Japanese Maple Diseases

Michael J. McGroarty
Perry, Ohio Copyright 2011

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Japanese maples are actually pretty tough trees and quite disease resistant.  Usually, if a Japanese maple is failing, or doesn’t look good, it’s not from disease but other issues that are pretty easy to correct.  First let’s look at the things that you can control.

Japanese Maple Failure not Caused by Disease

As soon as somebody has a Japanese maple, or any plant for that matter, that doesn’t look good they immediately think it’s being attacked by some dreaded disease.  In most cases that’s not the case at all.  Contrary to what most people think, Japanese maples are pretty easy to raise and care for.  For the most part they are usually care free plants that happily exist in just about any landscape.  But there are a few things you should know about them.

1.  They don’t like wet feet!  In other words only plant them in good rich soil that drains well.  If you have heavy clay soil that does not drain well you have to make some adjustments to how your tree is planted, but be careful not to make the wrong adjustments.  Many people do it wrong and their tree dies.

In heavy clay soil you should only dig the hole half as deep as the root ball on your tree.  Then set the tree in the hole and fill around and over the root ball with good, rich topsoil.  Keep in mind that the root ball is made up of very loose, porous soil that water can easily drain into.  Make sure you do not dig a hole that will become a bathtub that your plant can drown in.  That’s why I suggest planting only half the root ball in the ground, then building a raised bed around the part that is sticking out of the ground.  When planted high like this your tree will need watered about twice a week, but check the soil near the roots and make sure it’s not soggy before you add more water.

2.  They don’t like wet hair!  Japanese maples don’t like to have their leaves sprayed with water when the sun is out.  The water droplets act as mini magnifying glasses and can leave burnt spots on the leaves.  This isn’t a serious problem and not one that I worry a lot about.  But given a choice water the roots and not the tops.

3.  They don’t like to over eat!  Japanese Maples Do Not Like a Lot of Fertilizer!  In other words, it’s best not to fertilize them at all.  Better to plant them in good rich soil that has a great deal of organic matter, such as composted cow manure worked into the soil before planting.  After planting, if you really feel that you need to fertilize use something organic.


Insects and Diseases that can Attack Japanese Maples


Pseudomonas syringae

Pseudomonas syringae is a common bacteria that affects many woody plants, including Japanese Maples.  This bacteria is considered opportunistic because it usually attacks plants that have already been damaged by frost or by other means.  Japanese maple leaves can be spotted and the veins within the leaves can be blackened.  This pathogen can cause die back of small branches.  As a collector of Japanese maples for many years I’ve seen little to no evidence of this on any of my plants.  Or at least I haven’t noticed.

Verticillium Wilt

Verticillium Wilt is a disease that can attack Japanese maples.  Symptoms are pretty obvious.  In some cases the leaves on a single branch will discolor and die, but do not fall from the tree.  This often happens in late summer or early fall.  In many cases the branch dies completely and should be completely removed from the tree at first sign of the disease.

How do you know for sure the branch is dead?  This is how you test to see if a plant, or a branch on a plant has died.  Just scratch the bark of the plant with your finger nail.  If the tissue below the bark is green and firm  your plants are fine.  If the tissue is brown and mushy that part of the plant is dead.

Verticillium Wilt is caused by a soil borne fungi but usually attacks plants that have been stressed by other things.  Drought, frost, or wet soil.  There’s really nothing you can do to treat your Japanese maples to prevent this disease and there’s nothing you can apply once they have it.  It’s something that just happens.

Twice I’ve had fairly large branches on my Acer palmatum dissectum maples die back all the way to the trunk of the tree and I have to assume it was caused by Verticillium Wilt.  But what’s really important to note is that even though these two trees lost large branches that had to be cut out, leaving a large hole in the tree, within a couple of years the trees filled back in and are once again nicely shaped and beautiful.  And they’ve stayed healthy since.


