Q: Dear Grumpy,
Southern living invited readers to ask you questions so here goes. I am having a difficult time growing Japanese maples. The tips of the branches have turned white. The trees have plenty of leaves growing everywhere except for the ends or tips of the branches. This is what happened to two other Japanese maples until they eventually didn’t grow anymore leaves and died. What do I need to do?
A: Can you tell me where in the yard they are growing? How far do you live from the water? Grumpy
Q: I live in the Deep Creek section of the city. We are near the Great Dismal Swamp. I own three acres of land that once was farmed. The rich top soil was not removed when our house was built. The variety of Japanese maple that I planted in my front yard can take the full sun. There are some pine trees growing about 30 feet away. ( I understand that they will drink a lot of the water in the surrounding area.) Please tell me what and what not to do when growing Japanese maples. It also can get windy at times here.
A: Well, as the nuns used to say in elementary school whenever I’d ask them a theological question they couldn’t answer, “It’s a mystery.” Something about the growing conditions in your yard doesn’t suit a Japanese maple. The reason I asked about your proximity to water was to determine if your trees were being hit with salt spray. This definitely will kill them, but it doesn’t sound like the true culprit.
Wind could play a role. If your trees are subjected to constant wind, this will rob the leaves of moisture. Leaves at the top of the trees would be affected first, as wind speed increases the higher up you go.
Is your soil well-drained? Japanese maples won’t grow well in boggy soil.
The only other thing I can think of is cold damage from a late freeze. Many Japanese maples in the Southeast suffered severe damage during the spring of 2007 when a late freeze occurred just as trees were leafing out. Some trees were killed. Others died back from the tops.
As as what Japanese maples like and don’t like, it’s pretty simple:
1. Full or partial sun with light, afternoon shade
2. Fertile, moist, well-drained soil
3. They are susceptible to drought. Scorched leaves on the ends of the branches will tell you if its too dry.
4. Prune from late spring to fall. Don’t prune from winter to early spring or sap will run.
5. Don’t plant near sources of reflected or radiated summer heat, such as concrete or asphalt.
5. As long as the soil is good, fertilizing isn’t necessary.
I don’t know if this helps, but it’s the best the Grump can do right now. Maybe other readers will be kind enough to suggest a solution.
Q: Dear Grumpy,
If you have watched the news lately you know that we have several storms on the way. How can I prepare my four foot tree for the strong winds that are headed my way? I’ve thought about putting a large plastic bag on it.
A: Well, if you want it to survive, the first thing to do it makes sure it doesn’t watch The Weather Channel. Otherwise, it could be scared to death, just like the rest of us.
Don’t put a plastic bag over the tree. That would just create more wind resistance and make it more likely to be damaged. What I would do if it isn’t firmly rooted is to put three stakes in a triangle around the trunk and run cord from the stakes to the trunk. The stakes should be about four feet from the trunk. This should keep the tree from being yanked out of the ground. However, if it is firmly rooted, I’d just let it be. Your tree isn’t very big and winds near the ground are always the weakest. Mature trees are much more vulnerable.