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An old acer planted in the wrong spot

FireFire Posts: 17,348

I inherited an acer (not sure which variety) with a house I bought five years ago. It's about four cubic ft (the tree, not the house). For the last four years its leaves shrivelled up during the summer - which I attributed to too much direct sunlight. Early this spring I dug down around its roots to see if I could move it, but there is a huge root system supporting it, more than four cubic meters of roots, going under a fence, so moving it wasn't going to fly. I'm surprised the tree is so small, given the thick roots, as wide as my wrist.

I'm not sure what to do with it. I have moved an apple tree in a container next to the acer to try and give it some temporary shade, which is working, but it isn't a great solution as the apple is standing on a pathway.

The acer is planted right up against a fence, and near a large box shrub, so it doesn't have room to spread.

Any ideas are appreciated.


Last edited: 28 June 2017 23:28:20


  • FireFire Posts: 17,348


    my mistake - I meant to write that both the tree and the roots are four cubic feet (not metres). For the last few years I have tried giving it a lot of water through the summer, thinking that might be the problem, but it didn't do any good. The apple tree giving shade does seem to be working and I'm not getting leaf scorch this year, despite the very hot weather recently.

    Maybe I should put up a little tea house around it or plant a willow arbour (not that there is room).

  • Pete.8Pete.8 Posts: 10,933

    I've got a few acers in my shadeless south facing back garden. One has big lime green leaves and by later summer some leaves at the top are crispy. It doesn't look great, but the tree is happy enough. It's been there about 15yrs. I also have a palmatum dissectum that I put in 30yrs ago it's not affected by the sun at all and looks stunning late autumn

    Billericay - Essex

    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,405

    If its a bit of an eyesore, it might not be the end of the world if you did lose it, and hence might be worth having a go at moving it. Do it in stages, one year dig out a trench around the canopy spread, going around and if possible a little bit under the main root zone. You are bound to sever some thick roots, but by doing this in situ, you are lessening the shock a bit. Backfill with a soil and sharp sand mix to encourage new fibrous roots. Give it a light formative pruning. In year 2 you will then somehow have to excavate the entire rootball - dig around it and then lever it up and onto a sheet, then bundle up the rootball and drag it to where you want to plant it. (Pre-dig your planting hole). Do all this in the dormant season of course. You'll need to keep well watered after both stages and keep everything crossed. This isn't remotely guaranteed to work but may be worth a shot as an alternative to getting rid of the tree entirely.

  • treehugger80treehugger80 Posts: 1,923

    make sure you water it well when its warm/sunny/windy that will help with the leaves crinkling,

    can you plant anything next to it that will shade it a bit during the heat of the day? or even build something like a pergola?

  • BobFlannigonBobFlannigon Posts: 619

    Do you actually want it?  Do you actually need or want to move it?

    I moved an Acer Palmatum that was similar in size but had much less foliage than the pictures seen here.  I had no choice but to move it as we were doing some building work. I moved it into full sun (from around 10am- sunset) and for some reason I've never had a problem with scorching, and I don't really water it either.  I've planted some things to give it a little shade but at the moment they're smaller than the Acer so it'll be a few years until that happens.

    Anyway, in terms of digging it out; I dug a couple of feet around the root ball and tried very hard to preserve any major roots coming out of it by digging along that root as far as possible.  So, in the end I had three large pieces of root in tact when transplanting it.  I watered it pretty well after that for a little while.  It had just come into foliage when I did this.  It took me a couple of hours to get it out but it was well worth it.

  • FireFire Posts: 17,348

    Thanks for all the ideas. They are very useful points to consider. Yes, the question, 'do I actually want it', is a good one. It seems a bit criminal to kill a beautiful, healthy shrub that I love because it's in the wrong place. But it might come to that. I was thinking last night of putting a small rose arch over the area.

    It has been an interesting experiment to put the apple tree to shade it this year. It has worked 100% to stop the leaf crinkling. Why the bush should be so very sensitive to sun, I'm not sure.

    When I dug down about 4 ft this spring, under the acer to see if I could get it out, I found it had massive roots as thick as my wrist going straight down and under a fence. I imagine that if I cut these the acer would have little chance of surviving. It seems to me that it would like to be a huge tree not a little shrub. That's intriguing too.

  • treehugger80treehugger80 Posts: 1,923

    if you can cut those roots as far away from the tree as possible then refill the hole then in autumn it will have put new roots out from the base so it will transplant easier.

    or contact a gardener/landscaper and tell them if they want it for free they can come and dig it out, you might get a taker, in which case tree goes to a good home and you don't have to do any digging!

    Last edited: 05 July 2017 12:37:36

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