Anthracnose is a fungal type disease that attacks a wide variety of tree and shrub species.   Affected trees will often have spots or scorch like spots on the leaves.  This fungal disease is prevalent during rainy seasons and conditions of high humidity.  This disease remains active on the leaves and twigs that have fallen to the ground and eventually spores are released that can re-attach themselves to the tree or new leaves.  The easiest method of control is to keep dead twigs and leaves raked up from under your trees.  Rainy spring weather tends to perpetuate this disease where hot dry periods can halt the disease.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery Mildew is a fungal disease than can attack Japanese maples. I’ve never seen it on any of my Japanese maples, yet I’ve had bad cases of it on some of my dogwood trees.  Powdery mildew is easy to detect because it covers the upper side of the leaf with a white powdery film.  It thrives in hot, or hot and humid conditions, especially where a lot of plants are grouped together and air circulation is poor.

Soft succulent tissue is more susceptible to this disease so avoid summer applications of nitrogen fertilizers.  I’ve seen heavy infestation of powdery mildew one season and not the next, so it’s not something that I get all worked up about.  Just rake up and dispose of any affected leaves.  It’s best not to put the affected leaves in your compost bin.

Phytophthora Root Rot

Phytophthora is a condition caused by root systems that are too wet.  Plants like Japanese maples and rhododendron are the most susceptible because they are the least likely to tolerate wet heavy soils that do not drain well.  This is one of the biggest problems that I see with Japanese maples in the home landscape.  Soil that does not drain well, or plants that are planted too deeply in the ground.  Even in well drained soil one inch of the root ball should be raised above the existing grade of the bed.  In poorly drained soil I suggest at least half of the root ball be raised above the existing grade, then covered with good rich topsoil.


Aphids can and have been known to feed on Japanese maples, but in most cases it’s not a big concern.  Aphids feed by attaching themselves to the leaves of a plant and sucking nutrients out of the leaves.  If there are a number of aphids or if they are there long enough, they can damage the leaves to the point that the leaves curl up and could drop from the plant.  However, aphids have a number of natural predators including lady bugs so they usually don’t last long once they appear.  You can treat for them with an insecticidal soap or rinse them off with a blast of water.

Japanese Maple Scale

Japanese maple scale seems to be a growing problem, mostly on the east coast.  This type of scale insect is known as an armored scale because the insects protect themselves underneath an armored cover that is usually white in color.  They are easy to spot on the stems of trees with dark bark.  Scale insects are a sucking insect that extract plant sap from the host plant.  In plants with heavy infestations premature leaf drop, branch die back, or death of the plant can occur.

Scale insects are somewhat predatory and attack unhealthy plants.  The healthier your plants, the less likely they are to be attacked by scale insects.  If the infestation is not heavy, you can try scrubbing the tree with soapy water and a scrub brush.  On Japanese maples, scale insects usually only attach themselves to the stems of the tree and not the leaves, so scrubbing might actually work.  Since these insects are under this protective armor they are difficult to control.  A systemic insecticide that is applied to the root zone of the plant might work.  Check with your local garden professional.


Japanese maples can be attacked by borers.  These small insects drill into the stem of a tree and if the infestation is severe, serious damage can be done to the tree.  Inspect the stem of your tree looking for tiny holes and saw dust.  If you find borers you can treat the tree with a systemic insecticide, or there are some borer pastes on the market as well.  Some of the old school gardeners heat up a wire and stick it into the hole while the wire is still quite hot.  Does this work?  I have no idea.

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144 thoughts on “Japanese Maple Diseases

  1. Pingback: Is My Japanese Maple Dying?

  2. George Kleiman on said:

    My Japanese Maple is about 15 yrs. old and has never had a problem, but this year, I am experiencing severe leaf srying, wilting and leaf drop which started in late July, early August. Is this something that can be corrected?

    • Brett on said:

      Mine is doing the very same thing, same time…..Please help soon( In a Japanese Maple voice).

      • mapletree on said:

        my japanese maple is withered and drying as well….what gives?

    • JP on said:

      Mine is has being doing the same thing! It started in late July with very withered up leaves.. My first thought was it needed water so that’s what I did.. The extra water didn’t help. Now, I have tons of new growth, but all the existing growth has turn brown and is falling… Any info would be great. I am located in Oklahoma.

    • Andrew on said:

      Same here. I’m in North Carolina. I see no evidence of bugs or fungi (yet), and we’ve had first a significant heat wave and a few drenching storms.

