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September 22, 2018
My cut leaf Japanese maple is well established in a deep planter now for 5 years.
It is east facing and gets full sun up until around 2 pm. It gets watered regularly
and osmocote twice a year. Lately I have been seeing more and more of what looks like
burning at the tips of the leaves and beyond. Can you tell me what it is and if I
have cause for worry?
The tip burning can be a bit of sunburn. I really consider most Japanese maple varieties
as understory trees with morning sun or filtered sun. Getting sun up until 2 pm is
exposing it to some bright light. There are several leaf spots that can affect Japanese
maples and our recent storms could have added to the damage. I would not worry about
any spray programs this late in the season. Rake up the leaves as they fall this
year and monitor the tree next spring as it leafs out.
April 14, 2018
We planted some Japanese maples last year. We watered them all summer. One of the
three appeared to be dead at the end of summer. The other two put out new leaves this
year, but the one only has a few leaves at the bottom and the top still looks dead.
Should I trim the dead off or cut the top of the tree off? Any advice will be appreciated.
Give them another few weeks to start growing. It has been a later spring, and this
recent cold has slowed things down, but if you don’t see any new growth by early May,
I would start pruning. Newly planted trees and shrubs need more water than well-established
plants. I would also check the soil drainage, since they should not have died the
first year in the ground—too much water is also not good. I hope you continued to
water last fall and early winter, since it was bone dry. As new growth begins,
you will have to reshape it into a tree again, which will take time.
I purchased a small Japanese maple tree which was about 4 feet tall. When I bought
it the leaves were green. I was told that the leaves would turn red but they never
did and the leaves looked burned around the edges as the summer wore on.
Japanese maples are understory trees which would do best with some protection from
the hottest afternoon sun. Full sun can lead to tip burn on the foliage. If you
bought the tree with green leaves, they rarely turn red later during the growing season
until they produce fall color. Many varieties have red color as they emerge with
leaves in the spring and then turn green during the growing season and then almost
all have outstanding fall color, but it can vary from yellow, to orange, red or purple
depending on the variety.
October 14, 2017
We have two Japanese Maples in our yard that have wild and "stringy" individual branches
growing out of them. Both have been pruned over the years but, as you can see in
the picture, the wild branches never go away. One was a gift from a neighbor when
she moved way, and the other was purchased as a seedling at Garvan Woodland Gardens.
Will these trees ever become the graceful Japanese Maples we love to look at? I've
suggested to my wife that we cut them down while they are small enough to deal with
and replace them. She wants a second opinion.
I think cutting them down is an extreme approach. Some Japanese maples will send
up these errant shoots, but when you see one, simply cut it back. While Japanese
maples can develop beautiful structure and form in the landscape, it doesn’t happen
totally on their own. Pruning and thinning cuts help make it happen. I prefer a
more natural look—not something sheared into a ball. For now, remove the gangly tall
sprouts and then do some thinning in late February. In time you can have some beautiful
trees, but they still may send up some wild shoots from time to time.
July 1, 2017
I've noticed that some Japanese maples are currently dropping seeds. Will these sprout
this summer or are they carried over until next spring before they sprout?
While not all varieties are equal, most Japanese maple seeds will be ripe in the fall
and germinate the following spring. Many gardeners who own Japanese maples often
find small seedlings near their trees and can dig and transplant them.
April 8, 2017
We have two 20 year old lace-leaf Japanese maples about 20 feet apart in a shaded
area. The one leans over our goldfish pond and a portion of the older branches get
some noon time sun for a couple hours. All of the leaves on this tree are wilted. The other tree is
perfect. Did the cold spell cause this? Is it because of cooler air around the water?
Will it revive or is it permanent damage? I hope you have good news for us!
I don't think the pond has any influence on the branches that are impacted. I would
think sunlight exposure has more to do with it than anything. Plants that are in full
afternoon sun get more heating and tend to be further along than those in more shade.
It has been a weird winter and spring, and let's hope we get no more surprises. For
now, do nothing but see how the plant continues to grow. If you see wilting spreading
to other branches, then I would be worried, but for now, just wait and see. Do you
see any wounds, growths, holes, etc. anywhere near where the affected branches are?
July 2, 2016
I live in Morrilton, AR. and I planted a Japanese maple in April in memory of my
husband which passed away April 16th,2016 and its leaves have turned brown and have
shriveled up and are dry like its dead but there is still some green to the branches
when I break them off. I water daily now, was watering about every 3 days at first,
what am I doing wrong and what do I need to do to save it? Also I want to buy an
eastern redbud and a dogwood that are on sale for $12.00 but it says to plant in spring.
Can I plant them now and will they live?
How much sun does the Japanese maple get? It does not sound promising if the majority
of the leaves have died, but see if new growth comes back out. New trees will need
frequent watering to get the roots established, but make sure the site is well-drained.
They don’t like standing water. You can plant trees year-round, but it makes the
job tougher when it is as hot and dry out as it is now. Water, water, water is the
key—no fertilizer until the roots get established. I would hold off now and wait until
next spring to fertilize if planting now. Dogwoods are like Japanese maples and would
prefer morning sun and afternoon s7hade, or filtered sunlight. Redbuds thrive in
May 7, 2016
We have had a Japanese maple for eight or nine years. It was a beautiful tree until
last August or September when a neighborhood vandal sprayed the front of both it and
a crape myrtle with some kind of poison. The front leaves on both trees turned brown,
and those on the crape myrtle dropped off. We did not know if either would put out
leaves this spring but were hoping for the best. Unfortunately, the best didn't happen.
Only leaves in the back came out on the maple; it is too early to know what the crape
myrtle will be like after some pruning last month. Is there anything we can do for
the maple besides dig it up and plant another? We invested in security cameras immediately
after the incident and hope our property will be safer from now on.
How awful that someone would do such a thing! I think you have a few options. You
can prune out all the dead branches and gradually retrain/reshape the tree, but as
slow as cut leaf dwarf Japanese maples can be to grow, that may take a while. You
could replant a whole new tree, or try to find a variety that is similar and plant
a smaller tree on the front of the old one to help fill the void left from the dead
February 13, 2016
Our beautiful, full Japanese maple looks like it needs a trim. Is the timing right
and if so how much to trim for its health and shape. It is about 5 feet tall and 5
Japanese maples may be pruned to control shape and size. In your picture, the issue
is not that it is too large, but that it is too close to the driveway. If you don’t
do a little pruning, you will be brushing against it as you come and go. Unfortunately,
I think it was planted a bit too close to the driveway. I always say you need to be
able to answer three questions before you start pruning—one is why are you pruning,
when should you prune and lastly how. For you, the reason why is it is beginning
to interfere with car movement. The when is now, or late February before new growth
kicks in, and the how, is to thin as little as possible to retain the natural grace,
but keep it in bounds. If it were not in the way, I would not prune at all.
Could the hard freeze in early Nov have killed my huge Japanese maple? The leaves
generally turn brilliant red but this year shriveled brown and still have not fallen?
I do not think your tree was damaged (at least by this freeze), but the early freeze
hit before the Japanese maple had completed its life cycle and dropped leaves—so you
missed the fall color too. I have one that did the same thing this year—and last year.
Many Japanese maples retained their foliage last year as well until the new growth
pushed off the remaining leaves. Deciduous plants form an abscission layer which
causes their leaves to fall off. If we have an early freeze, the abscission layer
doesn’t get finished, and leaves remain on unless wind knocks them off. We saw a
lot of our deciduous plants with messy, dead leaves on them after our early freeze.
Just wait for spring, and keep your fingers crossed that we don’t have a wild and
I live in Bella Vista, Arkansas. I have a Japanese Bloodgood Maple that stands about
10-12 feet tall. It was planted in the summer of 2010.The tree is clinging to most
of its dead leaves now. Is this a bad omen? Should I be concerned?
There are leaves still attached to many normally deciduous plants—from Japanese maples
to oakleaf hydrangeas, deciduous azaleas and more. We had an earlier than normal hard
freeze this year, and some of our plants had not completed their normal life cycle.
The abscission layer that normally forms on deciduous plants which causes the leaves
to drop didn’t have time to form on some plants, so the freeze caught them unawares
and the leaves were killed, but are still attached. I have had some old leaves come
down in the heavy winds we have had recently, but it may take the push of new foliage
this spring to get the rest of them off. In a normal year, we say that if dead leaves
stay attached it can mean damage to your plants, but for this unusual situation, I
think we will be fine. That doesn’t mean we may not have winter damage to some plants,
but I think for now, your Japanese maple should be fine.
I have three Japanese maple seedlings that I planted in pots in June. They have done
well but when do I need to transplant them in the yard and how should I winter them.
They are from 12" to 24" tall now.
Japanese maples are fairly winter hardy. You have two options. If you know where you
want them to be planted, plant them now in their permanent location. If you want them
to grow a little more before you plant them in the yard, then sink the pots in the
ground, up next to the house. This will protect their roots better than being left
above ground in a pot and will help prevent them from drying out too quickly.
We have a 7 foot tall Japanese lace-leaf maple by our front door and another by the
house. The one by the door I've kept somewhat thinned out and trimmed up so its graceful
branches are visible. It's grown nicely and filled out in a pretty irregular branch
style that I really enjoy. I thin out some of the tiny branches in the spring. The
other maple has a rounded, helmet shape since I have left it alone. Is there a preferred
way to let them grow? I have only seen my tree shaped like this and wondered if I
am harming it. I would appreciate your thoughts on "do or don't" thin the branches.
For the Japanese maple, there are many different opinions as to how they should be
pruned. Many like them thinned out to expose their graceful branching. Others like
the more natural shape of the tree, so I think it is your preference. I do not like
to see them shaped into an artificial ball shape or topped, but thinning them out
or removing wild branches is perfectly acceptable.
I was recently on vacation and thought my sprinkler system was set, but when I came
home my Japanese maple looked pretty crispy. Do you think it is dead, or if I water
it light crazy now, it might come back?
The drought, coupled with high temperatures has really taken its toll on many plants,
but trees in particular. If the leaves on your tree are falling off, that is a better
sign than if they are brown and shriveled, but still attached to the tree. Water and
keep your fingers crossed. I am appalled at how many trees are dying along the roadsides
and in yards that are not watered. Two years in a row is tough on plants.
We have four large (20 feet tall) Japanese maple trees in our front bed. They are
15-20 years old and have seemed very healthy. Last week, my across the street neighbor
cut down one of his Japanese maple trees in his front yard because it had died. Seemed
like it died fairly quickly, just a year or two and it was gone. He has another one
also in his front yard that is has some dead major branches. Then, I took a closer
look at my trees and discovered that they all have many dead branches, although they
are small branches, no major ones. I am concerned that there may be some kind of disease.
What should I do?
Japanese maples were hit hard by last summer’s extreme heat and drought. If they weren’t
watered, they may have died or had some major damage. My neighbor had a large old
Japanese maple that is totally dead this year. Plants that were stressed would be
more susceptible to insect and disease attacks. Check out the trees, looking for any
holes or splits in the stems or leaf spots on the foliage. Remove any dead branches.
A little thinning never hurt a Japanese maple. Water when dry and hope for the best.
If you do see signs of insects or diseases, take a sample in to your local extension
I have a large Japanese maple in my back yard that is starting to take over the whole
area. It is wide and low to the ground. My husband is afraid for me to prune it because
he thinks I will kill it. When and how is the correct way to prune this type of tree?
I think the natural growth habit is quite graceful and effective in a landscape but
if you need to be able to walk underneath it, you can selectively prune to do so.
