Japanese maple die off

Asked September 30, 2019, 5:18 PM EDT

Is there something going around killing off Japanese maples in western MD? We noticed many in our neighborhood dying off and are concerned about our 2 larger Maples in the back. We live in Middletown MD Thanks for any info. ...

Frederick County Maryland

3 Responses

Japanese maples are fairly shallow rooted and tend to die suddenly. There is no new disease affecting them.

Here's is a good article in our Maryland Grows blog (on our website) that covers several possible issues that challenges them: https://marylandgrows.umd.edu/2018/08/24/japanese-maples-in-maryland-landscapes-plant-location-care-...

Our blog has a search box which makes it convenient to search topics, in addition to our website's general search box.


This was no new planting by a novice. This was a well established 30 plus year old tree as are the many in the surrounding neighborhood. It has withstood heavy storm years and years of drought.

We didn't mean to suggest that the tree was new or you were a novice.
But again, in answer to your original question, there is no new disease affecting them.
We are hearing of a good deal of mature trees dying this year. There is no one culprit for this, other than cumulative years of stressful conditions that do eventually (like us) make organisms more likely to have a range of problems. A 'tipping point' if you will.
Last year was one of historic rains, where some landscapes that have never had standing water had it for months, and others didn't drain as fast as usual, leading to compromised root systems. Then now, many areas of Maryland are going into their 9th week of drought, which these trees in particular with their shallow root system (which also may be compromised from past issues) do not like.
There could be other problems too which we cannot determine from afar, including
boring insects, japanese maple scale, girdling roots which worked in concert to the detriment of your tree. Please be sure to read the blog post above for some of the issues that can slowly kill a Japanese maple over time.
You can also explore this page of tree/shrub problems (look especially at Environmental/Cultural page): https://www.extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/tree-and-shrub-problems

If you have concerns for specific trees that are important to you, keep them watered when drought occurs, mulch them no more than 2-4 inches and keep it pulled back from contact with the trunk.
Consider having an on-site consultation with a certified arborist to assess the health of those trees and what might be done or corrected to help them thrive.
You can search for an arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture at their website here: www.treesaregood.org