Red maple tree is not growing

(Question)

Hi, I bought and planted a red maple tree 2 years ago. Last year it didn’t get good leaves and most of the branch had no leaves. This year same thing happens again and the leaves don’t look healthy. I replaced another previous tree with this one as it wasn’t growing properly as well. The old tree was planted by the house builder and when I removed it I removed lot’s of clay and plastic building materials berried underneath. I replaced all with new soil and added food as well. Any help will be very appreciated!

Thanks

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(Answer)

Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners.

Your tree looks healthy in the photograph. Judging from the foliage form and colour, I believe it is a Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) and not a Red Maple (Acer rubrum).

Japanese maples are less hardy (Zone 5 or 6 depending on cultivar) and need winter protection. The bare branches are probably the result of winter kill rather than disease. Wrap the tree with burlap during winter in its first three years, and maybe in the years after, depending on how exposed its site is. Water deeply in the fall right up to before the ground freezes solid to prevent dehydration.

I see signs of leaf scorch on some the leaves, but it does not look serious enough to affect the health of the tree. Infrequent but deep watering, together with a good layer of mulch, goes a long way to ensure the proper hydration of your tree. Please refer to the following article on scorch, sunburn and heat stress from the Missouri Botanical Garden for more information.

Japanese maples are also much slower growing. Therefore the lack of progress you perceive is quite normal and not a source for worry.

You may be interested in Our Gardening Guide on Growing Japanese Maples