Don't try to shape it into a ball or box, but make selective cuts now to alleviate
overall size. Try not to remove more than one third of the limbs, and do so at the
branch collar or at a node--where there are buds that can start to grow and fill back
in. I will say that Japanese maples have not had the easiest go of it during our miserably
hot, dry summers, or the cold up in the NW last winter.
I have always loved the Japanese maples and I just planted a young 4' tall one outside
of my daughters window(partial sun, shaded in the morning) . Apparently my errant
puppy of 8 months shares the same affection for the maple as I do. He chewed through
the bark about 12" to 14" up. The tree has since been protected from the wayward canine.
What (if anything) can I do to help this tree recover?
It all depends on how deeply the puppy ate into the trunk as to whether it survives
or not. If it is only on one side of the tree, and he just gnawed on the outer bark,
cleaning up the wound by scraping off any loose bark and then waiting is all you can
do. If he chewed completely around the tree, it could girdle the tree which will kill
it. Only time will tell, but tree paints or wound dressings won’t help. Making sure
the wound is clean and protecting from further damage is really all you can do.
We have had a terrible time this year with squirrels eating the bark off our large,
specimen Japanese maple tree (Bloodgood variety). They have stripped several large
branches bare; we are concerned the tree may not survive. Is there anything we can
do to ward them off or stop this? They may not actually be eating the bark, as we
find lots of pieces of bark on the ground under each branch, but they do chew it off.
Just in the last few days they have discovered a new smaller weeping Japanese maple
elsewhere in our yard. The trunk of this one is now half bare.
From time to time squirrels, and occasionally raccoons will strip the bark off of
Japanese maples. Usually the damage is more superficial, but it still looks pretty
bad and is more damaging on young trees. For some reason this bark stripping tends
to occur more in late winter to early spring. One theory—and that is all it is, is
that female squirrels do this prior to giving birth to relieve the pain—I guess it
takes their mind off of it! Another theory is that they use the bark in their nests
or they are searching for food. Whatever the reason, once they start, they often come
back and do more damage—much like a woodpecker has its favorite tree. Using a tree
wrap in the area, hanging scare devices or spraying with a repellent can all give
limited help. Using live traps and relocating the squirrels is another option. For
the damage to the tree, clean up any loose bark and monitor it this growing season.
If they have gone into the cambium layer it can cause some dieback on those branches
and pruning will be needed. But wait and see what happens this spring.
Could you tell me what is wrong with my Japanese maple? It has suddenly begun having
curled leaves and some are dropping. One section is affected so far, but I am worried
it could spread. Is this some type of disease or is it the weather? We have had the
tree a little over a year and it stands about six feet tall. It is planted in a flower
bed in full sun. Help.
From examining the leaves there is no disease. It is not unusual for Japanese maples
to get a little sunburned or stressed if they are planted in full afternoon sun—especially
those leaves at the southwest side of the plant. Japanese maples prefer morning sun
and afternoon shade or dappled light all day. This leaf burn and curling will happen
annually when it gets hot and dry, when planted in full sun. Last year was a mild
growing season with ample rainfall—not the case this season. You have a couple of
choices—move it this fall to a new location or plant some other plants nearby to help
shade it from direct sun in the afternoon.
My red Japanese maple has grown to almost five feet tall, and I would like to prune
it back to about three feet and then keep it that height, allowing it to branch it.
Would I ruin it to prune it at this time of year?
Pruning a tree now is not going to hurt the tree, but I think you need to assess what
the tree will look like. First of all, the natural shape with a bit of corrective
pruning is preferable for a Japanese maple. If your tree is not a true dwarf, pruning
it annually to keep it at the three foot height is going to ruin its shape and turn
it into a “meatball”. You might consider planting a different species that stays short,
and requires less pruning. Some choices include: Acer palmatum: ‘Beni Himo’—mature
height 1-2 feet; ‘Chishio’—mature height 3-4 feet; or 'Goshiki Kotohime'—mature height
2-4 feet and 'Shishi Yatsubusa' which grows 3-5 feet in 10 years.
