Small maple tree problem

Q: I have just bought a small Bloodgood Japanese maple, and after several weeks, the leaves started curling on the edges. We had a lot of wind and were wondering if it suffered from wind burn or overwatering or underwatering. I am removing the bad leaves and putting the tree in a shady area with less wind.

A. If your Bloodgood Japanese maple tree had leaves for several weeks in mid-May, its growth was premature due to being grown in a greenhouse or at an out-of-state grower, meaning the leaves came out earlier than it would have had it been in the ground here in mid-Michigan. My Bloodgood of 20 years started leafing out near the beginning of May.

That means the weather events your tree was experiencing were not what new tender leaves could tolerate; thus, the curling and browning occurred.

Windburn is common for Japanese maples when they are newly planted. After a few years, the signs of wind burn should be drastically reduced, but there is a chance it could continue to occur on a minor level.

Overwatering or underwatering is always a concern on newly planted material. In a pot, excess water can drain out of the bottom so you can’t overwater. Not so in the ground. A good soaking weekly should help; under extreme heat and drought, change your watering to twice a week.

Not enough water causes crunchy dry leaves, and too much water causes yellow soft edges. When the leaves die, they become dry and crunchy. Not enough water isn’t likely with your timeline.

Removing the leaves provides no value to the tree and may be detrimental. If half of the leaf is viable, it can still produce energy to help push over the stress that caused the browning.

You mentioned putting the tree in a shady area with less wind. This makes me ask if the tree is in the ground or still in the pot?

If it’s in the pot, this can happen; it wants more roots to keep all those leaves happy. Planting it in the ground may help this situation.

Bloodgood maples are quite hardy and should grow well in our area. Unless you are on the Bay shore or in some other wind tunnel, it should be able to survive the winds. Sun to part shade is what it likes. Sometimes the first year or two will show the struggles of establishment, but it is worth the wait.

Good Luck!

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Answer Provided By ...

Jerry Somalski

Jerry is a Landscape Designer, Project Manager, and the President of Bay Landscaping. He began learning about plants and landscape design as a young boy, hoeing in the family nursery and tagging along with the landscape crews who taught him the tools and methods of the trade. After earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at Central Michigan University, he returned to the family business. Jerry has an enthusiastic yet practical approach to landscape design, focused on choosing the right plants (ones that thrive in the mid-Michigan climate) for the right place to create sustainable and spectacular landscapes. He loves to share what he knows with gardeners throughout Michigan! Learn more about Jerry >>