    • pam trent on said:

      my Japanese maple is doing the very same thing. lots of dying leaves. it is 15 years old and NEVER have I seen this teee have any isdues ecxept brown tips in mid summer. what do we do

      • Mike on said:


        There’s not a lot you can do. Lots of plants suffered winter damage the last two years. Wait until spring and remove any branches that don’t leaf out.

    • Betty on said:

      Hi my Japanese maple is doing the same thing. It is 15 years old and looked beautiful till about 2 days ago. The leaves are all curled up and looks dried out. I gave it a good watering but it doesn’t look too good still. First time it has ever looked this way. Any suggestions?

      • Mike on said:

        If it’s the whole tree it probably dried out. Just water as needed but don’t keep it soaking wet, it might come back.

      • Susan on said:

        I’m in Ohio and my Japanese maple is doing the exact same thing. Mine has isn’t very old maybe around 5 years or so and till 2 days ago it was fine and bam the leaves are all dried and curled up. It has been pretty warm here with little rain lately. I don’t want to loose it. HELP!!!!!

        • Mike on said:


          I’d have to guess that your Japanese maple just dried out from the heat and a lack of rain. All you can do is water it and wait, but don’t drown it and don’t fertilize it.

          • Tamera on said:

            Hi, I’m asking on this thread because it seems active, hope it’s alright. We just got a house with 2 beautiful Japanese maples. I do not know how old they are but the are fairly big, about 4′ tall and 4′ in circumference. One has brown leaves on top that are falling off and the other looks fine. We
            don’t know much about them and don’t know if this is normal or something is wrong. If anyone can give us any advice please let me know. Thanks in advance!

          • Mike on said:


            A few brown leaves on the top of the tree after a hot dry summer really isn’t anything to be concerned about, I’d say the tree just went a few too many days without rain/water. Come spring it should be fine, if you have dead twigs on top then, just remove them. This is how you test to see if a plant, or a branch on a plant has died. Just scratch the bark of your plants with your finger nail. If the tissue below the bark is green and firm your plants are fine. If the tissue is brown and mushy that part of the plant is dead.

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  4. George on said:

    Since the new growth this spring only about a third of the leaves have fully grown, the other is struggling to grow. There are plenty of small fly type insect on them and when you you stand underneath the tree you feel some type of water dropping on you. Help?

    • Mike on said:


      Thank you! As you can see I don’t get all caught up in grammar. It’s not my thing. Does that tool that used also evaluate the quality of the information provided based on how useful it is to the end user, or does the tool estimate the time it takes a guy like me to make one blog post then prepare that post to send to my list? Just curious. -Mike McGroarty

  5. Pam DeMatteo-Linn on said:

    Only about 1/4 of my Japanese Maple tree leaves have appeared this year. Should I assume those bare branches are dead?

    • Mike on said:


      This is how you test to see if a plant, or a branch on a plant has died. Just scratch the bark of your plants with your finger nail. If the tissue below the bark is green and firm your plants are fine. If the tissue is brown and mushy that part of the plant is dead.

  6. Rosanne Matheson on said:

    I have a 10 year old Japanese Maple, “Bloodgood”, and the bark is peeling on the large branches, and one large branch has died. Help? Do you know what is causing this?

    • Mike on said:


      It could be winter damage. I’ve seen really hard freezes blow the bark off Japanese maples. But I’ve only seen it happen here in Ohio one time. My tree was devastated one winter, look terrible for two years, then it bounced back wonderfully. Just trim away the loose bark.

  7. Linda Day on said:

    Our beautiful Japanese Maple is 4 yrs. old. This spring, just half of the tree has leaves! The other half looks like buds started, but dried up before having a chance to bloom. I really don’t want to lose this tree. My husband wants to cut the “dead” half of the tree off, but when I scratch the branches, there is still some green there, so I’m making him hold off. Can you help?
    Thanks so much.

    • Mike on said:


      I’d hold off until those branches are no longer green. If they tissue below the bark stays nice and green, it should make new leaves. If it turns brown the branch is dead. Just remove the dead branch and give the tree time to fill back in.