I have what I thought was a Japanese maple tree, but decided I don't know the difference
between a Japanese maple and a Chinese maple. Mine is green all summer then red in
the fall. My neighbor’s tree is red all summer. They are both cut leaf types. Also
do you have any advice on pruning?
I think you both have a Japanese maple. While there is a Chinese maple (Acer discolor)
it is fairly rare and the leaves are not cut leaf. As to the difference in color,
there is a difference in variety. The term Japanese maple includes a whole host of
different species and then different cultivars within the species. Acer palmatum is
the most common tree called Japanese maple. A. p. dissectum is the cut leaf form.
Many of the Japanese maples that are red in the spring turn green throughout the summer
then have great fall color. A few have been bred to hold their red color all season,
while others are variegated or have yellowish tinges. The red forms include ‘Bloodgood’--(but
if it gets too much sun it too can turn a bit green) with a standard leaf. ‘Crimson
Queen’ and 'Ever Red' are cut leaf types which should hold the red color. Regardless
of the color during the growing season, they are beautiful trees and all have outstanding
fall color. As to pruning, it all depends on the type of tree you are growing and
its mature size. Some get no taller than three feet and cascade, while others can
get 20 feet or more in height. Selective pruning to maintain size or to open them
up can be done, but don't try to shape them into a ball or box. Pruning can be done
now if it is light pruning.
I have one very lovely, large Japanese Blood Maple and another smaller Japanese Laceleaf
Maple. Both are covered with scale. I sprayed both with a dormant oil recommended
by my local gardening store twice at a weekly interval. I then treated the soil around
the tree trunks as prescribed with Bayer Advanced Tree & Shrub Protect and feed solution.
The smaller tree has lost all its leaves and still has the ugly white droppings on
its' branches. The larger tree has some leaves curled up and still attached to the
branches. So of the limbs look like they may be dead. And this tree also still has
the ugly white droppings all over the branches. Both trees are strikingly beautiful
and I really would hate to lose either one. Is there any additional action I should
take to get and keep these trees healthy?
It is quite possible that you have killed the scale--you definitely treated with the
right products. Once scale insects die, they don't fall off and disappear--but they
are no longer causing damage. For now, do nothing. Wait until spring and see how the
plants leaf out. Then monitor the new growth and twigs for signs of scale. The imidacloprid
in the Bayer product you used should give you good protection. Usually one application
in the spring can cover you for the year.
Due to incredibly poor and rocky soil, I have planted several large containers of
Japanese maples. One of my Crimson Queens is in a container on my elevated deck, and
when we had our little bout with freezes in late March, the elevated container had
burned leaves on the side facing away from the house. I've watched it carefully and
see now that it is starting to leaf out again. Some of the burned leaves appear to
still have life on the portion closest to the stems, but they look really ragged.
Should I prune the old burned growth or will the new growth push the older leaves
off the stem?
You can actually do either one. If the damaged leaves are unsightly and over half
the leaf is intact, lightly shear them off, as they probably will not fall off on
their own. The leaves that were totally burned are being replaced and pushing off
the damaged ones. Be glad that yours are sprouting back at the tips of the limbs;
some reports from northern locales are not as encouraging with some dieback.
I have a Crimson Queen Japanese maple about 11years old. Last year the leaves turned
brown and a lot of them fell off. It is in direct sun all day. The planter it is in
is on asphalt with 14"-15" of soil. Is there something I can do to save this tree?
I also have an American holly standard that is under severe stress. It gets 1/2 day
of sun. Do you think the asphalt is the problem?
While there are a few species of Japanese maples that may tolerate full sun, most
prefer an under story planting with afternoon sun protection. Often you will see those
in full sun with sunburn or leaf scald by late July through September. Yours are doubly
compounded with the asphalt. Can you consider moving it to a more moderate location
this fall? The holly should tolerate the full sun conditions, provided they get the
necessary moisture when dry.
