Pruning a Weeping Japanese Maple?

blaze08May 10, 2008


I recently purchased a home and I have a very small maple in my yard. It is about 2 feet tall and what I believe to be a weeping Japanese maple. It is red leaf, with obvious weeping branches. The leaf is very delicate looking.

I am very new to gardening so I do not know much about it at all. I am wondering if it is ok for the leaves to be resting on the ground? Someone mentioned that this can cause disease, so I was going to prune them off the ground, but I am having a hard time finding any information about how to prune.

So I guess my questions are:

1. Is it ok for the leaves/branches to be resting on the ground?

2. If I need to prune, can I right now or do I have to wait until fall?

3. If I need to prune, what is the best way to do it?

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

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Thank you bullthistle. When you say prune the limb closest to the main stem as possible - do you just mean the main branch that the smaller limb is attached to, or do you mean to prune the entire branch close to the main trunk of the tree? Sorry for my ignorance, like I said I am very new to this and I just want to make sure I do this right. The tree is just beautiful!

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2008 at 7:27AM
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I'm not sure I'd agree 100% with that advice :-) Leaves touching or resting on the ground is not a big deal and they should be fine unless they become tattered or damaged due to watering or irrigation. A light touch is always recommended when pruning Japanese maples and if sweeping branches touching the ground bothers you, I'd only prune them back far enough so they have adequate clearance. Just back a couple of leaf nodes or so. Avoid trimming so that all the branches are even, like bowl haircut - this is a very unnatural look.

Because of their grafting, it's very unusual to have a JM branch lay on the ground. If a branch is long enough to arch over and touch the ground, I'd follow the same method as above and cut back only to a branch union or leaf node that offers sufficient clearance. The only time I'd remove an entire branch is if it was damaged, diseased or conflicted with other growth.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2008 at 8:09PM
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Hi Gardengal,

Thanks for your advice. I thought that perhaps posting pictures of the tree in question might help. As you can see in the back of the plant is where most of the long branches are touching the ground.

I appreciate all of the advice I have received so far and if anyone has any additional input, I thank you in advance!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 7:40PM
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you could also stake the limbs with a support to elevate them instead of pruning, being careful to avoid bending the branch so much that it creates a point of breakage through tension.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 12:24PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Your Maple appears to have a narrow crotch. It will cause you splitting problems in the future. Something to avoid when choosing a plant among many.

I start pruning at the bottom inside and work up, achieving a thin, wavey, umbrella shape. Take out all branches that are going to be overlapped by the ones above it. Take care not to show as much trunk on the south side because it's apt to burn if it gets too much.
Here's one of mine that I have posted before.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2008 at 7:17AM
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Handsome tree your shaping looks great.

Blaze, I agree with GG and Portland. Let it grow and gain some character then slowly guide it into a complementary form.

I would not follow the guidance of the guy on the video. The principles were correct but his finished product seemed artless to me.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2008 at 7:08PM
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Botann, please explain what you mean by a "narrow crotch". I'm looking for a JM for my yard and I'd like to know what constitues a good frame. Thanks.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2008 at 11:25PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

In the top picture there is a narrow 'V' where the two main branches diverge. Narrow crotches like this split easier than branches that go out at a wider angle. Snow and ice usually do it as the branches get larger. Kids and dogs are also culprits, as is mishandling. If you look closely this has already happened at the very top of the maple. Choose a maple with a good structure that will hold a good canopy in the future.
The lower left limb on my maple has no future as it will eventually be superceded by the branches above it. It does not contribute to supporting the canopy. It has subsequently been removed. I should have spotted it earlier.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2008 at 9:47AM
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Botann is indeed correct. The narrower the crotch angle (the more its shaped like a "V"), the weaker it is. The wider the angle (the more it looks like an "L"), the stronger it is. This is why columnar (fastigate) trees split out so much, and why you'll see people tying up the branches in the winter to keep them from splitting. I've seen trees wrapped up like mummies for the wintertime, just to save them from the ice and snow! Bradford Pear Trees are also notorious for splitting, because they have weak wood and narrow crotch angles.



    Bookmark   September 22, 2008 at 3:50PM
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We get some pretty bad ice storms here in Nebraska. We just bought a new house and it really needs some trees. I'm going to have to start paying attention to crotch angles from now on. Thanks for the info.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 10:14PM
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Thank you again everyone for all of your wonderful posts. I will forego pruning this fall and allow the tree another year to grow and gain character as recommended.

I did not previously know about the narrow crotch being a problem, so thank you for that information. The tree came with the house when I purchased it, but if I plan to do any additional landscaping I will be sure to keep this in mind.

Since I live in an area that gets a lot of snow and ice, should I cover this tree in burlap or some other material to protect it this winter? Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2008 at 10:55AM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

It's made it so far without protection..........
I'd forgo the burlap.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2008 at 10:17PM
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I have a green leaf maple limb growing out of my dwarf red is attached at mid way on truck of tree,maybe nickle size in diameter, can I trim this off without damaging my tree? jm is 8 yrs old...healthy,do i put anything on spot where I trim off? Can I replant cut off limb????thxs

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 8:54AM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

You can, and should, cut off the green limb. It is a sprout from the rootstock and occurs below the graft and is probably way more vigorous than the red leaved part.
No, you can't root the branch. :-(

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 10:45PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Here is another of my maples. This is a green leaved one showing some Fall color. Since it is directly under a Noble Fir, I have to water it during our dry summers. I was always going to move it but never got around to it. Hate it when that happens!


    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 11:37AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Over time these often tend to look like a collapsed rope or a coiled spring in the center if not training up a stake when younger, to attain more height more quickly. As with other weeping trees not growing at the top of a wall or next to a pond, the appeal of the cascading branches may be lost on level ground. This is probably what prompts the too common trimming of the bottom (of this and other popular weeping trees) so that the specimen looks like a mushroom instead of a mound.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 12:02PM
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