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Establishing Japanese maples

Our Japanese maples are planted outside in ericaceous soil imported from Norfolk and enriched with ericaceous compost.  They are watered with rainwater and drainage is adequate. Even so, a high proportion of trees suffer severe die-back and some die altogether.  I suspect the nurseries.  Does anyone have any suggestions as to what is going wrong?  


  • B3B3 Posts: 21,475
    Wind or strong sunshine will damage them. Where are they sited?
    In London. Keen but lazy.
  • Thx for your response.  There is some exposure to wind, hard to avoid, but mostly we can avoid sun .
  • Silver surferSilver surfer Posts: 3,705
    They detest wind.
    What size are they when you buy them?
    Maybe a couple of pics would help.
    Perthshire. SCOTLAND .
  • micearguersmicearguers CambridgePosts: 590
    The first two years of planting they may need a lot of care until they develop a good root system, but still need a sliglhtly-moist/wet cycle rather than continuous watering (well that's what I assume). If the trees are already sizable they may sulk for a long time. I have a snakebark (not palmatum I know) maple, bought as a wiry 10-footer. For the first four years it was stationary and suffered quite a bit of die-back; only now is it picking up again and the stem/trunk is starting to thicken. This drove home in fact the mesage that buying large trees is often a head-start followed by long period of stagnancy. My small acer palmatum 'katsura' raced away starting as a small specimen.

    What were the roots like when you received them? Were they tightly knotted? Did you tease them out? For larger trees a tight rootball will have them struggle even if teased out. I don't think you need ericaceous soil by the way. I have limy soil in Cambridgeshire and acer palmatum do fine. It's not something I've seen recommended but I suppose it does not do harm either. Maybe it adds to better foliage colour. You say drainage is fine so there is no sump, still, is the soil sufficiently firm?
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,245
    Are they in pots or in the ground?
    If your soil isn't suitable, adding ericaceous compost won't make any appreciable difference anyway, but they're perfectly happy in neutral soil. It's alkaline soil they don't like. 
    In pots, you need to be careful about sizing. You can't put a small plant into a great big pot. It's a gradual process. Also, in pots, compost isn't enough if they're in them long term. 
    I'm curious as to why you're importing compost from Norfolk. Are you in the UK?

    The size is also relevant. Large specimens need very careful handling to get them established.
    Wind is a particularly important factor at this time of year when they're starting into growth. It can be really dessicating. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Thank you for these very helpful posts.  From what you say, Japanese maples are high dependency plants which may require more care to establish than I have given them.  Also, the soil does seem to be an issue and may need to be firmer than some ericaceous soils are.   Your responses have been very thorough and interesting to me.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,245
    The thing is - they aren't particularly difficult in the right conditions. They're difficult if you can't provide them with that  :)
    You can alter soil [in a container] the food and the amount of watering and the shade, but you can't alter your local climate. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • This is sound advice.  However, I have found that the different varieties have quite a wide range of tolerance for different conditions, especially the amount of sun they will tolerate.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,245
    Yes - they will tolerate sun, if they're happy enough below ground. 
    Some need sun for their foliage to look best too, but the degree of sun [and the degrees!]  and length of exposure to it, is a big factor. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Silver surferSilver surfer Posts: 3,705
    edited 15 January
    5 posts by georgeOxTqxNcD.all mentioning this app.
    Perthshire. SCOTLAND .
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