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Japanese maple trees, also known as Acer Palmatum, are a valuable addition to your garden. These maples bring color and vibrancy to your home. They also offer a wide range of health benefits. Japanese maple trees in particular are known to have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Ironically these amazing maples, which offer their own health benefits, are easily prone to infections themselves. They need to be tended to with care and maintained well. Otherwise, you may begin to notice some branches that have dried out or leaves that have wilted. If you do not notice these signs on time, you may eventually end up with a dead Japanese maple tree.
However, it’s not all bad news. In this article, you will learn how to save a dying Japanese maple tree. You will learn tips and tricks on how to rescue these trees. We will also go over what causes a maple tree to die and a few guidelines for prevention. Read on to find out the answers to your questions about Japanese maples.
What Causes Japanese Maples to Wither
Japanese maples are very sensitive and need to be protected from too much of anything— be it sunlight, wind, fertilizer or moisture. All of these are required, but only in acceptable amounts.
For instance, while a Japanese maple does need sunlight to grow, exposure to too much heat can harm the plant. It’s best to plant it where there’s shade, thereby protecting it from the harshness of the sun.
At the same time, you must allow the minimal amount of sunlight it requires. Similarly, if the soil is too wet and soggy, Japanese maples can easily get infected and decline. You must keep the soil moist enough at the touch but not too wet and watery.
There can be many reasons why Japanese maples get infected and sometimes die. Some of the most frequently encountered causes are mentioned below:
1. Verticillium Wilt
Also called Phytophthora, it is one of the most common diseases that affects Japanese maples. It is caused by rotting of the root. If you water the plant too much, or if there is no passageway for any excess water to escape after absorption, then the roots remain wet due to stagnant water. This often results in a fungal infection.
2. pH levels
pH (Power of Hydrogen) determines the acidity or alkalinity of a particular solution. Anything below 7 is acidic and a number above 7 indicates that the solution is alkaline. For good health, we have nominal pH levels to be maintained in the blood (for human beings). Similarly, to ensure that plants are healthy, one needs to monitor the pH levels of the soil. For Japanese maples, the ideal pH range is between 5.5 and 6.5. It can go up to but should not be above 7. This means Japanese maples require the soil to be a little acidic. If the number is above 7, your soil is alkaline, which means some nutrients are not soluble in the soil. As a result, the roots of maples are unable to absorb these nutrients. This results in poor growth and eventually, death of the maple.
You can check your soil’s pH level with a simple soil pH testing tool.
3. Wind, Heat and Fertilizer
Too much wind, heat, or fertilizer can also have an adverse effect on Japanese maples. This can result in broken branches or Leaf Scorch. Leaf Scorch is a condition where the leaves become brown or yellow and curl up around the tip. Excessive occurrences of this can lead to a significant decline in the health of the maple.
Preventive Measures to Save Japanese Maples
Once you are aware of what causes Japanese maples to decline, you will be better equipped to tend to your maples. Prevention is always better than the cure. Below are some guidelines for you to follow. If you wish to plant a Japanese maple, following these right from the beginning could help you grow a beautiful and healthy Japanese maple.
- Choose a spot with enough shade in your garden for the Japanese maple so that you can protect it from harsh sun and winds.
- Make a passageway for excess water after absorption to drain. If you are planting the maple in a pot, make sure to have some holes underneath for water to drain. The roots should not be submerged in water.
- Do not use too much fertilizer. Japanese maples do well with the nutrients in the soil. Only the recommended amount of fertilizer for the tree is to be used. Once you have spread them around the drip line (where the foliage ends), pour some water to help with absorption.
- Do not overwater Japanese maple. You can water them as and when required. Touch the soil to find out if it’s dry. If so, you can water it. If it’s already a little wet, do not water. The ideal condition for the maple is for the soil to be moist to the touch but not wet.
If despite your best efforts, you notice signs such as dry branches and brown leaves, do not fret. There may still be time to correct what’s wrong. Here are some useful tips and tricks on how to save a dying Japanese maple tree.
How to Save a Dying Japanese Maple Tree – 3 Simple Methods
Method 1: Cutting back dead branches
First, you need to inspect the tree and determine what’s wrong. If you find dead branches, it will help to cut them back till the point of live wood.
How do you make sure a branch is dead? Scratch the bark with the back of a knife or your fingernails. If the tissue exposed is green, then it’s alive. Otherwise, if it’s mushy and brown, that particular part of the tree is dead.
Cut the dead branch back with pruning shears to the point where you find green tissue, that is, live wood. Make sure you do not leave the dead branches lying around anywhere near the maple tree or other plants in your garden, as that could spread infection. Also, sterilize the pruning shears before and after use with an alcohol swab.
Method 2: Transplantation and soil modification
Changing the place of the Japanese maple in your garden could be an ideal solution in the following cases:
- It’s alkaline soil (the soil pH level is above 7).
- The soil is infected with pathogens.
- There is too much wind and heat. (If your goal is only to give your tree enough shade, it’s alright if you are unable to transplant it — you could plant other taller trees beside the maple so that in time, there’s going to be enough shade).
If the soil is too wet, then you can try modifying it before you think of transplantation altogether. With a shovel, dig out a channel around the tree to create a slope for excess water to drain.
Alternatively, you can modify the soil with a mixture of peat, compost, and topsoil so that the excess water can drain well after absorption by the roots.
Method 3: Using granular fertilizers and fungicides
If you find fungus-like growth on the leaves or that the roots have decayed, then your Japanese maple might be far along in its infection. You should get rid of that portion of the tree that is dead or dying. This will help prevent the spread of the infection to other parts of the tree. You can immediately treat it with a generic fungicide.
Take measures to help the Japanese maple to recoup. Follow a routine for care, such as using the recommended amounts of granular fertilizers at intervals, regular pruning, and protecting it from harsh sun, winds, and soggy soil.
The guidelines and tips mentioned above should help you if you have been wondering how to save a dying Japanese maple tree. Implement these techniques right away to protect your favorite maples!
Is my Japanese maple tree dying?
If you notice that one portion of your Japanese maple has dried up or is not leafing out, or if you see that the leaves have turned brown or yellow, then it could be an indication that your tree is dying.
How do you treat a drying maple tree?
Depending upon the damage you see on your tree, the solution varies. If you find dead branches, you could cut them back with pruning shears. If you find that the roots are submerged in water causing root rot, you can create a path around the root for the excess water to drain.
For a tree that has a fungal infection, you can treat it with a generic fungicide and a rigorous routine for care henceforth — including monitoring the pH level of the soil, avoiding over-watering, and protecting the tree from harsh sun and winds.
The most common causes for the death and decline of maple trees include Verticillium Wilt, overwatering, overexposure to sun, wind, and excessive fertilizer.
If you find dead branches, you should cut them back with pruning shears until the point of live wood.
If you find that the soil is too alkaline or too wet, you may transplant the tree.
To fix the problem of stagnant water around the roots, you may either also use a shovel to dig a passageway for excess water to drain.
These are some effective highlights on how to save a dying Japanese maple tree.