Help Needed! Planting a Maple Tree

mat_b_2008April 28, 2008

Morning everyone,

I think I might have a problem. I have purchased a Red Maple over the weekend and planted it in my front yard. Followed the instructions from the store:

- Make hole twice the size of the pot

- Plant the tree so that the top of the soil of the pot is slightly higher than the grass\

- Fill the hole ¾ of the way and water plentifully

- Fill in the rest of the hole and water again

- Make a reverse cone at the top so that the water is funneled towards the roots

Here is what I think the problem is: The next day, I watered again (it wasnÂt supposed to rain). But it started to rained that day and it has been raining two days in a row. It looks like the tree is dying. The leafs are curling and the tree doesnÂt seams healthy.

How do I know if the tree is drowning? And if it is, what do I do?

P.S. Yes, I removed the tree from the pot!

Thanks for your help.


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One more thing:
The tree is approximately 8' tall.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 9:28AM
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Do you have clay soil? Japanese Maples don't tolerate sitting in water very well and if you have clay soil it is like planting underground pot with no drainage. I have clay soil and have to plant on top of the clay using a raised bed for drainage. Many of the members here advised me to do that and the trees I did that way look great.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 9:49AM
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No, I do not have clay soil.
I live in Pickering.
I do I know if it is drowning?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 10:36AM
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I am still waiting for one of the more experienced people to chime in. Some more info might help them give you advice and pictures if possible is always a plus.

Were the roots exposed when you planted or you were able to keep the root ball intact out of the pot? What are the sun conidtions like when its not raining such as the day before? Afternoon sun, morning sun, etc. Were the leaves fully formed when you planted or just opening buds?

You said it was a red maple. Do you happen to know the cultivar name such as "Crimson Queen", "Bloodgood" or "Tamukeyama", etc. or even the type it is, the weeping form with delicate lacy leaves or the upright with normal maple leaf shape.

Sorry for all the questions but they might be useful in providing help. From what I understand a drowning tree or a dehydrated tree can often look similiar with the curling leaves. Transplanting can be stressful depending on how much the root ball was disturbed and how much sun it got if it wasn't used to that much sun.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 11:13AM
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I will take pictures when I get home tonight.

As for the roots, no, they were never exposed. And I also prepared everything before removing the tree out of the pot. The tree was out if the pot for 2 minutes at the most before I started to fill in the hole.

It was sunny all of Friday and Saturday. I planted the tree on Friday at around 1pm.

There are small leaves on the tree but mostly open buds.

And finally, the tree is a "king crimson maple". I know I said red, but I have ask my wife and I guess I was wrong.

Thanks for your help.

P.S. Once I have the pictures, where do I post them?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 11:51AM
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Sounds like you did a pretty good job with it. I find new buds to be delicate and wondered if you had a very hard rain or just light rain?

To post a picture you can use a picture hosting website such as After uploading pictures to the site, it will give you 4 lines of code that you can just copy and past in here. You don't need all 4 lines, just choose the one that says "HTML code" and copy and paste that whole line. I am going to test a non-related picture here so I can test it to make sure I am telling you correctly.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 12:43PM
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Thanks! I will add the pictures tonight.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 1:07PM
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Morning everyone,

Like I said earlier, the leafs looked great in the pot. They then started to look unhealthy the next day.

Here are the pictures:

Thanks you in advance for your help.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 9:34AM
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I have little experience but my gut feeling is that those are very new leaves and after the maple settles a few days, it will return to normal. The tree has very little leaves and I see some buds. Maples can look a bit shabby when you plant them but come back vigorously after they acclimate to the new location and condtions, wind, sun, etc. I am hoping someone else will give a more experienced, second opinion.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 10:41AM
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I appreciate your help Mattnova.

Should I do anything at this point? How often should I water the tree.

Once again thanks for your help.


    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 11:00AM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

Any particular reason for going with this tree?

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 11:59AM
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I don't know that I would do anything at this point, keep us updated though. I would expect it to look good within 2 weeks. If others tell you different, listen to them though. Many people here have tons more experience than I.

