Help with Japanese Maple

a_macMay 14, 2006

Last year, I bought a young Japanese maple from a greenhouse. I hoped to turn it into a Bonsai. I was told that it wouldn't survive the winter outdoors, but that many people keep them indoors as houseplants. I brought the maple inside in the fall. Within a couple of weeks, it lost all of its leaves. They didn't change color - just dried up and dropped. I kept them in my sunroom with an East-facing window. Its cooler than the rest of the house, with night temps about 12 degrees Celcius and daytime temps 15-18 degrees Celcius in the winter. In March, the JM started to get buds. Unfortunately, these buds did not progress. The tree does have lots of new growth arising from the lower 1/3 of the trunk. The buds have dried up. I thought the top of the tree had died back, but I scratched the bark and found that it was still green. Any idea what happened? Should I prune it back to where the new growth is, or will I eventually get new leaves on the branches? The new leaves that have erupted at the bottom seem to be flourishing, and the tree is now outside for the summer again.

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I have a Japanese Maple growing outside in the ground. I am in coastal central California, zone 9. My winter temp get down into the mid 30s F (I think that this is around -16s C). But generally the low to mid 40s F is common (-14 C).
My tree often loses branches through die-back. I got some that I will have to remove but I give the plant time to set out the new growths and leaves before I make the move to do any trimming of dead wood. Can't really offer any explanation as to why the plant loses some of its branches.
It may be related to humidity. We have these hot summer winds that blow out from the inland deserts and things can get very windy and dry fast!
Before next winter if you do not have a greenhouse you may want to check out the possibility of building lean to coldframe up against a west or south wall that is large enough to house the tree and install a thermometer and see if it can maintain a temp range in the mid 30sF to mid 40sF just from heat induction from the house and the placement which should give it the maximum solar exposure.

My tree is on the west side of my house but sits in shade
except for about a couple to three hours when the sun is overhead. I think the major problem I have is keeping the plant cool enough during summer otherwise it grows well here.

Depending on where your location is in Canada and if you are in a sheltered spot (within a city) it might be possible to overwinter the tree outside if you were to sit it into a much larger pot and fill in with mulch and apply a healthy layer of mulch over the surface of the pot with the plant in it. I think that the tree does grow in the
longitudal area between 40 degrees and 45 degrees which would cover southern Canada.

Hope all this helps.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2006 at 12:14AM
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Thanks for the advice!
Unfortunately it does get VERY cold here. I'm in Sasktoon - about 52 degrees north latitude. Temps get down to the -40s for at least 1-2 weeks each winter. For most of the winter, the daytime temp is around -25 Celsius (-15F). Heaping mulch into my flowerbed has allowed me to successfully overwinter plants that NEVER should survive in this zone, but I don't know if I would chance this with my JM. I did successfully keep a Korean Lilac bonsai outside over the winter by burying and covering with mulch, but it died during its third winter. A heated greenhouse is on my wishlist :-) In the meantime, I'll keep stubbornly keep trying to grow those beautiful things that thrive in warm climates.

Your suggestion about the humidity is a good one. It's very dry here - maybe I will try misting, or placing a tray of pebbles with some water under the tree's pot.

The new growth on the tree is looking very healthy, but unfortunately it has died back quite considerably. The bark that was green when I scratched before is now dry yellow. I want to prevent this from being a yearly occurrence!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2006 at 9:00AM
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