Pruned Japanese Maple

wakkoleiaJune 3, 2007

The frost earlier this year seemed to have nearly destroyed the medium sized lace-leaf japanese maple on the side of our house. It's finally filled out with some new growth around the main stems, but the outer limbs are dry and brittle. A friend of my husband's said to leave it alone until next year and it would grow back. Unfortunately, my dad just visited and cut away everything that looked dead, including some of the larger limbs. Now I'm all distraught that my favorite tree has been mutilated, and I let it happen. What I really want to hear is that it's all ok, my tree will be fine, and this was the right thing to do. What I'm afraid is that all of those limbs would have revived next year and now my large tree is a big stump.

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the_virginian(Zone 7 NoVA)

It will grow back slowly. Keep it well watered and fertilized and it should be OK.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 3:02PM
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Cutting away what was REALLY dead will not hurt at all, and, in fact, will help the tree recover more completely and quicker with less chance of disease entering through decay later on. If the limbs he removed were truely dead AND he prunned them in a proper way, he did you a favor. My guess is that if the limbs had still been alive they would have leafed out by now. The damage was done by the cold, not your dad.

After the cold snap, experts were advising not to prune immediately to avoid cutting off live areas that only looked dead and to reduce stress on the plant that often follows pruning and the resulting growth sprut. But, waiting a year will not make dead limbs come back to life.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 3:36PM
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P.S. ... DON'T fertilize your tree unless you do a soil test and the test shows that your soil needs fertilizer. Fertilizing trees without testing first is generally not a good idea and is more likely to hurt, than to help them unless the soil lacks necessary nutrients. Trees have very different nutrient requirements than flowers or vegetables. Most soils have the nutrients (mainly nitrogen) that trees need without adding additional fertilization.

Also, only water the tree when needed. In this drought that may be once or twice a week, but the tree will not need any more water than it would have if it hadn't been hurt by the cold. In fact, it should need less water because there will be a greatly reduced leaf surface with original root mass. Basically, water when the soil becomes dry at a depth of about 2 to 3 inches. Fertilizing or overwatering will cause additional stress on the tree and could easily result in a longer recovery time or even death.

If it were my tree, I would make sure the pruning was done correctly, ensure that the area around the tree was free from weeds and mulched lightly, and water the tree only when conditions (drought) make watering necessary.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 3:58PM
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