    • Audrey Stehle on said:

      I have just discovered multiple spots of missing bark on a maple tree that is over 10 years old. The range in size from about an inch long and wide to spots as big a my hand.

      They are located on both small and large branches and seem to have occurred recently. I pass this tree multiple times daily but have been out of town for two weeks so they could have occurred while I was away.

      There are also a few small dead limbs. What is causing this condition and what should I do about it?

  8. lee on said:

    Hi my maple has no leafs on it this year.There seems to be little buds but dose not look as though its going to flower.Also on the main stem its looking a little bit white near the bottom could you please give me a little advice please thanks

    • Mike on said:


      No leaves if everything else has leafed out is not a good sign. This is how you test to see if a plant, or a branch on a plant has died. Just scratch the bark of your plants with your finger nail. If the tissue below the bark is green and firm your plants are fine. If the tissue is brown and mushy that part of the plant is dead.

  9. Kathy stone on said:

    I did the fingernail test and the branches were an off white color, no green but, hard not mussy. What does this mean.

  10. Kathy stone on said:

    Did the fingernail test. No green or dark color but, an off white color. Hard but, not mussy. What does this mean.

  11. Dee on said:

    My J. Maple is approx. 20 yrs old. Over the past few years the top center has thinned out to the point the heavens are quite visible as opposed to my other 2 which are quite thick. I check’d leaves no evidence of disease/insects, but many high up dead branches that I can’t get to. Water table here was way below average, recent rains have brought levels almost back to normal. I sure don’t won’t to lose this majestic tree, any suggestions Mike or is this a wait n see kinda thing?

  12. Sian on said:


    I was just watering my lovely acer and noticed some odd lesions on the trunk near the ground. Round little circles which are raised up off the bark by powdery white substance underneath them. I am very worried its fungus or parasite. What can I do?

  13. Norman Kozlarek on said:

    May I send you a photo of my Japanese Maple that is losing its bark?


  14. Joan Kuhlmann on said:

    I have had a Japenese maple for the past 3 years and it has done well. It leafed out nice this spring and looked good and then just in the past two days all of the leaves have shriveled up but have not fallen from the tree. Help!! I don’t want to lose this tree

  15. Christie on said:

    Our Japanese maple has a lot of wasps and yellow jackets on it. No hives on the tree just bees. Any suggestions?

    • Suzanne on said:

      Aphids most likely…

  16. Lynda on said:

    My Japanese maple is only 2 years old.

    It’s had a couple of problems that I have managed to resolve, but since the spring this year, in Glasgow, the plant has deteriorated.
    Several branches have died and others are still alive and active, but the new shoots are withering as soon as they form.
    The plant now looks spindly with leaves that look unhealthy.
    Can you help?

    • Mike on said:


      It could be too wet or planted too deep.

  17. shirley lemons on said:

    i have a new japanese red maple planted last yr….the leaves come out, start turning brown then shrivel up. the tops of many branches have turned gray and I have cut many small dead ones off….could it be the staying too wet problem?

    • Mike on said:


      Most definitely too wet can be a problem.

  18. Bob on said:

    My New Moon Japanese Maple has a area in the center of the tree where the leaves have all turned brown,not centralized to a stem. Seems like a spider mite issue, but have not seem this before. Any help would be appreciated

  19. Lynda on said:

    My Japenese Maple has been attacked by spider mites.

    It was slowly dying with the leaves shrivelling and new growth starting but then dying.

    Of all the things I thought it might be, this was the last thing! The tiny almost invisable webs were what prompted me to research more.

    I have sprayed the maple and another ornamental plant that is also infected. I will just have to wait and see if it is indeed to late to save them.

  20. Kathy Schmidt on said:

    Help!! My Japanese Maple tree is 3 years old. This year the leaves came out as usual, however they now are wilted and dry. Is there anything I can do to save the tree? I think our soil is more on the clay side and we have had more rain than usual. Thanks.

    • Mike on said:


      It could be too wet or planted too deep. You need to find a way to lift it if possible so the roots can breath.

