Maple Health Problems

Amenson

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I have a dilemma, unfortunately one that I may have caused. I picked up an unknown maple this summer. The lady I purchased it from called it a red maple. I had seen the tree several times the year prior to purchasing it and it was always in good health. I passed on it previously because there was some necking at the base of the tree. This time she called me up and said that I could have it if I came an got it because she did not have room for it in her car when she moved. How could I resist. Unfortunately during the preparation of moving she left her collection in the care of a "friend" who neglected to water some trees properly during a very dry time of year. The tree showed significant burning of the leaves when I got it.



I brought it home on 6/24/10 and put it in dappled shade along with a 3 tree Japanese Maple group I got at the same time that was also suffering.



The leaves continued to brown so I put it next to the house where it would only get an hour or so of early morning sun.
On 7/8/10 I clipped dead Leaves and trimmed the rest back to mostly 1 new pair of leaves to give the forming buds some air and room to grow.



Over the next couple of weeks the new leaves grew a bit and then shriveled and died.
On 7/26/10 repotted to remove muck/soil. I repotted the Japanese maple planting on 6/26/10 because it was in the same muck and it was doing much better so I figured it would help out this guy.



Unfortunately the new leaves continued to brown and die and the existing ones slowly did the same.



The last of the leaves fell off a few weeks ago. The other maple is doing just fine.



I thought that it may have went dormant but a couple of days ago I noticed that it had put out a few new buds trying to pop.



Now I am really concerned that it may not make it through the winter.

So now what?

I was planning to put it into my cold frame and see what happened in the spring. Now I am considering other options. I have a winter "cage" for my tropicals. I was thinking that I could store it there to let some leaves form and maybe gain some strength and then bring it back dormant in my breezeway and then eventually into the cold frame. Would this just make it worse?

What do you guys think?

Cheers
Scott
 
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Dav4

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Your maple is either dead/dying, or entering dormancy but extremely stressed; placing it with your tropicals will kill it for sure as it needs to stay dormant now until next spring. Those small buds may have been the trees' last gasp, but you won't know until next year. The trees' problem is/was root related, probably brought on by the heavy soil it was in, and overwatering as well. There is nothing you can do for it now. Place it in the cold frame with your other hardy trees and forget about it until next spring, when it might push new growth. I hope it does as it has a nice shape. Good luck,

Dave
 
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jk_lewis

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Rub off those new buds and put it either in the cold frame (if it really works) or (preferably) in a dark, cold garage. I suspect it will be fine. Just do NOT overwater over the winter -- but don't let it dry out, either.

Give it an early jolt of fertilizer in March.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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I think jkl has the best solution available at this point. Watching the moisture level is going to be important through winter. The trunk will "wick" when it's wet, so keep an eye on the lower inch of the trunk and make sure it gets dry before you water again. Keep it cold and in the dark so it "knows" it's winter and won't keep pushing growth.

Big lesson here...out-of-season repotting is always a huge risk, and almost never the right course of action. This tree would have been much better off with an undisturbed root system in horrible soil until next spring, rather than diminished roots in great soil through the heat of summer.

Good luck with it...I suspect it will make it.
 

Amenson

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Thanks for the feedback. I will keep it dormant until spring and mind the moisture.

I knew that repotting out of season was a risk but I thought that leaving it in the muck was also a risk. Next time I will deal with the poor soil until the appropriate season.

Scott
 

plant_dr

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It is not a red maple, looks like a regular green acer palmatum. My first thought was vine maple, but the lobes are too deep for that, judging by the picture. Either way, good luck with it!
 

rockm

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It is a Japanese maple. Hard to tell the cultivar, but that doesn't make much difference, anyway. Nice trunk on it.

Repotting it out of the muck it was in was a good idea. It probably had no chance in that stuff. Your challenge now is to keep it alive til spring.

Rubbing the new buds off is the only thing you can do at this point. You cannot bring it in with the tropicals, that will kill it. REmove new growth to keep it from expeding energy. Keep it in a protected place where it will stay below 35 F and above 25 F. The location should also be sheltered from rain. Too much moisture over the winter could kill off the roots.
 

Bill S

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Brian some times you have to do what is needed, despite the calander. I had to do this to a larch mid summer, if I didn't it was dead for sure, the crap it was potted in stayed wet in places, while some dried out, you know the typical muck and bonsai soil not mixed well.

Easy enough to say just give it the water it needs day by day, but that assumes being able to water it whenever it needs it on any day of the week. The typical working stiff that can't water in the morning before work, because the tree needs to be watered for the day. Now you are at the mercy of the sun and wind, miss at all on how the soil dries, and the tree goes to the firewood pile. This I think, gave the tree a chance to live. Although it may not. My larch either, but as I said prior, it was dead if I didn't, hopefully spring will have it popping.
 

rockm

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FWIW, maples have a second repotting season in summer. They can be pretty safely repotted with a bit of root work once their leaves have hardened off. I've done it in June and early July with no ill effects on the tree. The maple here was suffering from root rot. A repotting was definitely in order.