I moved to a condo about six years ago. The focal point of the front flower bed was
a beautiful, large, healthy Japanese maple. Recently, the tree has changed. Many of
the branches are bare, and the leaves are a rusty brown color. A sprinkler system
supplies water to the tree. Please help me know what to do to restore/save this once
Have the leaves just fallen off, or did it leaf out thinner this season. Usually with
tree problems, it is not a matter of something happening overnight, it is more a slow
decline. If the tree had an early attack by a leaf spotting disease, it could have
defoliated and may be trying to leaf back out. Investigate a bit further. Do you see
any holes in the tree trunk, any wounds or growths? Are there leaves littering the
ground underneath, or did the branches not leaf out this spring. Get all the information
you can. For now, keeping it watered should help.
I relocated from Michigan to West Little Rock in January and my new home has a Japanese
maple in the landscaped area in the front yard. About two weeks ago I noticed what
looked like a yellow fungus or mold growing on top of the mulch. On closer inspection,
I also found a similar fungus surrounding the trunk of the maple. The growth reached
approximately 6 inches above the mulch up the trunk and was a dark gray or black in
color. I cleaned it from the trunk and bagged some of the residue in case I needed
to have it inspected, but I'm concerned that there's something going on in the bed
itself that I need to address.
Now that you have cleaned it up, pay attention to the area in the next few weeks to
see if it returns. It could be a simple slime mold or even one of the organisms which
helps the mulch decay and break down—neither of which is cause for concern. They are
both common, especially during periods of high humidity. Do try to keep the mulch
away from the trunk of the tree to allow for good air circulation and allowing the
bark to dry.
I have two Japanese maple trees that need some pruning (limbs too low to the ground,
and several too wide) for shaping/appearance purposes. Can I do it now or do I need
to worry about sap running? For some reason they never dropped their leaves last fall,
but they are shriveled and brown. I've noticed the same is true on others' trees in
the area. Any idea why it happened?
You may prune them now. The bleeding that occurs in the spring will not hurt the plant,
but if it bothers you, you can wait a few extra weeks. Many of our trees didn't drop
their fall foliage this year, especially Japanese maples. The extremely dry weather
during the first frost had something to do with it. Somehow the mechanism that drops
the leaves (the abscission layer) shut down early and the leaves stayed attached.
Normally as the days get shorter, the cells in the abscission layer become more dry
and corky. The abscission layer is found where the leaf is attached to the stems.
This corky layer of cells slowly begins to block transport of materials such as carbohydrates
from the leaf to the branch as fall sets in. It also blocks the flow of minerals from
the roots into the leaves. Normally this connection between cells becomes weakened,
and the leaves break off with time. Somehow this didn't fully occur this year. As
the new foliage emerges this spring, it should push the old leaves off.
The front of our home faces southwest and receives full afternoon sun in the summer.
There is a raised bed that contains a crepe myrtle surrounded by compacta holly. I
recently removed a Japanese maple the previous owner had planted in the same bed.
Size wise it was dwarfed by the crepe myrtle and temperature wise it baked all summer.
I considered another crepe myrtle but wanted something evergreen to provide some winter
color / interest and shelter for birds. There is good but not deep soil in the bed
and it is irrigated. The plant would be in front of a brick wall that radiates heat
from the summer sun. I would like something that would grow to 15 to 20' and not more
than 10-12' in diameter. I have considered several tree form hollies. Is there a particular
variety you would recommend or some other type of ornamental tree / shrub that thrives
in full sun and heat?
You were wise to move the Japanese maple. They don't thrive in afternoon sun, especially
during a particularly hot summer. There are several options for you. A multi-trunked
yaupon holly can be nice, or the deciduous holly--while not evergreen, the berries
give good winter color. A Little Gem southern magnolia is a nice smaller evergreen
plant with fantastic white summer blooms. If left unchecked it can grow taller, but
it is a slow grower and quite compact when young. A large shrub which if left to grow
could become tree-like that is gaining in popularity is the Loropetalum. It is evergreen
with purple foliage year-round, loves the sun and has bright pink spring flowers.
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