concern about stressed Autumn Blaze maple trees

Asked June 30, 2017, 11:09 AM EDT

Do you have someone on staff who can answer questions I have about two 2 1/2 inch Autumn Blaze maple trees that were planted in my yard last fall. They look very stressed to me. They've been getting plenty of water. I am in Centerville and they're planted in clay soil. I have pictures I can send.

Anoka County Minnesota

3 Responses

We will need more information. Did you amend the soil at all when planting these trees? Are they getting full sun? Does water drain well at that spot or is the soil wet/standing water at times. How deep did you plant them; the first real root should be just barely below the surface of the soil. Send us this information along with good photos and we will do our best.

The house was built last year and the builder had his landscaper put in the trees last fall, so I did not see them go in. They are 2 1/2 in Autumn Blaze maples that get full sun. They are not ever in standing water but they are in clay soil. From what I can tell they were not planted too deep but I don't know how big the hole was when they were planted or how they prepared the B&B roots when planting. I don't know if they were ungirded. I have been watering them, plus the rain, so I don't think the stress is from not enough water. When I put my finger in the soil it seems damp.
I have tried to get in contact with the landscaper but have had no response. I would appreciate your suggestions. Water more? Water less? Should I be fertilizing them? Do you do any soil testing? Please see the attached pictures. Thank you, Scott Nelson

From just looking at the photos, it does look like the maples are planted too deep but maybe it is all the mulch around the base of the trunk. There should be a flair at the base and the photos are straight up and down like a telephone pole. One thing you can do is pull away the mulch and dig down until you find the first 'real' root. That root will be as big as your little finger or maybe larger. That root should be just barely below the surface of the soil. Any soil above that should be removed. If you remove some soil further down [at least on one side] you will be able to see if the burlap has been removed and if the metal bucket has been at least partially cut away. You also will be able to tell if the planting hole was amended with compost or a similar amendment mixed into the clay or if it was just plopped into the clay. Secondly, if you put your finger in the soil and it is still wet down to the second knuckle, it does not need any water. A soil test is always a good idea but I don't think that is your problem. Your builder should be able to pressure the landscaper to respond to you if he wants to work with that builder again. Finally, trees of that size are an investment and you could have a certified arborist make an on-site visit. Here are two links. One for the arborist. Click on Find An Arborist and put in your zip code. The other is the Soil Testing Laboratory.