  21. clive everitt on said:

    one of my acers has a white powdery substance on the main stem just above the soil is this some sort of fungus

    • Mike on said:


      It probably is. Wipe it away and try and keep that part of the tree as dry as possible. You can also spray a general fungicide.

  22. Julia on said:


    My little maple leafed out beautifully this year, but several weeks ago it mysteriously started looking like it was dying! The leaves have gotten brown and crunchy, like they are burned, with some strange white puffy cotton under some leaves. The white puffy cotton has little spots in it like eggs. There area also adult insects that look like the tiniest white moth you’ve ever seen. Please please help me rescue my little tree! Any advice is welcome. She is not dead because much of her trunk is still green. She is also trying to bud out a few new leaves.

    • Mike on said:


      I’d spray the insects and see if that helps.

      • Kate on said:

        What kind of spray

  23. Joy on said:

    I have a acer palmatum (Japanese maple) that has two large black areas on the trunk. One has begun to dry up. What causes this and how can I treat or do I need to treat?

    • Mike on said:


      I don’t think I have an answer for you.

  24. CJ Muchhala on said:

    I have 2 4-year old dwarf Japanese maples which have thrived until this year. They’re fully branched out & leafed, but the leaves are curling & turning orange. I first noticed this in June.

  25. Joe Cheshier on said:

    My Green Japanese maple has Small spider web Pockets. there are very small butterfly looking insects on the tree also. They are eating the leaves. I would like to know what to spray this with.

    • Mike on said:


      Any general insecticide should work.

  26. Mary Ferracciolo on said:

    My Red Japanese Maple was hurt by a Michigan frost last year but seems to be recovering, however the leaves are turning green. It looks like it needs furtilizer but I have never had to feed it in the past. It has always been the envy of all who saw it. Can you please advise?.

    • Mike on said:


      If the leaves were red, but turned green later in the summer I’d just leave it alone. If the green leaves are growing from the base of the tree in only certain spots they are suckers and have to be removed all the way back to the stem of the tree.

  27. Andy on said:

    My 15 year old Japanese maple has a some sort of disease or fungus at its base. The bark has opened and there is a liquid running out of the area exposed. The leaves of the tree do not look very healthy this year. Its has the appearance of looking sick and waning. Is there anything I can do to treat it. I did spread a decent amount of compost around it this spring after I noticed the problem.

    • Mike on said:

      I’d clean up the stem of the tree and trim the bark around the opening so there are no jagged edged or loose bark. You want a smooth transition from the bark to the exposed wood so water does not collect in the wound. Other than that I’m I’d just give it time and hope for the best.

  28. Sue Tyldesley on said:

    I have two Japanese Maple trees in tubs. One is fine but the other ones leaves have curled and shrivelled all over the tree. Do you know what this could be and could this disease transfer to the other healthy one . Thanks.

    • Mike on said:


      Make sure the roots are not too wet. This does happen sometimes for no apparent reason and I don’t consider it contagious.

  29. jdwhite on said:

    I have an Acer palmatum with a crusty black growth or residue at the base of the tree. Some of the upper growth is also dying. It is a old tree, not sure of age, but its large for a Japanese Maple. I want to save this beautiful old tree, any help is welcome.

    • Mike on said:


      About all I cans suggest is that you clean up the tree best you can and see if there is damage to the tree from the mold or what ever it is that is on your tree. Nothing something I’ve ever seen on Japanese maples.

  30. Gregory Moore on said:

    Glad to have found your page on this topic: I live in NYC and just moved into an apartment with a large, sunny outdoor space. The first thing I got was a 6 1/2′ tall, very healthy looking Japanese Maple. I planted it in the largest tub I could find–around 2′ deep and about 3′ across. After a glorious summer, suddenly nearly all the leaves started browning, then getting covered with (what I’ve now learned is called) Powdery Mildew. What, would you say is the best, simplest treatment? I’ve seen wildly varying ideas on the web. Have you heard of using Epsom Salts as a treatment (due to the high sulfur content)? Would it be applied topically or to the root system–or both? My tree is in serious distress…and it would really be a drag if it died…and if I told you what I paid for it, you’d understand why! But more than the money, I don’t want to lost this exquisite tree….HELP! And thanks!

