The Q&A Archives: Japanese red garnet maple

Question: We have a japanese maple in a pot on a terrace in NYC--southern exposure. This year it leafed out but then the leaves turned crispy and dried. It has been in the pot for 3 yrs. Could this have happened because it's root bound and it got too thirsty for a small period of time? If so can it be root pruned?

Answer: The symptoms you described you could be related to a variety of causes, ranging from the dry winter/spring, the mild winter with oscillating temperatures, soil compaction over time, rootbound conditions, build up of fertilizer salts, and so on combined with allowing the soil to dry out and being exposed to the hot southwest sun. Stress builds up over time and weakens the plant, then a dry spell for instance will be enough to push it over the edge. These trees can be grown in very large containers with careful attention to the soil moisture, however their long term survival is difficult under home growing conditions. You might be able to keep one pruned, both roots and branches, so its size is better suited to the container but all of the other conditions will still stress a tree severely.

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