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Unhealthy acer Sango Kaku

Hello all,

I know this is just another post about acers getting verticillium wilt but I have a couple of questions that I have not seen the answers to.

I ordered the acer and it arrived today not looking very well. The young leaves not only failed to grow, but the little buds as well as smaller leaves are wilted, especially on one side of the tree; and the tops of the branches are black. I have touched one of the top branches where they have gone black and it’s very soft. 

My suspicion is that it’s verticillium wilt, but I can’t know for certain as I have not come across this disease before.

The acer was going to be grown in a pot, at least for the next couple of years in a small courtyard garden.

If I were to keep it, would the wilt spread onto other plants? I already have two acers grown in pots and those are doing well. 

Will this acer harm those two?

And can I prune it now, so that the disease doesn’t spread any further, or at least it slows down? I attach some photos of the acer I have received.

Usually the most obvious answer is the right one, but could it be something else? 

(I am also a little annoyed that the gardening centre I ordered the tree from would send me an ill plant, but deep inside I’m hoping that they wouldn’t and it’s not ill. Although it would appear so.)

I would be grateful for any suggestions. 

Thank you fellow gardeners. 


  • My first port of call would be to get in touch with garden centre if you send photos they should either send another or give you a refund. Or if you want to keep it, trim down to healthy leaves.
  • Thanks Teriannemily. They are actually sending a replacement and it seems they don’t want this one back. It’s just a shame to get rid of it because it’s a good-sized plant. 
  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Posts: 7,950
    edited April 2022
    It's possible that this may be frost damage, depending on where you are living.  (We had a frost last night here in western Ireland.)  And if the acer has been kept under cover in the garden centre, it may have been extra susceptible to frost damage.  However, it's not possible to be sure.  

    My feeling would be to isolate it somewhere sheltered, and see what happens.  I believe verticillium wilt is a soil-borne fungus, which might make it less likely to spread to other acers, if that's the problem with it.*  It's good the GC are sending a replacement without a quibble, anyway.  :)   

    In the long term, I reckon A. 'Sango-kaku' won't be happy in a pot.  After ten years the one I grew in my garden in west Yorks was around 12 feet tall, and still growing...  I have a small one here, and planted it out a year ago, because it didn't seem happy in a pot (though it was only a couple of feet tall). 

    *edited to say - provided they are in individual pots, of course.
    "The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life."  Rabindranath Tagore
  • Thank you, Liriodendron, for the very useful information. I will keep it isolated and see how it does. When we move out eventually, as we’re renting at the moment, I will plant it into the ground, if it’s still alive. 
  • punkdocpunkdoc Posts: 13,267
    You can't tell just by looking at the branches, if it is verticillium wilt, you have to look at a cross section of a larger branch.
    There are ashtrays of emulsion,
    for the fag ends of the aristocracy.

    S.Yorkshire/Derbyshire border
  • Do you mean I should cut a larger branch off and see if it has the characteristic rings? 
  • punkdocpunkdoc Posts: 13,267
    I wasn’t recommending that you did it, but that it was the only way to diagnose it.
    I would just leave it be, somewhere in isolation.
    There are ashtrays of emulsion,
    for the fag ends of the aristocracy.

    S.Yorkshire/Derbyshire border
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 50,314
    Generally, the foliage looks a bit weather damaged, but it could also have had damage in transit. You said you ordered it, so did it come by post or carrier? Is it in a big enough pot, and has it had enough water? 
    Many places have been very dry, and it's easy to think plants have enough water.  It's also perfectly normal for them to have some winter damage/dieback over winter. It's a bit late to prune them once they're in growth. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Pete.8Pete.8 Posts: 9,981
    I have an acer that has VW and I've had it for about 10 years now.
    You won't be able to see the rings within the branches as your tree is so small and the branches too thin.
    On mine I get random black patches (like a bruise) on some branches and stems (it looks exactly the same as blight on tomato stems), then the growth above the black patch starts to die.
    A couple of weeks ago the tree started to leaf out and I noticed 2 substantial branches that did not, both were dead and I cut them out. There were also quite a few smaller twiggy branches that were dead too.
    Once the dead bits are cut out, it looks fine for the rest of the season.

    Looking at your tree, it seems all the damage is just to the top of the tree, so hopefully it's just a recent hard frost that has damaged the tender new growth. But I'd keep it quarantined until you can be sure. You don't want VW in your soil.
    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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