CraigL77
Newly Registered
Posts: 3
Joined: Sun Nov 18, 2007 2:24 pm
Location: Nashville

Help with large Japanese Maple, Is it dying? Pruning help to

hello,
I have recently purchased a japanese maple from a nursery near by and had it installed in my backyard. It is probly over 15 years old, about 15ft tall and 8ft around with about a 5" trunk. The tree always had leaves at the nursery and seemed healthy. Since its been installed it seems like it dropped a bunch of leaves in the center of the tree and alot of the branches are gray and snap off very easily (but this only happens on smaller twigs) the large 1" diameter branches seem fine and strong. Is this normal?

As far as pruning goes, I am going to attach pictures to show you what the tree looks like. I was thinking about cutting off the real low branches to make it look more like a tree and less like a huge bush. Do you think that is a good idea? The lower branches are so low to the ground and seem like major arteries to me, so Im not sure if cutting them is a good idea. I have never pruned a tree before, however.

My final question is on the center and higher up branches. As you can see in the picture they are mostly dead and have no leaves. Should I prune off some/most of these branches?

Also, if anyone has any suggestions on how I should shape the tree that would be great.

Here are the pics:

[img]https://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee302/CraigL77/DSCF4718Large.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee302/CraigL77/DSCF4717Large.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee302/CraigL77/DSCF4716Large.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee302/CraigL77/DSCF4715Large.jpg[/img]

MaineDesigner
Green Thumb
Posts: 439
Joined: Thu Nov 09, 2006 11:17 am
Location: Midcoast Maine, Zone 5b

How recently was the tree planted? Was it already in a container or B&B'd before you bought it or was this tree recently dug? Have you contacted the nursery and, if so, what was their response?
This appears to be transplant shock but answers to the above will help to clarify matters.
I would not recommend this as a beginning pruning project, working to restore good form to this tree may take some skilled* work. I also would not remove any live branches until it is fully dormant.

*Finding a really skilled pruner is not always easy. In general a licensed arborist is more likely to be competent but I have seen some excellent work from people who weren't licensed or certified and some butchery from people that were. There are no guarantees.

CraigL77
Newly Registered
Posts: 3
Joined: Sun Nov 18, 2007 2:24 pm
Location: Nashville

It was planted in July and I have not contacted the nursery I bought it from. They werent the brightest bunch.

MaineDesigner
Green Thumb
Posts: 439
Joined: Thu Nov 09, 2006 11:17 am
Location: Midcoast Maine, Zone 5b

I'm not a Japanese Maple expert and the climate I work in is much cooler than yours, so you may get more informed replies.
Generally Acer palmatum can only be spring dug, they tend to react very badly if you attempt to dig them in mid summer, but if it had been B&B'd while dormant or grown in a container that should not be an issue. July is a tough time to move any woody plant and in the relatively high temperatures and recent drought conditions of Nashville that would be especially true. Acer palmatum and relatives tend to like some shade, especially in the PM. In Nashville I expect that it would be a requirement for a newly planted Japanese Maple. Your maple appears to be in an exposed position. If it was shaded at the nursery and then moved directly to full sun in Nashville in July I would expect problems. I don't know anything about Nashville area soils but the relatively steep raised berm it is planted in also concerns me. It would be difficult to adequately water a tree in a situation like that without using something like an Ooze Tube.
I think you are going to need local expertise to accurately gauge how bad the situation is and what can be done to best address it.

CraigL77
Newly Registered
Posts: 3
Joined: Sun Nov 18, 2007 2:24 pm
Location: Nashville

I don't know what I was thinking when I said July, it was planted in early October. Sorry!

The root ball seems to stay damp most of the time, I check it yesterday and it was still wet from the rain we had a few days ago.

Newt
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1868
Joined: Tue May 25, 2004 10:44 pm
Location: Maryland zone 7

Hi Craig,

I'm wondering who planted the tree, and if it was the nursery you purchased it from, how long is the guarantee on this tree? It appears to be planted too deep as the rootflare doesn't show and needs to be exposed.
https://www.tlcfortrees.info/planting%20depth.htm
https://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/overmulched.html
https://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/plantedtoodeeply.html

I also see a potential problem with pruning this tree, especially near the base. Ever see a mature tree where a large limb was removed and then rot sets in? Removing large limbs can be problematic for the tree. Looking at your third picture down, there is a very large limb that could cause problems if removed now.Here's some info on pruning trees and one on pruning mature trees.
https://www.treesaregood.com/treecare/pruning_mature.aspx
https://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/howtos/ht_prune/prun001.htm

As MaineDesigner has stated, pruning is part art and part science. I would definitely use a certified arborist, get references and check them.
https://www.isa-arbor.com/findArborist/findarborist.aspx

I suspect that possible root damage was done when the tree was dug. Leaves are expendable to a tree and the tree will shed them in times of stress. I think it's most important now to correct the planting errors and have a certified arborist take a look at it.

Newt

wingdesigner
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 2036
Joined: Thu Mar 10, 2005 4:58 pm
Location: Michigan--LP(troll)

I agree w/Newt, get that "volcano" of soil/mulch/whatever away from the base of the tree until you see the trunk flare out towards the roots. Keep soil/mulch about 6" away from trunk always. Maybe reposition the mound so it forms more of a bowl, but always away from the trunk. Otherwise it will hold moisture in and rot the trunk. I would do this first before further disturbing the root system by digging up the entire thing.

Is your soil mostly clay? If so, it's probably substantially different from what was around the roots. Don't fertilise this year, let the tree recover. In your zone the tree shouldn't need winter cover, and there appears to be enough branches to shade the trunk from winter sun. If the bark on the trunk appears to be splitting vertically, then you may need to lightly wrap it or provide some sort of shade until it leafs out again in the spring. Also, encourage the roots to go out into the surrounding soil by watering at the edge of the rootball/hole and beyond, deeply, once or twice a week if the soil is dry. If you have some rebar handy (who doesn't ;) ), then pound about ten holes about 2' deep if possible around the perimeter of the hole, just outside the edge, and pour the water down there. That will draw the roots out into the surrounding soil. Use the rebar to make the holes--they'll fill in by spring.

One more thing, if the tree was a balled/burlap tree, meaning it came w/the root ball encased in burlap and baling wire or twine, were the burlap and wire removed before they planted it? If not, then you'll have to try and remove as much of it as possible, so the roots can spread out. OK, sorry you asked? Jap. Maples are beautiful, but they have "special needs" that it sounds like your friendly neighbourhood garden center didn't provide. You'll get lots of good advice here. Best of luck w/your new "exchange student".
Happy gardening,
Wing



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