaching 10' in height and 5' in width. Full sun. Zone
A Wabi Sabi favorite, this one offers some very stunning features to the landscape. Spring growth emerges as 5-lobed linearlobum type in a beautiful shade of orange eventually turning a medium green with more red overtones in full sun. Fall display is a warm yellow. The structure is low and wide-reaching 8' in height and 10' or more across with several upright trunks and abundant horizontal branching . Zone 5
One of the smallest dwarf Japanese maples available, Yurihime is a real gem for small landscapes, containers, and Bonsai. The branches and internode spaces are quite short and combined with the tiny bright green leaves creates a dense covering resembling feathers. Fall color is yellow with orange. Full sun in well-drained soil. In ten years 3' wide and 2' tall. Unique and wonderful. Zone 5