  31. Jessica on said:

    I have a newly planted crimson Japanese maple that I i absolutely love in need of help! I planted it in the spring this year and it looked great for a couple months but now all the leaves turned white in the middle and the tips shriveled and brown. It is also loosing leaves and it looked very wilted. If it is powdery mildew or a scale how can I help it or cure it. Thank you!

  32. Martin Mayer on said:

    my jap maple is 10 years old, since the last 3 years it has less and less leaves, they are smaller, and they tend to be at the tips of the branches. This winter I pruned it by 1/3 and you can see it wants to have strong leave growth now this spring, but the leaves are very tiny, and do not continue to grow. The pH value is slightly acidic, I use organic matter and slow release fertilizer, it is on sand stone, semi shade.
    I cannot detect an insect, but what I noticed is that the branches have some sort of greyish crust where the leaves are, not sure if this is any insect, or fungus or what?
    Martin, Sydney

  33. Nancy on said:

    question –
    My beautiful tree has pale green spots all over the bark – trunk and branches. It’s winter – no leaves.

  34. Mona Estrada on said:

    My japenese maple is over 40 years old! It’s one of the most beautiful trees I’ve seen this size … It’s leAves are all dried n brown . It’s looks like it also has a green fungus like growth that started wen the rain started. I hate to lose it! It’s been very dry here in Cali. Please give me an idea of how to save it!

  35. Jenny on said:

    Hey there Mike,
    I planted what I believe is a Bloodgood Japanese Maple (has bronzy purple leaves that turn more reddish in fall) approx 8 ft from the corner of my house on a 6″ raised bed. That was 7 years ago and it just thrives there (gets only morning-early afternoon hot Georgia sun, not much wind, good drainage, etc). Problem is I am afraid that the roots will get into my septic (tank is about 12 ft away on a slightly lower level) not to mention my house foundation. Should I try to transplant it? (it is around 8 ft tall as I keep pruning it off every year to try to keep it smaller, hoping this might help control the roots?).

  36. Stephanie on said:

    I have a sanko gecko that is about 8 ft tall, I planted it about 3 1/2 yrs ago. This spring it leafed out then some of them look like they are dying. The truck of the tree is also black about 2/3 up from the ground. Any ideas of what might be bothering it? We had a pretty harsh winter here for our area. Thanks

  37. Tori on said:

    My two year old Maple has shoots growing from the ground there are buds and some leaves but the top part is just sticks is it dying or do I just let it grow?

  38. Nadine on said:

    I Have a Japanese maple Doesn’t Have But 5 Leaves on it this year its 5 years old Alot of the branches look like they are dead and I have trimed it back some but it is sobare this year.I have hostas under this tree and a couple tulips could that be stopping the growth of leaves?

  39. Paul Rosenstrach on said:

    Hello Michael, I have a beautiful Japanese Maple, about 80 years old or older. I had a bluestone patio put in adjacent to it 2 summers ago. Last year the tree was fine. This year only half the branches have leaves. I fear I may have done the poor arbor in by putting in the patio. Is there any hope for my tree? What should I do? Thanks. Paul

  40. Sandy Smith on said:

    There are a lot of withered leaves on my Japanese Maple. Do I need to leave to wilted leave on my maple or should I just let them naturally drop off? I do see signs of new leaves appearing on the tree.

  41. Linda Cholette on said:

    I have a red Japanese maple that is about 15 years old and has always been very healthy. We were out of town from April 1 to May 4 and when we came home we noticed that the maple had absolutely NO leaves on it and could not see any leaves fallen on the ground either. This tree was totally healthy and thriving when we left!! I just now did your test of scraping a branch with my finger nail and the colour beneath is beige but not green. Yikes – am still at a loss. Please help!

