Forum home Problem solving

Mature Japanese maple turning green

Can you help with a question about our beloved ornamental Japanese maple? 

We have a property in Memphis, TN (clay soil) with a mature Japanese maple that was well established when we bought in 2002. The tree used to have brilliant red leaves but its leaves now turn from red to green when the leaves unfold fully and when spring temperatures get above 80. The greening issue began perhaps seven years ago. We have other Japanese maples nearby (planted later in 2004, a different, more upright variety) that stay deep red all season.

The tree has grown at least 30% since 2002. The property was always shady but has become more so. There are large oaks to the northwest and northeast that have become more dense. One side of the Japanese maple gets direct sun between 8-noon, and the other side is in dense shade. The issue is the same on both the sun side and the shade side. 

I don't believe the tree has returned to rootstock - the leaves are red when they first appear. I've gotten conflicting advice from tree services. Some say it's the natural result of aging. Some say it's getting too much sun; some say it's not getting enough sun. Some say fertilize it (which we have, with no result); some say it's getting too much food (so we skipped fertilizing, with no result). Some say it's a watering issue, others say its feeder roots are constrained by a nearby driveway (but this driveway is probably 10 feet from the trunk, and the dripline only overhangs the driveway by perhaps 18 inches).

The attached photos were taken this morning. The leaves are the same on both the sun side and the shade side. The leaves will be fully green within the month, I predict. Do you have any advice for me? Thank you!


  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,947
    Welcome!  Acers are amazing.. several varieties do naturally start out red, turn to green, and then finally to fall colors.  I have no idea what is going on with yours, other than perhaps it has reached a certain level of maturity or other environmental factor that is triggering the change.  Hopefully someone will be along soon with an idea.
    Utah, USA.
  • Pete.8Pete.8 Posts: 10,245
    edited May 2018
    It looks a very healthy tree to me and I agree with Blue Onion, it's just the variety you have.
    I have 4 acers. Katsura unfolds its leaves in Spring and they are a pale butter-yellow tinged with gold. About a month on they'll start to turn green and they stay green all summer, then they get the fabulous autumn colours.
    Another acer I have opens its crimson leaves in spring and by summer the leaves are greenish.
    I don't think you have anything to worry about, some acers change as they age (much like we do), maybe environmental conditions have caused the change.
    Maybe others will have some ideas, but I reckon your tree is fine
    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,103
    I reckon it's the increased shade forcing it to make its leaves greener to allow it to photosynthesise more efficiently.   Can you thin the trees casting shade? 
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
Sign In or Register to comment.