Each year, there’s one maple cultivar that tops every collector’s list: ‘Rainbow’. Acer palmatum Rainbow is a variegated Japanese maple that produces dark plum-red foliage with vibrant splashes of fuchsia and white. It has deeply divided leaves with slightly serrated edges.
Rainbow was introduced by Buchholz Nursery, and has been a sensation ever since.
However, the same gorgeous colors that make this plant a must have for serious maple adicts, also makes it one of the most frustrating trees for novice growers. That’s because the variegation is finicky. It’s prone to reversions, and if left alone, it would ultimately be more plain red than variegated.
If you want a show stopping specimen, you’ll need to prune away reverted branches regularly. Look for branches with no sign of variegation on any of the leaves, and prune off the entire branch. It’s best to do this when the tree is younger to keep it under control.
Rainbow Japanese Maple Spring Leaf Color
All Japanese maples burst with color in the Spring, and ‘Rainbow’ is no exception. Initially, leaves emerge dark red with bright cherry variegation. But as they open further and spring fades to summer, the cherry red gradually becomes fuchsia
Acer Palmatum Rainbow Summer Leaf Color
During the hotter summer months, the intense pink color fades a bit from Rainbow, shifting to pale pinks and whites. The more shade you give this tree the better, because the white leaves are prone to burning.
Rainbow: Habit, Height, and Hardiness
‘Rainbow’ is hardy in zones 5-9, but it needs protection from hot midday sun. It grows fairly vigorously for a variegated maple, and should reach about 8 feet within 10 years depending on how much pruning you do.
The habit is generally upright.
Buy ‘Rainbow’ Japanese Maple
Check out our online Japanese maple store to buy this tree. If we’re currently out of stock, you can contact us to inquire about unlisted specimens or future inventory.
Similar pink maples to consider are Geisha Gone Wild, Amagi Shigure, Mikazuki, and Olsen’s Frosted Strawberry. If you prefer white varieties, check out acer palmatum ‘Ukigumo’.