  42. Jimmy P on said:

    I have a lot potted and a lot died this year. I think they got fungus. Do you have anything to prevent the fungus disease? Thanks

  43. dan jordan on said:

    my maple is losing its bark, but after reading this, I’ll just keep my eye on it. but I will have to check the baby maple I planted up front for drainage.
    I enjoyed reading your info

  44. Neal & Sherie Marbry on said:

    All of my Japanese Maples of different varieties from seedlings to grafted 2 year trees. They were growing fine with beautiful leaves, now all of the sudden all the new growth on all of the trees have deformed leaves. They are not wilting nor turning brown. Still a beautiful red color, still growing bigger but the oddest shapes I’ve ever seen. Looks like something from outer space on the tops and normal red Japanese maples at the start. What in the world happened? HELP!

  45. Gillian Christy on said:

    Hi I have had a Japanese maple for over ten years and this summer its had some branches that haven’t got any leaves on…now I notice its got small white cotton wool blobs with a flat object in the middle could you tell me what it is?

  46. Kim on said:

    I don’t know how old my dwarf Japaneese maple is but we had the polar vortex a few times this winter. My tree has lots of leaves but there are large white spots on the leaves that go all the way threw the leaf. At first I mistakenly took it for beetles and spread 7 all over it but the spots are white not holes.

  47. Doug on said:

    My bloodgood Japanese Maple has many of its leaves with many little holes as if it is being eaten by insects, but I find no insects on the plant. We just purchased it about a month ago and maybe I didn’t notice it had this problem until recently. Know what this is?

  48. Janice on said:

    For 20 years we’ve had a Japanese maple in perfect health. For the last two years the tree’s leaves have started curling and burning up in early June. This Spring considerable dead branches had to be cut back. The rest of the tree bloomed out normally, but within a month the leaves did the same thing as last year. New growth is replacing where the dead leaves have fallen off. The tips of those leaves are now going through the same process. Is there any hope for this tree or is it destined to die??? Please help!!

  49. Phillip Bloom on said:

    I have a Japanese maple in deep distress. This spring the tree began to come out with the normal foliage-the
    leaves were the normal yellow coloration with a bit of a ruddy cast. The tree is approximately 6.5ft and is located in a pottery container-27″wide by 24″ deep.
    There are 2 1″ drain holes.
    Suddenly about mid-July the leaves began to dry-up
    severely. Can it be saved? I’ll await your reply.

  50. Lynda Wilson on said:

    My Japanese Maple got some over spray from a liquid cleaner, now it has spots all over it, I washed it as soon as I found the spots. What else can I do to insure it doesn’t die. It’s only 11″ tall

  51. Robert Ray on said:

    my Japanese Maple has dying leaves & are stickey

    • john drobut on said:

      have acer palmatum bloodgood
      planted only a month ago tree appears
      healthy but leaves are covered in a
      stickey residue is this a sign of a more serious problem

      • Mike on said:


        I doubt it but I don’t know that I’ve ever noticed anything like that.

  52. Pam on said:

    My 15 yr old Japanese maple always turns it’s bright red color and soon thereafter drops it’s leaves in early November here in NC. Here it is December 9th and almost all the leaves are withered but still on the tree. What has changed?

  53. Marita on said:

    My Japanese maple has white spots on the trunck and in the branches. It looks like a fungus. What should l do. It’s a small tree and has been planted for 25 years, without an issue up to date. What causes this to happen?

  54. Sue on said:

    My year-old Japanese Red Maple (Bloodgood) is not leafing out and scapings show tan under bark; some tiny branches easy to break off. We have had significant amounts of rain over the winter and I am concerned that the tree has wet feet. Would there be any benefit to digging around the base to loosen soil and possibly trying to lift tree abit to aid in drying out. Soil in my area of Central Texas tends to be heavy with clay. I did use composted material mixed in soil when initially planting last year.

  55. Barbara Bauer on said:

    The leaves on My newly planted crimson queen have turned gray. It was hit with pretty cold weather one night but looks like it is getting worse. What could be the cause and will it recover? Help I am sick about it.

  56. Bob on said:

    Have a red lacy-leaf japanese maple about 4 feet tall that is 3 years old. It does well in the spring and early summer but around late June or July, the leaves shrivel and die. Branches aren’t dead except on the tips. I trim the tips off. I transplanted the tree once out of full sun all day long thinking that might be the problem but last year in the new location, it did the same thing. I saw several comments about similar conditions in this blog but didn’t see a definite answer on what causes it or what to do to prevent it. Would appreciate any detailed help for my problem.