I would have been more aggressive with it, washing all the soil off, removed half the root mass and repotted it in coarser soil.

I've also seen maples in this condition repotted entirely in long-fibered sphagnum moss for a year. The treatment can revive a problem root mass.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Understood, you've been doing it for a long time and you know your trees...but I also suspect that you still don't repot your maples in June/July as a general practice.

If Scott is new to the art...and for anyone new to the art in general, the safer course is the handle tasks at appropriate times rather than to employ every technique you've ever read about at the first sign of a problem. Instead, try to correct the cause of the problem, which looks like watering habits here...the soil didn't look "mucky" to me, it looked wet.

Look back and think about all the trees you've ever lost...how many can you attribute to handling roots incorrectly? Whether it was timing, pruning, collecting, watering, feeding...for me it's about 95% of my losses.
 

rockm

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"but I also suspect that you still don't repot your maples in June/July as a general practice."

No, but I know bonsai nursery people that make a regular habit of it. It's not that hard or extremely dangerous. What was done here is not a problem and the tree's root mass has recovered t some extent--as evidenced by the new growth. The problem here was handled correctly, IMO. The soil looks pretty broken down to me--and the history of neglect reinforces that notion.

Yeah, it's safer to repot in spring, but if things can't wait --and I don't think they could have given the tree's performance and overall appearance---you have to act...
 
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I have seen what Amenson describes quite a few times with hornbeans. I can more or less spend a year without it appearing by spraying Bordeaux mixture at bud break and then a little later but I must renew each year. Same kind of stuff ?
 
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Amenson

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Great discussion. This is one of the things that I love/hate about horticultural side of bonsai. Everybody seems to have their own unique experiences that have worked/failed for them and that inevitably failed/worked for somebody else.

Just to clarify a couple of things:
-I am a newbie. I purchased my first bonsai Sept. 09 and have since acquired way too many more.
-The soil was muck. The lady told me that she made it more water retentive because her job had strange hours so she would not be able to reliably water at the same time every day.

My question now is, assuming that it shows some sign of life this spring...
Do I repot and remove the remaining muck in the spring or let it go as is?

Cheers,
Scott
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Thought you removed the muck when you repotted it in July?
How much did you leave?
What is the "muck"...potting soil, peat moss...dirt from the ground?
When you water it, does it soak in and run through right away, or pool and percolate slowly?
 

Amenson

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Thought you removed the muck when you repotted it in July?
How much did you leave?
What is the "muck"...potting soil, peat moss...dirt from the ground?
When you water it, does it soak in and run through right away, or pool and percolate slowly?

Brian,
I looked back at my original post and I guess that I did not make clear it in the text what I was showing in the picture:

On 7/26/10 repotted to remove muck/soil. I repotted the Japanese maple planting on 6/26/10 because it was in the same muck and it was doing much better so I figured it would help out this guy.


I only removed the loose soil from the pot, which was quite a bit. To avoid too much disruption to the tree at the not so ideal repotting time, I did not disturb the soil that was in the root ball. Here is a better picture (also showing the problem at the base of the tree that I hope to have a chance to air/ground layer away if it lives):


What is shown in the pictures is what went back in the pot with new, fast draining soil.

Before doing this the water would take a long time to soak through the soil. Now it goes through as quickly as I can add it.

Cheers
Scott
 

Bill S

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What you did in essence is a slip pot, and you need to be carefull on a couple of fronts.
First , you have to really watch your watering, the muck still there will stay wet, ultimately causing root rot, but on the other hand if you water "normally", the water can and will drain right out thru the more course bonsai soil, potentially not watering the root mass, so water it, let it drain, and water again so that the muck gets the water the roots need, checking the muck soil for moisture before watering again. You have to concentrate on keeping the muck, where all the roots are, at moisture levels that agree with the tree.

Then, yes in the spring use a hose and wash out the crap soil, and get it in good bonsai soil.
Then I would be a bit conservative, and let the tree be for a year or so, untill it has returned to be a vigorous tree.
 

jk_lewis

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What you did in essence is a slip pot, and you need to be carefull on a couple of fronts.
First , you have to really watch your watering, the muck still there will stay wet, ultimately causing root rot, but on the other hand if you water "normally", the water can and will drain right out thru the more course bonsai soil, potentially not watering the root mass, so water it, let it drain, and water again so that the muck gets the water the roots need, checking the muck soil for moisture before watering again. You have to concentrate on keeping the muck, where all the roots are, at moisture levels that agree with the tree.

Then, yes in the spring use a hose and wash out the crap soil, and get it in good bonsai soil.
Then I would be a bit conservative, and let the tree be for a year or so, untill it has returned to be a vigorous tree.

YES! This is exactly what you should do.
 

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