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Saving a Japanese Maple

Andy W
6 years ago

Hi everyone,

I've been reading the GardenWeb forums for awhile now and finally decided to join up and post myself. Although I've grown a few plants in the past, I'm fairly new to gardening. I've recently tried saving a Japanese Maple and would like to hear any input or suggestions that might help me with this or other trees in the future.

Two years ago I moved into a house that a friend had bought and the previous owner had planted a Japanese Maple in front of the house. The first year it looked OK, but didn't seem to be growing much. Last summer it looked very unhealthy with lots of dead branches and only a little bit of new growth.

Over this winter I realized that our yard was very badly infested with moles and that they were probably one of the causes for the unhealthy JM. My landlord/roommate does not care about landscaping whatsoever, and he agreed to me transplanting the tree to try and save it.

I did some research and decided to put it in a large container with Al's Gritty Mix. When digging the tree out of the yard, I may have not gone far enough away from the trunk. I may have severed some larger roots, but I thought it might be OK still since a fair number of feeder roots were left intact. I also noticed that some of the roots already appeared to be chewed short and black, my guess was this was the work of the moles.

I cut away all of the dead material at the top of the tree, scraping each branch as I worked my way down to make sure I stopped at the sight of green. I planted it in a larger plastic container with wiring to support the tree upwards, as it had lost some of it's larger roots. I topped the soil with some of Happy Frog's Japanese Maple fertilizer and have been watering the tree often over the past couple of weeks.

This past weekend I saw that the bud growth had progressed, which I assume means the transplant wasn't a total failure! I did notice that some of the branches have different characteristics, which are now my main concern.

First off there's the green growth, most of it looks fairly healthy and the buds are getting about an inch long. Shoots off some of the green growth have a browning color/texture which doesn't look too healthy to me (see below). I'm not sure if this is normal or not, so please chime in if you have any ideas.

Then there are the branches that are a deep red, almost black in some areas. I believe this is normal of the JM's but want to make sure nothing funky is going on.

If anyone has any feedback or suggestions on my grow, I'd greatly appreciate it. I know my container could be bigger, but my idea was to turn this tree into an oversized bonsai if everything went well. I'm also considering using some of the larger green growth to graft some lower branches onto the trunk next winter. Sorry for the not-so-focused pics, my iPhone can't seem to focus on branches.

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