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What is wrong with my Japanese Maple

garnhamgarnham Posts: 16
Hi Everyone,

I've just registered here and I hope that someone may have some idea of exactly what is the matter with my Orange Dream Acer and what I can do about it.

This problem has gone on for several years now, for as long as I've had the tree. When the leaves first open in the Spring they're perfectly luscious and healthy, then within a few weeks the outermost leaves start to brown around the edges, before disintegrating altogether and dropping off. By the end of the Summer the whole outside part of the plant is just a collection of bare twigs, many of which then dry out and break off.

The first year or two I didn't pay it too much attention. I thought "ah, well it's been a particularly hot spell... it'll pick up", but the same process happens every Summer. The result is that the tree doesn't particularly grow any bigger. I have an Acer Palmatum (the purple one) on the far side of the garden. It's about the same age, but it's absolutely fine and is now twice, maybe three times as big.

So this year I thought, let's try to solve this. From my internet research I figured that it doesn't look like a disease and is probably sun scorching. It is situated somewhere where it's in full sun for a lot of the day. It's pretty much impossible to fix the location now so I decided let's give it tons of water if it has been dry for more than a day or so. It doesn't seem to be helping at all and if anything it seems to be accelerating the issue.

So my questions are: Do you think I'm right about the sun scorching? If so, am I doing the right thing or is there anything I can do differently? If you think I'm wrong, do you have a better idea of what is happening here?

I love this tree, but I don't ever see it in all its luscious glory except for a couple of weeks in the Spring.

Many thanks in advance,


  • Silver surferSilver surfer Posts: 4,659
    Welcome to the forums.

    Acers like to be sheltered looks like wind chill has just caught the new young leaves.
    It should recover.
    Perthshire. SCOTLAND .
  • KeenOnGreenKeenOnGreen Posts: 1,823
    Hi @garnham  It can be several things with Acers (mostly too much sun or too much wind, but it can be soil too dry/wet, other things competing with their roots).

    I had Acers that got too much sun, and got frazzled, after looking great for about their first month of Spring.  Watering regularly is not the solution, as the trees cannot take up sufficient water when they are being sun or wind scorched.  The solution is probably to move it, but only after it has gone dormant in Winter.  They don't like being moved, but I have moved a few sizeable specimens, from the ground to pots and vice versa, and done correctly they can survive and thrive.

    It looks very, very green below your tree, even though it is in the shade of the Acer, why is that?  Is it moss?  It looks like the soil could be way too wet and moist.
  • garnhamgarnham Posts: 16
    Thanks for your reply Silver Surfer.

    It doesn't recover though. What you see in the pictures is how it looks today and it has been getting steadily worse to this point for the last month. It will continue to get worse throughout the Summer until I have a lot of bare twigs that mostly die and snap off. It will lose about a quarter of its foliage by August and very little of the rest will still be nicely green. (This is now the 6th year following the same process)... Incidentally, all the leaves always turn brown and fall before the point that they are supposed to turn orange in the Autumn.
  • garnhamgarnham Posts: 16
    edited May 2020
    Thanks KeenOnGreen,

    I feared that the only answer was going to be moving it. Even if I could dig it up I really don't have another good place for it.

    So in the too dry / too wet argument with myself, I thought that if it was too wet / waterlogging, then why would it be OK in the early Spring before deteriorating? I thought, hmm, perhaps the warmer it gets the more the soil dries out and then this happens (p.s. Rightly or wrongly I don't tend to water any trees that are planted in the ground as I figure they can look after themselves... and most are absolutely fine).

    However, I can see how I may be wrong because it seems now that after I have watered it quite a bit (a couple of watering cans full a day) then I look today and there is way more brown than there was a couple of days ago.

    The green that you see beneath is actually an Alpine Flower. I can't remember its name, but it spreads and covers the ground like a mat. (You can see some of the tiny white flowers).

    I should say that the soil here is, however, quite clay-rich. In this particular area I dug out all the soil (maybe about a 2ft cube) and replaced it with good compost and sand mix. I realise that this will only help for a certain time though... But... as I say my purple Japanese Maple on the other side absolutely thrives.

    Edit: Far from being wet, the earth around my Orange Dream gets very quickly arid to the point of large cracks appearing (within 2 or 3 days of no rain).
  • Nanny BeachNanny Beach Posts: 8,669
    They are Japanese woodland plants, dont like to be anywhere with too much sun or wind.  Is is small enough you could dig it up and place in a pot of acid lovers compost.  I have one in the ground we are also on clay, in the shade at mid day and perfectly
  • garnhamgarnham Posts: 16
    Thanks for your reply Nanny Beach.

    It's been there 6 years now. I'm not sure how deep and wide the roots will be. It's about 3-4 feet tall and about 5 feet across the 'canopy'. I wouldn't really trust myself to be able to dig it up. Even if I could I don't really have anywhere good to put it which will be more out of the sun.

    This isn't based on knowledge, but I kind of hoped that I could combat sun scorching a little by watering it enough that its leaves cooled down when it's hot... I'm probably way off there, but I wanted to try something so that's one reason I started watering it a lot this year.
  • KeenOnGreenKeenOnGreen Posts: 1,823
    A couple of watering cans a day sounds too much to me.  For now you shouldn't move it, so I would perhaps water a little more sparingly, and give it an ericaceous liquid feed once a week.  Once dormant you could consider moving into a pot (ours sulked in pots), or into a more favourable location.
  • garnhamgarnham Posts: 16
    Ooh, ericaceous liquid feed - I like it. Something I haven't tried.

    To be honest I may go back to not watering it at all as all I seem to have done is make the problem worse... Well, obviously I'll probably need to water it when I give it that feed.
  • garnhamgarnham Posts: 16
    On a side note, would you all expect Japanese Maples to keep growing throughout the Summer? I have an Ash Tree. I actually call it my "bonsai ash tree" even though it's 7 feet tall. I constantly prune it to keep its size and shape, but it grows ferociously right up to the point the leaves start to fall in October.

    Both the Japanese Maples (even the really healthy one) grow in the Spring and then stop growing by early May. I've always assumed that's just the way of it, but now that I am asking you experts it's made me wonder again.
  • Silver surferSilver surfer Posts: 4,659
    edited May 2020
    It cannot be to serious if for past 6 years the new leaves open and it looks wonderful.
    No sign of any dead twigs in your pic.
    That is a large shrub/tree.
    Be a pity to lose it.

    The answer is always..too wet...or too dry.
    Or too windy .
    Or cold weather with sun hitting the leaves in the early morning. ..sun scorch.
    Does the sun shine on it in the early morning?

    Maybe your other one is in a different is not affected.

    To protect it could you make an open type  pergola/canopy over the top? 
    Grow Clematis over it.
    Perthshire. SCOTLAND .
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