Japanese maple die off


We moved into a house on St. Clair West last summer. There was a Japanese maple planted on the front lawn that only got growth on the peripheral branches – the centre branches were all dead. We cut the dead branches off the tree. This year, there is a lot of new growth coming from the base of the tree. We are wondering what we can do to support this tree? at this point, it looks like a Japanese maple bush with two branches sticking out of the top. If it can’t be saved, we will replace it with a different tree. Thanks for your help!


Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners regarding your damaged Japanese Maple tree.

It is very difficult to determine from your photograph the extent of the damage to the upper structure of your tree. Ofttimes, branches which at first appear dead will put forth new growth. With the wet weather we are experiencing in Toronto it is possible that foliage may yet sprout additional upper branches from that new foliage growth. While the lusher growth at the bottom confirms that the tree itself is still viable, this growth may never extend into a good branch structure because it may be initiated from the less decorative rootstock if the tree is indeed grafted as are many Japanese Maples.

The tree certainly has the energy to live. Whether it will be a thing of beauty is dependent on its culture, its pruning and shaping as it grows.

In order to give the tree the best opportunity to thrive, remove any weeds or other plant material in the area under the tree. Take care of your tree by providing an organic well-composted mulch to at least the depth of 10 cm or 4 inches and as far out as the canopy but not closer to the trunk than 10cm or 4 inches. The mulch will slow down evaporation and provide a cooler root run in the heat of the summer while moderating the temperature in the winter. Water when the soil is becoming dry. It is best to fertilize lightly in half dosages in the spring.

We wish you well in your quest for a beautiful lawn tree.