Or did I? There are two ways to kill a Japanese Maple. Panic and love. I’ve seen it all. So, let me help you out with these.

We notice our Japanese Maple is drying up. It’s leaves don’t look like they used to and they’re dropping off like rats from a sinking ship. We don’t know what to do, so we do nothing. We’re paralyzed. We’re paralyzed because we didn’t take five minutes to understand the rights and wrongs of our Japanese Maple and so we don’t even know which questions to ask.

This doesn’t make sense to me. We’ll get a free cell phone because of a free upgrade and be completely focused for the next month learning the ins and outs of that cell phone. We’ll buy a four hundred dollar Japanese Maple and not take three minutes to learn the ins and outs. This scenario plays out more than you think.

Killing it with kindness is the best and fastest way to kill a Japanese Maple. When it’s leaves dried up we decided to remove them from the tree because we didn’t want the tree to look ugly. So nice. We just opened up Pandora’s box to the demise of our tree. Overwatering our tree because we thought it needed it contributed to its demise.

So let me share Japanese Maple reality. SPOILER ALERT: They’re not easy to kill if you don’t panic or kill them with kindness.

So we had to plant a red leaf Japanese Maple in the full sun.  Good news, bad news. It will survive. It will take several years for its shallow root system to develop. Bad news. There’s nothing we can do about the fading leaves. The dry California air and the lack of humidity is the culprit. There’s nothing we can do about it. Don’t panic. Let the tree do its thing

This is a tree in our nursery. Not even I can prevent it in the dry California air. In the heat of the summer, the leaves get tired. You might call it burning or dying. I call it flagging. Do not remove the leaves. Your kindness will remove the insulation the tree needs to protect itself. Don’t panic.

I’m going to let it work through its drama. It will be beautiful once its feeder roots become established and stronger against the summer heat.

There are things you can do to help the tree along:

Putting mulch around the base of the tree helps retain moisture and maintain a weed free environment. Keeping grass away from the trees will eliminate competition for water and provide winter protection for the roots.

Japanese maples do not like inconsistent watering. They prefer a uniform supply. If you are in a dry area, don’t flood the tree inconsistently. If you are in an area where moisture is plentiful, the tree should be watered during dry spells. Got it? Consistent watering.

Japanese maples are not greedy. If your soil is fertile enough for most of your garden plants chances are the maple will do well. Here come the big words. Maples seem to resent the ammonium sources of nitrogen. Calcium nitrate works best, as well as other non-ammonium fertilizers. A balanced garden fertilizer will be just fine. Apply in early Spring and not more than once a year and you’re good to go.

Don’t Get Confused
The most talked about and most confusing problem with the Japanese Maple is twig dieback. This condition or disease starts at the tip of the twigs and moves down through the branch shoot. There are a number of fungal diseases, pesty bugs and climate conditions, including soil chemistry (yuck, I hate chemistry) that can cause this problem. Try not to confuse disease over what is most simply a certain amount of “natural pruning”. This takes place as the tree develops and can be resolved by simply taking your finger and snapping off these branches.

The Right Tree in the Right Place
Weeping Japanese maples such as Crimson Queen or Red Dragon or green Viridis (you can Google images on these), generally need shadier conditions. While they can acclimate sometimes in the sun, they will get tired and flag. If you are okay with that and keep watering consistently let time work it out. Usually two to three hours of sun in the morning is okay.

Red, upright Japanese maples such as Emperor 1 or Bloodgood can go in the sun, but the same rules apply as the weeping maples.

Scott’s Picks on Japanese Maples for Full Sun – There are three.

Acer palmatum “Seiryu”- This tree is amazing. It is the only upright growing laceleaf. With its beautiful red Fall color, it is a show stopper. When stressed in the heat it is very rare that it flags. Instead it gets a cinnamon hue. Perfect.

Acer palmatum “Pine Bark” – Cool leaves, controlled upright habit, very cool bark like a pine tree, stunning red fall color. It holds up well in direct sunlight and heat.

Last, but not least, Acer palmatum “Tobiosho” – It’s a basic green maple. People usually cruise by it and yawn. Just a boring green maple. But no, this maple is a consistent grower with outstanding fall color.

All three of these trees do wonderful in full sun with consistent watering and consistent fall color.

This is my friend, Pine Bark. He lives in the nursery in full sun as well, right across the way from Mr. Drama Bloodgood. Not such a boring green Japanese maple is he?

Back by Popular Demand

Saturday, August 25th, 10:00am–12:00pm
$65 + tax

Kokedama is a centuries old garden form from Japan. Our version uses beautiful succulents from our nursery planted into moss and shaped into cones. We will suspend our ornamental garden onto a branch and create a custom macrame hanger display. All supplies are included as well as a refreshing boozy beverage and treats from our cafe to enjoy while you craft. Reserve your space by clicking here to get tickets.

Rolling down the tracks.

Train Day at Maple Rock Gardens, September 15th. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here, at the nursery or at Maple Rock on the day of the event. All aboard for Train Day.

So if you’re looking for green or red, upright or laceleaf, ask us. There are just a few questions you need to answer.

1. Do I want a green maple or a red maple?
2. Do I want it to be in sun or shade?
3. Do I want it to be a laceleaf or a broadleaf?
4. Do I want it to be an upright grower or a weeping grower?

Answer the questions and it will narrow down your choices automatically.

I love Japanese maples. You should too. Grow them with confidence. Don’t be afraid.

See you at High-Hand Nursery.


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