Red Dragon Japanese Maple is a compact, slow-growing, dissected form that typically matures over time in an upright-pendulous mound to 6-8′ tall. Seven-lobed leaves are deeply cut to the leaf base. Leaves emerge bright cherry red in spring, mature to burgundy red in summer before finally changing to crimson red in fall. Leaves retain good color throughout the growing season. Leaf sub-lobes are deeply toothed. Purple leaf stalks. Dissected leaves reportedly resemble the claws of a dragon, hence the cultivar name.
This deep purple-red dissectum, selected at Duncan and Davies Nursery in New Zealand by Graham Roberts, keeps its deep color, in sun or shade, better than any other red dissectum such as ‘Dissectum Nigrum’, ‘Garnet’, ‘Inaba shidare’, and even ‘Crimson Queen’. Though the young foliage of ‘Tamuke yama’ is an even darker shade, it does not hold its color as well as ‘Red Dragon’. The young leaves of this cultivar are a bright scarlet in the spring, becoming a dark burgundy as they develop. This rich coloring is retained throughout the growing season until it changes to an outstanding flaming scarlet again in the fall.
The deeply cut seven-lobed leaves are slightly wider than long, 9-11 cm across and 8-9 cm long. The lobes themselves are deeply incised right to the leaf base and with the sublobes, are 1-2 cm wide at the broadest point in the middle, narrowing to less than 1 mm – the width of the midrib – toward the leaf base. The sublobe margins have coarse, sharply pointed and hooked double teeth. The slender purple petioles are 2-3 cm long.
The growth habit is alike a dwarfer form of ‘Crimson Queen’, a compact well-branched cascading mound, reaching 2.5 m high. ‘Red Dragon’ needs protection from cold wind and summer drought, but makes an excellent small garden, rock garden, container, or bonsai plant. Although ‘Crimson Queen’ is probably the standard by which new red dissectum cultivars are judged, ‘Red Dragon’ may well prove to be the standard in the future.
Red Dragon Japanese Maple is best grown in moist, organically rich, slightly acidic, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Grows well in sandy loams. May be grown in full sun in the northern parts of its growing range, but prefers some part afternoon shade in the southern parts of its growing range. New foliage may scorch in full sun locations in hot summers areas, particularly if soils are not kept consistently moist. Mulch helps retain soil moisture and keep roots cool. Avoid hot and dry sites. Site in locations protected from strong winds. Pruning is best kept to a minimum, but if needed should be done in late fall to mid winter. Spring or summer pruning often results in significant bleeding.
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Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 6.00 to 8.00 feet
Spread: 6.00 to 8.00 feet
Bloom Time: April
Bloom Description: Reddish-purple
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Leaf: Colorful, Good Fall