The Q&A Archives: Frost Kill Of Garnet Japanese Maple

Question: It isn't fair, but gardening in the intermountain west is a matter of luck and perserverance. I purchased a Japanese maple from a local retailer, planted it in April and about a week later our night temperatures dropped to about 20 degrees. The tree is dead. I just would like to hear some sort of comment - as I have had better luck fall planting shrubs and trees. I will "tuck it up" and fork out another $50 and do it again, but I will wait until fall.

Regards Bill Fogg

Answer: While planting during the fall of the year will help new roots establish quickly due to abundant rainfall, cooler temperatures, and less demand for above-ground plant growth, it won't help protect a plant from really cold temperatures. I wonder if the tree is really dead, or if the late frost killed the smallest stems and caused the leaves to drop? Although tender new growth is quite susceptible to frost damage, Japanese maples should be hardy in your gardening region. Before you dig and dispose of your maple, try scraping the bark with your thumbnail to see if you can find green tissue. Start at the outermost stems and work your way back to the main trunk. Green means the stem or branch is still alive and there's hope that it will develop new leaves. Best wishes with your maple!

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