Japanese Maple

1. Q: I was given a japanese maple tree (sucker) the leaves were red but now are turning green. It is in sun most of the day why are the leave turning green.

A: Sometimes when a tree is young and fast growing it "loses its color". When the plant slows its growth it may color again for you. Also, shrubs (nandina) and trees (Japanese maple) which are known for color will not color well when planted in areas with too much shade.

2. Q: Early this spring, my husband planted a Japanese Maple in our front yard. The tree is about three and one-half feet tall, 3/4 diameter. All summer the tree has looked healthy, but within the past few days all the leaves died. There appears to be insect damage to the lower base of the trunk. The damage involves a circular trail zigzaging up and down and around effecting the bark. There appears to be no entry hole into the trunk; however, the tree appears to be severly damaged and perhaps dying. Have you any idea what the problem might be? Is there anything we can do to try to save the tree?

A: Before planting a Japanese Maple make sure you have a suitable location which is an area which gets morning sun and afternoon shade. A hot western exposure allows the excessive heat to destroy these tender maples. Then you have to modify or change the soil from the clay-type, alkaline soil to a high-organic, acid base media. This usually requires excavation of existing soil and replacing it with a mixture of two-thirds spaghum peat and one-third washed sand or potting mix. Then plants should be fertilized often with an acid-base water-soluble fertilizer such as Miracide. Even in the most desirable conditions, during periods of extreme heat the leaves are prone to hot-weather scorch. I imagine that the growing conditions were not suitable for the plant and after it began to decline, secondary (prior to death) invaders such as borers, which attack weakened trees, were present. These usually do not cause the death of trees. Properly prepare the planting environment and give this tree another chance -- the color and beauty they provide are worth the effort.

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