The Q&A Archives: Japanese Maple

Question: I have a Coral Bark Japanese Maple which was planted approximately 1 year ago. This spring, leaf buds formed but only a very few lower leaves developed. The rest of the tree still has only leaf buds. It's been like this for about 6 weeks. It gets full sun until noon, then shade. I presume this will eventually kill the tree, right? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Answer: Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku', the Coral Bark Maple is a vigorous, upright tree, providing bright yellow leaves in the autumn and red twigs and branches in the winter. These trees thrive in morning sun and afternoon shade, and are especially adapted to growing in Oregon and Washington. Because your tree was planted one year ago, the roots should be well established and the tree should be leafing out without problem. It's possible that a late frost damaged the swollen buds, or that moisture stress (too much or too little) has retarded the growth. Check to see if the buds contain green tissue. If they are brown inside, they're dead. If so, you should check the twigs and branches to see how far back the dead tissue goes. Test by scraping the bark of the twigs and branches with your thumbnail. Tissue directly below the cambium should be green. Once you find healthy green tissue, prune out all the dead material. The act of pruning should make the tree produce new shoots, which should develop new leaves. Be sure to provide water to your tree on a weekly basis, to help it though this stressful period.

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