4-5 Year Old Japanese Weeping Red Maple Not Getting Leaves on Most Branches

Asked May 16, 2013, 11:29 AM EDT

Why did my 4-5 year old japanese weeping red maple suddenly this spring not get leaves on most of the branches. The tree is about 4 feet wide and about 4 feet tall. One small section of branches have healthy leaves right under the very top branches. The rest of the branches look reddish and healthy but only have a few tiny dried up leaves on them. We and our neighbors do not use pesticides. Nothing around the tree has changed that we are aware of - The tree gets about 6 hours of morning sun. I water when there is a hot dry spell. I have let water get on the trunk of the tree sometimes but I did not know that was a NO NO. The soil is good and we mulch and sometimes use miracle grow. Please help and let me know if you got the picture that I tried to attach. Thanks much!!

Howard County Maryland

1 Response

Your Japanese weeping maple may have dead leaves because of several reasons. We can't say for sure what the problem is from your photo. We can't see the mulch clearly in the photo, but the mulch should not be more than 2-3" deep and must not be touching or piled on the trunk. (Keep it back a few inches.) Mulch on the trunk encourages diseases and insect pest entry. Also, voles will use the mulch as cover and gnaw off the bark. Look for bark damage under the mulch.

Also inspect the maple for scale, an insect that sucks nourishment out of the tree. They will appear as small bumps on the bark and have been very common lately.

Read our online publication, "Common Abiotic Plant Problems" http://extension.umd.edu/sites/default/files/_images/programs/hgic/Publications/HG86%20Common%20Abiotic%20Plant%20Problems.pdf. It will have several ideas for you.

If you see any scale or other pest or other disease symptoms, please get back to us.

Meanwhile, prune off the dead branches (you can scratch the bark and if you see green underneath it is still alive). Water only during droughts. Plants like about 1" of water a week, but overwatering will kill a plant just as well as lack of watering. An established tree can tolerate a fair amount of drought and should only be watered in an extended drought.