8 Reasons Why Your Acer Tree is Dying – Read This

Acer trees, also known as Japanese Maple, are known for their beautiful appearance and small structure, making them desirable for small gardens. However, they can be pretty tricky and slow to grow. There might even be some cases where they show signs of dying. 

Why is my Acer tree dying? Improper watering, too much wind, too much hot midday sun, alkaline soil, over-fertilization, freezing damage, or transplanting stress are all possible reasons why your Acer tree is dying. By planting the tree in half-shade, watering it correctly, and providing it with suitable soil, you can prevent it from dying.

But what exactly are the reasons for Acer trees dying? Here are the top causes your Acre tree may be dying and what to do to save it.

Acer tree (Japanese maple tree)

Most Common Reasons Why Your Acer Tree is Dying

Too Much Wind

The Japanese Maple is a type of shrub that is fragile and prone to drying out quickly when exposed to high winds, leading to massive water loss from its leaves. For this reason, they mostly grow where the canopy of forests protects them. 

To prevent your Japanese Maple from dying because of wind, it is best to provide it with a windbreaker. You can do this by adding a fence or plants and shrubs around it to buffer gusts of wind. Of course, this does not mean that you should grow it in an enclosed place but where it will be protected from the everyday wind.

Hot Midday Sun

Another common reason Japanese Maple trees die is when exposed to intense sunlight. Like other plants, exposing your Acer tree to full sunlight, especially during hot midday, can significantly dehydrate the leaves and affect the consistency of the soil. 

The good news is that you can prevent this from happening by simply increasing the amount of shade of your Japanese Maple. You can allow it to get adequate sunlight in the morning and then provide shade during the afternoon or full sun.

Too Much Moisture

Watering your plant is a good practice. However, there are some cases where this can result in too much moisture. The same case applies if you live in an area that constantly rains or has a cold season. 

When it comes to Japanese Maple, too much moisture in the soil can lead to a condition called root rot or also known as verticillium wilt. Consequently, this can result in the development of fungal disease pathogens.

As the name suggests, root rot or verticillium wilt is a plant disease that causes the plant’s roots to rot and die. The noticeable symptoms of this disease can be noticed in the leaves when they turn yellow, grey, and brown and curl inwards. In some cases, some of the branches will drop their leaves before the plant ultimately dies. 

Unfortunately, you cannot do much once your Japanese Maple tree is infected with the disease. This is why prevention is much better than cure. Here are some tips on how you can avoid too much moisture:

  • Make sure that the soil you’re using is well-draining
  • Amend the plant area with leaf mold or compost
  • Add horticultural sand or grit to the plant area

The Soil is Too Dry

Although your Acer tree can die from too much moisture, it can also be a deadly situation when the soil is too dry. It’s easy to know if your plant is suffering from a lack of moisture in the soil because the leaves will turn brown. 

Stunning Zamioculcas zamiifolia 360...
Stunning Zamioculcas zamiifolia 360° View

By the end of the day, if you want your Acer tree to thrive, you need to provide it with well-balanced soil. This means that it must not be too dry and not too wet. You can do this by controlling how much you water the plant. 

Watering your Japanese Maple once a week is highly recommended if you live somewhere with a hotter climate. But, you don’t necessarily have to if you live in a place with constant rainfall. 

Alkaline Soil

Japanese Maple prefers slightly acidic soil, preferably with a pH level of less than 7. Otherwise, soil with more alkaline can result in chlorosis, which is a deficiency in zinc, iron, or manganese. 

These three minerals are essential for Japanese Maple to produce chlorophyll for photosynthesis. If they do not have sufficient amounts of these minerals, then they can’t make food to survive. 

One way to know whether your Japanese Maple has a deficiency of this disease is when the new leaves develop yellow tips. More severe cases can also cause the older leaves to be yellow. If you notice these symptoms in your Japanese Maple, you need to act fast and use a foliar spray with iron chelate or iron sulfate solution. 

Too Much Fertilizer

Generally, Japanese Maples do not require added fertilizers, especially when planted in good soil with adequate compost since they are not heavy feeders. This is why if you plan on fertilizing it, the chances of overdoing the amount of fertilizer is high. 

Excessive amounts of fertilizer on your Japanese Maple can cause leaf scorch. When this happens, the leaves turn brown and yellowish. The new growth that has a soft stem can also appear droopy. 

What’s more, there are instances where you might not be putting fertilizer on the Japanese Maple, but it still ends up over-fertilized. This can happen when you apply lawn fertilizer, which becomes diluted with rainwater and seeps into the soil around the Japanese Maple. 

When this happens, there are several things that you can do: 

  • Trim affected leaves
  • Give it time to recover

Freezing Damage

The freezing temperature will make the Japanese Maple shrivel and cause the leaves to turn black or brown. You can save your Japanese Maple from frost by pruning it. Remove the dead portions once there are no more upcoming cold temperatures. If pruned just in time, it will eventually grow back. 

Transplanting Stress

Last but not least, another common reason the Japanese Maple may die is transplanting stress, which occurs when the transplanting is not done right. In this case, you can make sure that you transplant it properly without causing much distress to the plant. 

Here are steps for properly transplanting your Acer tree:

  • Dig 9 inches away from the trunk and make sure to avoid hitting any of its roots.
  • Wrap the root ball using a burlap to keep it intact. 
  • Transfer to your desired location and make sure to have the best soil possible, enough water, and mulch. 

Tip: It is highly recommended to transplant your Japanese Maple during fall when dormant. 

Frequently asked questions:

Can I move a Japanese Acer? 

Yes, you can move a Japanese Acer tree. However, make sure to do it at a specific time of the year. Otherwise, you might cause it too much stress that it might end up dying. 

To move a Japanese Acer without killing it, you need to start by digging a trench around the plant’s root. Also, make sure that it’s dormant when you cut the roots to avoid any damage while moving it to another location. 

Can Acers grow in Clay soil? 

It’s possible to grow an Acer tree in clay soil. However, the possibility of it thriving is not high since clay soil tends to cause waterlogged roots. 

If you do decide to plant your Acer tree in clay soil, it is recommended to mix bark and compost to make it more suitable for the Acer tree. Also, make sure to use sheltered spots to prevent wind damage on your Acer tree. 

Can Acers grow in the shade?

Yes, Acer trees grow in the shade. It can even tolerate full shade. Still, it might lose some of the intensity in its foliage color when you place it under a fully shaded location. 

f you want your Acer tree to have a vibrant foliage color and protect it from sun damage at the same time, it is best to plant it somewhere that is partially shaded. This way, it gets the protection that it needs while still having enough access to the sun to help it thrive fully.

When is it best to move an Acer Tree? 

Ideally, it is recommended to transfer a Japanese Acer tree in late winter or during the early days of spring just before the Acer tree starts breaking bud naturally. This is considered the best time window because there are fewer chances for the tree roots to be compromised. What’s more, the upcoming warm weather can significantly help the new roots to thrive and become healthy.

Should I remove dead leaves from Japanese Maple? 

You can remove the dead leaves from the Japanese Maple if you want. Nonetheless, it is still okay if you don’t want to remove dead leaves from your tree since it won’t impact the other leaf development or budding. If you decide to remove dead leaves from a Japanese maple, you can do it by cutting about the ridge of the branch color. 

Final Words

There you have it; those are the top 8 most common reasons why your Acer tree may be dying. Knowing these would be easier for you to identify the cause and find the best solution to address it. Although Acer trees are not the easiest and fastest-growing plant out there, it’s undeniable that their beauty can make a garden look more desirable.