Red Maple Problems


My brother planted a red maple tree about 8 years ago,and it’s only about 6 feet tall. Doesn’t grow leaves every year, no signs of buds yet this year, as of March 31st, tree didn’t drop it’s leaves last year. What problems may it have? Is it still alive? What can be done if anything? Thank You!


Red maples (Acer rubrum) are considered to be moderately fast growers, with a mature height of 25 metres, so I wonder whether your brother may have another type of maple, perhaps one of the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) varieties which are much slower growers, and, depending upon the variety, may not reach much more than 10 feet at maturity?

This past winter in Toronto we have seen some of the Japanese maple varieties retain their leaves throughout the season.  The likely reason for this is that our early cold temperatures interrupted the process called abscission by which a weak layer of cells is formed at the end of the leaf stem, allowing the leaf to separate and drop.   It is still a little early for Japanese maples (if that is what your brother’s tree is) to begin to show growth, but your brother should keep a close eye on his tree for the next couple of weeks.  If the tree is viable, buds should begin to show soon, and the new leaf growth will push the old leaves off as the leaves emerge.

If a tree does not leaf out reliably every year, it is likely that it is experiencing some distress, either from pests or disease, or factors such as extreme cold killing leaf buds, or lack of irrigation, sunlight or soil nutrients.  Pests and diseases of the root, girdling of the stem by insect pests, or wound injury to the trunk are all possible reasons that trees don’t leaf out.

It is not easy to diagnose tree problems, but the website below may help your brother in determining the reason this tree does not leaf out: