The Q&A Archives: How To Prepare Japanese Maple For Winter

Question: Is there anything I should do to a 10 year Japanese maple tree before winter comes? The tree is doing fine, except there are some lower branches that lost a lot of leaves this summer. The leaves are all off now for winter.

Answer: You should make sure the tree is well watered before the ground freezes if the fall is dry in you area. Then make sure it has several inches of organic mulch such as shredded bark around the base. The mulch should cover the area beneath the branches but should not touch the trunk. If the tree is in a very exposed location you might erect a wind break on the side toward the prevailing wind. Finally, if there is a heavy snow you might want to periodically knock snow off the branches to avoid any damage due to build up of excessive weight. However, if the tree has been there for ten years and is healthy, and has never had special care, I would not worry about it this winter.

I am a bit concerned about it losing leaves from the lower branches; if the tree was suffering from the drought I would expect it to lose leaves from the branch tips and possibly to look a bit frazzled and sun-burned. It might possibly shade out a few of its own lower branches, or the foliage might become a bit sparser on the lower branches due to shade if it is a dense tree, but I would not expect it to particularly lose leaves. Next spring and summer make sure the soil is evenly moist yet not soggy, that there are several inches of mulch to the drip line and that the soil is moderately acid. These factors will help to keep the tree healthy. If it seems to be having problems next season I would suggest you examine it very closely for insects or other abnormalities and if nothing is apparent you might want to call in a professionaly trained arborist for a consultation.

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