The Q&A Archives: Dying Japanese Maple

Question: We have a Japanese Maple that started to die by the end of summer last year and we aren't sure why. I have red brick chips in the landscaped area to prevent weeds from growing and I am wondering if they are causing the maple to die. Can you tell me how to take care of it this coming season so it will last year after year?

Answer: Last summer's heat and drought was very hard on many plants. Japanese maples in particular need an evenly moist yet well drained (meaning not soggy) soil and it should also be rich in humus or organic matter. The tree does not, as a rule, do well in reflected heat as may have happened using the stone mulch. For this reason, an organic mulch woud be preferred, especially since it will also help to feed the soil as it breaks down. Another aspect would be to check the pH; these trees need a somewhat acid soil. I am not certain why the tree was dying back. It could be the result of drought or heat stress, but it could also indicate some other type of problem. You might want to consult with a professionally trained arborist or your County Extension (461-1000) for some further troubleshooting.

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