Prune a Japanese maple bush by removing dead wood and crossed branches in late summer or early winter, enhancing the desired shape of the bush. Prune with sharp, clean pruning shears or loppers. Trim gradually over several years to minimize damage.
- Remove dead wood
Inspect the tree for dead branches. Dead wood can be identified by its brittleness and dark color. Trim the dead wood close to the nearest living section of wood.
- Remove crossed branches
Locate areas where limbs are crossed. Cut out one of the crossed limbs, allowing the strongest and most attractive branch to remain. Cut the limb close to the collar of the branch where it meets the trunk. Don't trim limbs when the sap is flowing, as this increases the probability of damage from insects and diseases.
- Shape the bush
Take a few steps back from the bush, and examine its overall shape. Select limbs that need to be removed. Look for limbs that detract from the natural shape. If the maple is upright, trim branches growing downward. For weeping varieties, trim any upright branches. Thin the bush if you desire a lighter appearance. Don't over-trim the bush. Leave a portion of the branches to be pruned the next year.