Its better to slightly underwater than to overwater. When you do water, water thouroughly and set up a regular schedule. If it rains enough then you can skip the watering for that day. Learning how to know when your tree needs water is better than me telling you how often to water it.

It depends on sun, wind, how much mulch you have, ground drainage, etc. You can do the "finger test" if unsure. put your finger down below the mulch and test for moisture. If you can feel the moisture easlily then it should be good to go. Regular watering is important until the tree roots are established. If you don't like the finger test, try a chopstick, wooden skewer or something similiar. You can stick it in wet and dry soils so you know what it should look like when its wet. Wilting of leaves once established is a sign of needing water as well.

check out the link below and Al among other go into more detail on watering.

Here is a link that might be useful: watering info

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 12:53PM
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Thanks for the help Mattnova. The wooden probe sounds like a great idea. I will keep you posted.

As for your question lou_midlothian_tx, no particular reason. I always liked these types of trees.


    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 1:36PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

Oh okay. Just wondered if you knew what will happen with norway maples down the road...

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 7:11PM
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mat b 2008-

The maple,(either Crimson King or Crimson Sentry Norway Maple) looks like it should look, just don't overwater. Put the hose at the trunk, at a tickle, every 3-5 days, for 30 minutes. Keep the mulch off the trunk.

Steve Galehouse

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 10:19PM
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Thanks a lot for your help Steve.
Should I also water if it rains?

    Bookmark   April 30, 2008 at 9:10AM
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My tree is doing much better. I will post a couple of pics in the next few weeks.

Thanks for your help!

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 11:06AM
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Matt, Probably just a little transplant shock.Did the roots need to be 'teased out' any? Ill bet your gonna have a great tree! AL

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 1:13PM
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Your tree looked good to me. The leaves look normal for newly emerging leaves, and it looks like you planted it correctly.

The biggest deciding factor in the success of any newly planted tree is regular watering. After recovering from the initial shock of transplant, the tree will start building a root system that can sustain the top of the plant. Potted trees often have inadequate root systems for the size of the plant because they've been watered and fertilized and papmered 'round the clock in greenhouses and nurseries. The grower obviously wants a big, bushy plant that will impress a potential buyer. But once the tree is removed from these ideal condidtions there is often a stress period where the tree adjusts to its new home and more realistic conditions. This sounds like what happened to your tree. It is quite tall, yet the size of the planting hole, from what I can tell, is relatively small, and the root ball naturally would be even smaller. For this reason I prune back most of my newly purchased trees to "balance" the top and the bottom. In your case, I wouldn't bother at this point.

The most important period for this new tree will be the coming fall and winter. During this time the roots will continue to grow as long as the soil temperature stays above 40 degrees F. Without the stress of the top of the tree to support, the root system will grow actively and quickly. By the second year you should only have to water when you get less than an inch of rain in a week. This is why a lot of people plant in the fall of the year, so the trees will have plenty of time to develop roots over the dormant period and be ready for the next summer.

So, if you do have soil that is not compacted clay and drains well, I would establish a regular watering pattern for this tree. The watering schedule should start out more frequently and gradually taper down, being sure to take into account things like blistering summer heat, which may require more frequent watering. If it rains, of course, you don't usually need to water too unless its in the heat of summer. Many summer rain storms dump a lot of water on the land in a very short period of time. These sudden downpours do little to thoroughly soak the soil, and most of the water just runs off. So watering may still be necessary.

In general, I water newly planted treas that have broken dormancy (have leaves) every other day. I do this for about 30-45 days. Then I back off a little and start increasing the number of days before watering again to every third day. The goal is to add another day to the duration every 4-6 weeeks until your watering schedule gets to only one time per week. Trees need 1 inch of water per week - and especially maples because they tend to be shallow-rooted.

Its doubtful you'll "get there" in one year, especially coming up on summer as we are, but you'll get a feel for when the tree needs water. Just plan on baby-sitting it for its first year.


    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 11:35PM
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