Japanese maples will grow in full sun, but many prefer light shade that enhances their red color. More direct sun can be tolerated in their northern ranges. Because they are vulnerable to sunscorch in summer and frost in late winter, especially the light colored and variegated narrow-leaved types, they need a protected site and plenty of moisture. They prefer a well-drained soil that is acid to neutral (pH 5.5 to 7.0), but they tolerate almost any soil as long as it's kept slightly moist and is not extremely clayey or extremely sandy. Since Japanese maples tend to burst into new growth rapidly in the spring, locate them where they will be sheltered a bit from occasional late winter frosts, yet feel the early morning sun in late winter.
Although they can be planted almost any time of the year when the ground is not frozen, the best planting time for young Japanese maples is either early spring or fall. Choose young trees from 15 inches to 6 feet tall. It is best to play it safe and plant Japanese Maples on the high side. They do not do well with a significant increase in the depth of soil over the root system.