Is my Japanese Maple dying?

(Question)

When I found the leaves started to dry up and fall, I then planted it into the ground in front of our house, facing south.  It has been around two weeks time since then.  It seems like there are a fews red buds there, but I am not sure.  I keep watering around every two days and hope the plant can be saved.

(Answer)

Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) grow quite well in our climate here in Ontario.  The most important thing is to select a sheltered planting site that is out of the severest northwest winter winds.  They grow well in any well-drained soil, like full sun to almost full shade, and will do best with protection from the hot mid-day sun.  However, it sounds as if your young tree experienced some form of trauma, which could either be, lack of water in the pot or winter damage due to lack of protection over the winter.

In order to avoid winter damage ensure the tree is well wrapped with burlap over the winter months for at least the first three years in the garden.  Continuous watering until freeze-up will help to guard against water loss in winter.  An extra heavy layer of mulch will also help to protect the root system from any freeze/thaw cycles during the coldest months.

It appears that you have replanted the tree recently so continue to water every day or so and mulch the entire area with a two-inch layer of organic mulch (compost, wood chips or bark) to ensure water retention, to keep the roots cool and deter weed competition.

Once established, Japanese maples may be lightly fertilized only in the early spring (April) with 4-12-8 fertilizer or 15-30-15 water soluble mixture.  Major structural trimming may be done during the winter or before the new leaves unfurl in spring.  Lighter pruning can be accomplished any time in June after the first major flush of growth begins or in the early fall.

Hopefully your tree will survive.

For more information please read this Master Gardener Factsheet:

https://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/index.php/factsheet/growing-japanese-maples-a-toronto-master-gardeners-guide/