Japanes maples holding onto dead leaves

Asked November 29, 2019, 7:54 AM EST

Two of my Japanese maple trees did not shed their leaves this year. The leaves didn’t change color and fall as they normally do. The trees are still full of grey withered leaves. I am concerned about what will happen if we have a heavy snowfall or an ice storm. I fear the leaves will hold snow or ice and will cause the branches to break. The trees are about 25 years old and are pretty beautiful. Is there anything I can do other than petition the weather gods not to send us an ice storm?

Howard County Maryland

1 Response

We received many questions on Japanese maples holding onto their leaves last year. This is most likely due to an environmental factor. Temperatures this fall stayed higher than normal late into the season and then we had a sudden cold snap. The trees did not have their gradual hardening off process and the leaves remained on the tree. The leaves stayed attached because abscission tissue had not sufficiently developed.

The brown leaves should drop on their own at winter's end when new leaves start growing. Unless your tree has other issues they should start growing normally next spring.

Here is our blog post stating reasons why Japanese maples and some other trees did not lose their leaves last season
https://marylandgrows.umd.edu/2018/02/28/qa-why-didnt-japanese-maples-lose-their-leaves-last-fall/

Marian