Need advice: Fireglow J. Maple dropping leaves

Discussion in 'Maples' started by rxrep, Aug 27, 2017.

  1. rxrep

    rxrep New Member

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    I have a Fireglow Japanese maple that I purchase at a local landscape supply and planted back in late June. Since transplanting it has slowly shed leaves. The leaves that remain appear healthy. Any insight on what's going on? I'm assuming it will be ok and is just some relocation shock, but just want to make sure. Here are some pics.
     

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  2. JT1

    JT1 Rising Contributor

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    Hello rxrep,
    Welcome to the forum. Your tree is likely responding normally to getting established while dealing with some stress.

    Check the branches that lost the leaves and make sure the bark is normal color (no black) and the buds where the leaves fell from look healthy.

    [If uninterested in the what, how, and why, just skip down to the "Recommended Action:" section]

    When the leaves fail and fall off, what they do before they fall, and their location can sometimes help tell the story of what is going on. From the pictures, I get the impression that the leaves are falling from the outer branches furthest from the roots. The leaves are partially browning before dropping.

    This usually means that the roots could not provide enough moisture to keep up with transpiration. This can be from a lack of available moisture (in the case of your tree) or the moisture is available but the roots are unable to take up that moisture effectively (due to root damage, disruption[partial contributor in your case-newly planted], or too much water). The problem of moisture transfer can be caused by an issue in the vascular system between the leaves and the roots (girdling root, vascular disease, petiole damage, pest damage, mechanical damage, freeze damage from a past winter, or damage along the branch from an improper pruning cut that lead to damage or rot along the branch in question limiting the flow of moisture).

    Given the history of your tree, the photos, past weather; I believe your tree needs a deep watering to help prevent further damage and improve establishment. This time of year the inner roots can dry out because of heat and the lack of a long period of rain that saturates the entire root ball. Instead the tree gets rain or moisture that only only wets the surface mulch and maybe an inch into the soil, then dries, and repeats over time that causes pores that lead deeper into the roots to be closed off and useless. Then future moisture tends to run off instead of penetrating into the lower roots. This decreases the roots ability to keep up with moisture loss and the leaves at the tips or furthest from the roots to suffer damage. This is a real problem in areas where Summers are hot, rain is spotty and unreliable, and we can contribute by frequent watering that is not deep enough and quickly evaporates by the end of the day. This is a widespread problem.

    Recommended Action:

    In order to reverse this problem we need to crack the shell of compacted soil and get moisture back into the bottom 2/3 of the roots. Get a pencil or spike that is long enough that it can be pushed down 6" into the root zone. Imagine the root zone around the tree is a clock dial and the tree trunk is at the center. Starting 3" from the trunk work the pencil or spike into the soil by hand with a slight rocking motion (stop going deeper if you hit a root, move slightly to a new nearby spot to avoid the root and work the spike down into the soil as deep as you can and remove. Do this in a line along the 12 o'clock line out from the trunk every 2" to 3" to the outer perimeter of the root mass. Repeat this process along the 3,6, and 9 o'clock positions. Next water the tree on a gentle shower setting working the water around the clock slowly covering the entire area. As water pools a little just stop and wait 30 seconds for the water to settle and then continue. The goal is to keep the water from running off, we want to have frequent pauses and keep the water moving to prevent water building up in one spot and running off. We want a deep watering of the entire root mass. Dedicate one 20 minute slow and deep watering session a week for the next month. After the first week before watering the second time repeat the process of gently rocking the pencil or spike in the same order but along the 1:30,4:30,7:30, and 10:30 positions and repeat the 20 minute watering process. Do a 20 minute watering the 3rd and 4th week. By October do a 20 minute slow and moving watering over the entire root zone every 2 weeks.

    Remember that we want to keep the water spray moving over the entire root zone. This may require you to move into the bed and water the tree from all sides. All too often (since we are creatures of habit) we stand in the exact same position when we water. This causes uneven watering and dry spots in those hard to reach areas of the root zone. To water effectively we need to change our position around the tree and keep the spray moving, giving some pauses as water begins to pool so that it has time to sink in rather than running off. This will allow us to saturated the entire root mass throughout the depth of the roots creating an environment where the roots can grow outward and deeply. Which leads to good establishment and a healthy more drought / heat tolerant tree in the future, increasing the beauty and longevity of your new tree.
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2017
  3. rxrep

    rxrep New Member

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    Thank you so much for the expert advice! I will definitely do that. Although I've watered the tree, I've never given it a "deep" watering like you describe. I guess because of my fear of over watering, I didn't water enough. Once again, Thank you!
     

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