Care and Maintenance of Japanese Maples admin
Care and Maintenance of Japanese Maples-JMs
Japanese maples can handle hot climates with adequate water and protection from hot drying winds. Even with adequate water during the first summer your maple will show leaves with brown tips. Over watering is not the answer and it can actually be detrimental to the health of your maple. The reason for the burned dry leaves is that your maple has yet to establish new roots which will allow more water to reach the leaves. So please don’t freak out over brown dried leaves that first summer. And definitely don’t over water. If your maple begins to show wilting leaves it means you are drowning the roots. The first instinct when a plant wilts is to give it more water. Just the opposite for JMs. When too dry the leaves ‘crisp’ and fall off.
Cold winter climates pose a risk for JMs unless they are protected from extreme cold temperatures. Care should be taken to protect young maples and container grown maples when outside temperatures drop below into the teens or single digits. If the roots reach 16 degrees F then the maple will die. During cold winters [temperatures in the single digits] mulching the base of the maple with 3″ or 4″ of material such as bark chips is recommended.
All Japanese maples like consistent watering. In fact, Japanese maples prefer a loose well-drained soil. Good drainage is critical. When a JM does die, root rot from poor drainage is usually the culprit. Gardens with clay soil require, not only that the soil be amended, but that the tree be planted higher than the surrounding soil. Mounding the soil and planting the maple so that the roots can stay above the clay soil is important. Remember, no matter how large a hole you dig in the clay–you are basically creating a bathtub. Water will run along the surface of the clay and end up filling the bathtub, which will drown your maple. It may not happen the first or second year, but it will happen. Please take the time to provide an environment where the tree roots can stay on the dry side. [I cover the topic of good drainage under planting instructions, but I cannot over emphasize this important factor.]
Ground watering from a hose or drip irrigation system is recommended, rather than overhead watering from sprinklers. However, even if you have an overhead sprinkler system I recommend using a trickle from the hose or a bucket of water poured on the root ball at least once a month to direct the roots down.
Once the maple is planted then a watering schedule should be developed and followed. In hotter areas watering once a week may be needed. I recommend every two weeks during the first summer with the hose on a trickle to direct the roots to grow down and not on the surface. In the hot afternoon sun, overhead watering can cause the leaves to burn because the water on the leaves acts as a lens to focus the hot burning rays of the sun. If you must plant your maple where an overhead sprinkler will provide the source of water, do not water during the heat of the day; early morning is best. If the leaves of the maple do burn or begin to crisp and fall off, it does not mean that your maple is dead, though it may look like it. In time the leaves will grow back. Stripping the dead leaves off will help rejuvenate the maple to put on new leaves.
For more information about caring for JMs or advice on an existing maple please call or email me.