Late frost damage to tree


Hi Master Gardener – I live in Toronto and just bought a beautiful Moonrise Japenese Maple last week that is pretty fully leafed-out. I haven’t planted it yet – it’s still in it’s 5 gal pot. The first night we had frost, I didn’t take in indoors, but since then I have taken it indoors at night. However, it’s not looking good. The leaves have gone pale and papery and I’m feeling heartsick. Is there anything other than keeping the soil moist I can do? Is there any hope it will recover?


Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners.

Japanese maples are quite vulnerable to cold temperatures and this spring has been exceptionally cold with record breaking cold temperatures. Damage from freezing appears as shrivelling or browning of foliage, and can also include branch die back.  To find out whether your bare branches are viable, gently scrape the bark of these bare branches with your fingernail, starting at the tip and working back towards the base of the tree: you are hoping to find green, healthy wood below the bark. If there is green bark below the wood, the tree is still viable and will push out new leaves once the temperature warm up. Keeping your tree well watered and bringing it in at nights until the threat of frost is over is the best thing that you can do right now.

We receive numerous questions concerning Japanese maples. For more information on their care simple enter Japanese Maples into the search box located to the right of the screen. A number of our archived posts will appear. The Toronto Master Gardeners also have a Garden Guide on the proper care of Japanese Maples