Japanese Maple Dying | 10 Causes and Easy Ways to Save Your Tree

Japanese maples, or the Acer palmatum, are small trees that are eye-catching and fairly easy to grow. Nevertheless, there are times when the trees can start to die, and this is usually due to too much sun or water, too little sun, and even certain pests and diseases.

This article will explore 10 reasons why Japanese maples are not thriving and what you can do to solve each one.

10 Reasons Japanese Maples Die and Solutions

Below are ten reasons why Japanese maple trees start to die.

1. Too Much Water

Japanese maple trees that are getting too much water can cause the tree to start dying. This is because too much water can lead to root rot, which eventually kills the tree.

Japanese maple trees grow best in soil that drains well. Make sure you water your Japanese maples regularly but never give them so much water that the water sits on the top of the soil and doesn’t drain.

2. Too Much Wind

Japanese maples are lightweight trees, and even though they can tolerate a moderate amount of wind, they can die if the wind strength is too high.

Make sure Japanese maple trees have shelter and avoid planting them in areas that are too open and might be too windy for the trees to survive.

3. Too Much Sun

Japanese maples need sunlight to grow, but too much sun can scorch the leaves and cause the tree to die. Never put your Japanese maples in an area that experiences sun all day long.

These trees do much better in partial shade, and you can even plant other trees around them to absorb some of the direct sun.

4. Too Little Water

Japanese maple trees that are not getting enough water can quickly die back. Water your Japanese maple until the soil starts to drain, but never just spray the ground lightly and stop there.

Water it generously and deeply less often. Put a 3 inch layer of bark mulch around the tree to keep water in the soil for longer. Keep the mulch away from the trunk of the tree to aovid rot.

5. Too Little Sun

Japanese maples need sun, but not all-day sun. For the best results, plant these trees in an area that gets sun in the morning but starts to get shade around midday. Never plant Japanese maples in areas that get continuous hot, sun.

6. Too Much Fertilizer

Japanese maples rarely need fertilizer if they are planted in well-draining soil and the soil is rich in organic matter.

If you do decide to add fertilizer, use it sparingly. If your leaves turn brown or yellow and the stems get soft, you might be using too much fertilizer.

7. Soil is too Alkaline

Japanese maples prefer soil that is slightly acidic; ideally, they need a pH level of 5.5 to 6.5. Adding a top dressing of compost gradually over time will slightly increase the acidity levels of the soil making it perfect for Japanese maples.

8. Fungal Diseases

There are numerous fungal diseases that can affect the Japanese maple tree, the most common of which is the Verticillium wilt and the Phytophthora, or root rot.

Leaves curling inward are sometimes a symptom of root rot so check soil moisture levels. The best thing to do is to prevent fungus as much as possible.

Avoid splashing water and soil on the leaves and water around the root zone. This will help to reduce the chance of fungal spores growing on the leaves.

9. Frost

If you have a late frost in the spring, it can damage your Japanese maples to the point where they fall over and die.

If you know there’s going to be frost, wrap the tree in fleece or, if you have the trees in pots, move them closer to the house where they’ll stay warmer.

10. Insect Pests

Pests such as aphids and weevils are common with Japanese maples. Neem oil is a great natural remedy to treat sap sucking insects like aphid. This is an affective and natural pest control method that won’t harm your maple.

Use neem oil to treat sap sucking and chewing pests on your Japanese maple.

What to Do to Keep Japanese Maples Growing and Thriving

If you want your Japanese maple to grow and thrive, pay attention to the following recommendations:

1. Plant Them in the Right Zone

Keep in mind that Japanese maple trees do best in USDA growing zones 6-8. Depending on where you live, they might also do well in growing zone 5.

2. Make Sure They Get Partial Shade

You don’t want your Japanese maple to have either full sun or full shade. They do best with plenty of sun but planted in a location that gets partial shade during the hottest parts of the day.

3. Water the Plant Correctly

With a Japanese maple, you should water the tree one or two times a week. Water it sufficiently so it gets a lot of water, but always stop once the water starts to build up on the soil and stops draining off.

4. Consider Using Mulch

A three-inch layer of mulch placed around the bottom of the tree can help maintain proper moisture levels. It prevents the tree from becoming over-watered or under-watered, and it’s easy to do.

5. Remember That They Are Not Heavy Feeders

Japanese maple trees do not need food or fertilizer except when the soil is very poor. Top dress each spring with compost and this will be enough to feed your tree.

6. Do Not Prune Your Japanese Maple Trees

Unlike many other trees out there, it is bad for Japanese maples to be pruned. It can lead to poor root development. Allow the tree to grow into its own natural shape.

7. They Do Well in Small Containers

As long as you don’t use a container that is more than twice the size of its root ball, the Japanese maple tree does very well in small containers.

8. You May Need to Water More Often at Certain Times

If you’re experiencing a summer that is hotter than normal, you might have to water your Japanese maple tree a little more often. Otherwise, watering once or twice a week is usually enough.

9. Pay Attention to the Instructions That Come With the Plant

There are different cultivars of Japanese maple trees, and each one has some specific actions that are necessary for it to grow and thrive. Always read the instructions and do what they say to do.

10. Never Plant the Tree in Direct Wind

Japanese maple trees tend to be delicate trees, and they can fall over and die in direct wind. Always plant them in an area that doesn’t get direct wind at any time.

Japanese Maple Dying | Summary

Japanese maples are beautiful deciduous trees that grow delicate maple shaped leaves and fine branches. They are easy care trees once established and only need a top dressing of compost each year to keep them happy. Grow them in partial shade and you will have a beautiful specimen tree for your yard.

Happy growing.