The Q&A Archives: Japanese Coral Bark Maple 'Acer palmatum Sangokaku'

Question: My Japanese Maple only leafed out this year on the lower branches. The entire top branches are bare. Can you help?

Answer: Without knowing more about the age and care of the tree, it's hard to say. Did you scrape the bark gently to see if you can find green tissue on the bare branches? If yes, buds and leaves may push out a little later. If no, you need to investigate possible reasons for the dead branches. I'd start with examining the watering. Inefficient watering is the cause of most plant problems. Does water penetrate through the entire root zone? Water should soak at least 2 feet deep for new transplants, and 3 feet deep for established trees. Water should be applied at the dripline, or canopy edge, where feeder roots are actively absorbing it. As trees grow, emitters or hoses need to be moved outwards to keep pace with the expanding canopy. Is there a chance the tree suffered from overfertilizing (which would burn roots and the tree would suffer dieback) or some type of chemical drift, perhaps from neighborhood spraying? What is its sun exposure? This tree prefers partial sun, so our intense full sun would be a bit much. Any chance that it suffered frost damage? Finally, if none of this seems applicable, you might want to take a sample to your County Cooperative Extension office for Master Gardener help in identifying the problem. I believe they have an office in both Prescott and Cottonwood. Good luck!

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