Japanese Maple - Transplanting

Q: We have a sparse, six-foot tall Japanese maple tree that is only a foot or so from the side of our house.  Can we move it?  When would be the best time?

A: You are wise to consider moving your tree from its current location as it would not have a happy life.  The tree can be moved, with January and February being the ideal months to perform this task.  Prior to digging up the tree, its new location should be determined and prepped.  Using a shovel, dig around the tree about a foot and a half from the trunk.  Remove and transport your Japanese maple to the desired location.  Plant the tree with slightly amended soil ensuring the base is a few inches above grade.  A good two inches of mulch should be spread over the planting area.  This helps retain moisture, prevent soil erosion and regulate soil temperature.  Water in with a gallon or two of water.  Regularly monitor the tree to detect any complications that may arise as a result of the move.  If you listen closely, you will hear your Japanese maple say - Thank You.

Japanese Maple – Winter Damage

Q: Several of my Japanese maples have appeared to have survived the cold snap, but then suddenly, the leaves wilt, then fall off. Do you know of any reasons for this sickness? Can I expect them to survive?

A: Unexpected overnight freezes in early spring (especially after long periods of warm weather), can have significant negative effects on Japanese maples. For some, the damage is very minimal, while for others, the damage can be more extreme. In a worst case scenario, the damage is too much and the tree dies. Usually there is only leaf dieback and occasionally some stem or branch dieback.

Healthy trees will push out a second set of leaves to replace those that were damaged. In so doing, the trees draw from their energy reserves. This in turn adds additional stress to the trees. To help lessen the stress, a light fertilization is recommended (preferably a fertilizer having an NPK of 2-3-4). A soil drench with “SUPERthrive” appropriately mixed in would also be highly beneficial. Depending on the severity of the freeze damage, pruning should be limited or put off entirely until the following year.

Gardeners should also look at protecting the crown of their trees, especially the dissectum (laceleaf) Japanese maple varieties. Without a good leaf canopy to protect the upper trunk from the harsh summer sun, the trunk will be susceptible to sunburn damage, which in severe cases results in dieback of the crown, leading to more exposure and more damage. Exposed crowns should be protected with shade cloth placed over them to help the trees through the hot summer months.

Japanese Maple –Vigorous Green Dissimilar Growth

Q: My Japanese maple started growing a totally different tree. In looking closer, I can see that below the graft, a uniquely different tree is developing. Should I cut off this undesirable growth?

A: Yes – remove the green growth. Undoubtedly you have a red-leafed Japanese maple grafted onto a green-leafed rootstock. This rootstock produced a sucker shoot, which if not removed, will eventually take over the tree. You will then have a totally different Japanese maple; one not worth the price of the original tree. Keep an eye out for a possible recurrence in the future. There is no way to prevent it from happening again, but is very simple to correct.

Japanese Maple – Coloration

Q: My Japanese maple gets morning sun and afternoon shade, yet the red foliage is turning more green now. Is there something I can do for redder foliage?

A: There is not much you can do. Two key factors play an important role in the coloring of a Japanese maples leaves; sun and genetics. Some red leafed trees naturally change from red to a greenish hue in summer. Though most Japanese maples greatly appreciate afternoon shade, typical red cultivars without the benefit of full sunlight for part of the day will not retain the red color into late summer. In general, the color of most red varieties is strongly enhanced in full sun, and in some forms, leaf color readily reverts to green in too much shade.