The Q&A Archives: Japanese Maple

Question: I have a Japanese Maple that is approximately 4 years old, and every year it starts to leaf out nicely and then the leaves turn yellow to brown and it stops producing leaves. Some drop off, others just droop and dry. It gets sun from late morning through until the sun sets. The other problem with it is that it has not grown. It is still about the same height as when I bought it. There is one new branch this year that seems to be in better shape than the rest. I do not know whether to prune it and how much, or what else is the problem. I hope that you can help me with this puzzle.

Answer: Your Acer palmatum (Japanese Maple), would probably do better if it had some shade from the hot summer sunshine, and was planted in moist, rich soil. Japanese maples are slow-growing, but in 4 years it should have gotten larger than it was when first planted. Try to find a site that provides dappled afternoon shade during the hottest summer months, and amend a large area with organic matter prior to digging and transplanting. Once it is replanted in a better location you can begin pruning to promote new growth. If you transplant this fall, you can prune it lightly next spring. After it becomes established you can prune it back a little harder.

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