  57. james harr on said:

    I have a lace leave Japanese maple that is 5 yrs old . Late winter 2013 some of the dark at the dase was gone and the flesh was too. About the size of a golf ball .this winter 2014_15 all the bark around the tree is gone and no flesh left it is dead. As of 4/20/15. The damage is 3 to 4 inches above the ground I live in cols ohio. Also I lost a tree like this 6 yrs ago this is the 2nd tree please help.tks jim

  58. David Rohne on said:

    We have a Japanese Maple in front of our house, facing south. We are in Michigan were spring can come and go in the early months. Some 3 years ago we had a hard freeze in April and all the buds died. It is just coming back and this year we shaped the tree and removed some dead and some real long branches. We noticed the trunk of the tree from ground to top has lost or is loosing its bark. We did not notice any bugs or webs or dust. Is this unusual or has something happened. Is this tree dying?

  59. Jb on said:

    Please help ….. This is my treasure….. My dwarf had matured with my home that I purchased 13 years ago. The center trunk and some other branches have a light green mold that is growing on the bark. The maple looks near death and I thought was due to trauma from my lawn person snapping a large branch off but the fungus continues to grow. I don’t know if it’s temporary or treatable but I do not want to loose the maple. It is not dead.

  60. Sarah on said:

    We have had three Japanese maple trees die in the last few years. And we have no idea why. They seem fine in the fall, lose their leaves like normal have buds for the spring but do not come back in the spring, and under the bark there is no green. This year we lost our biggest and oldest one (about 30 years).
    Any idea what could be causing them to die off – we have another 10 or so smaller ones all about 10 years old.

  61. Kayla on said:

    We have a Japanese Maple that we believe is very sick. We are new to caring for maples, but we have basic care down. My husband watered in June of last year and noticed leaf wilt the next day. The leaves never fell off, so he picked them off. In early March we pruned and potted, noticing no sign of distress. Weeks after the pruning the tree began to brown. This is somewhat normal after heavy pruning. It is now May and we fear the tree is dead. There are no signs of leafing and the wood beaneath the base of the trunk is brown. Is he dead? Can we help the tree?

  62. angela on said:

    I have a young red japanse maple,but at the top of tree no leaves at all. Bottom of tree looks very bright and healthy. Why doesnt it have leaves on top branches?

  63. Oliver Downey on said:

    The clue was wet feet. I carefully lifted maple today and discovered about a gallon of Water and muck under the roots. Cleaned out put in stones and sand then lots of topsoil. Now maple is planted 3/4 above original ground level and dressed off with mulch. Here in NC we have hard pan 8″ below ground. If there is any improvement I will be back and let y’all know soon.

  64. Amy on said:

    Pls forgive me if this question has already been asked as I couldn’t find the answer.
    I’ve got a jap blood maple going on its second summer here in a hot humid state of TN. Last year it developed brown spots on the leaves and has never left after doing so. What can I do?

  65. Linda on said:

    All of my green Japanese Maples have white, raised “spots”. They are mainly under the leaves but some are visible on top. When you scrape on off, they are soft. Any ideas what this is? It is only on the green varieties.

  66. Roberta on said:

    My Acer Palmatum lost all his leaves, they turned brown and fell off. I pruned it back a bit too much. The trunk is brown and there is no new growth. I tried to scratch it to see if there is green beneath but it’s too hard to scratch. My other two Japanese maples have green trunks. Did I kill it by over pruning the dead branches and leaves? Should I replace it or wait and see if it comes back?

    This occurred in July during a heat wave.


  67. Adah levin on said:

    My twenty year old Japanese Maple is losing it’s bark just above the soil line. Otherwise it looks healthy. What can I do?

    • Mike on said:


      There’s not a lot you can do but take a sharp knife and trim the dead bark back to an area where the bark is still attached. This could be left over winter damage. As long as some of the bark remains the tree has a chance.

  68. Rose on said:


    I have a young japanese maple that is only a couple years old and in a well drained bed with partial sun through out the day. It is now fall, and the branches never grew any leaves or showed signs of growth. However, all the new growth (appears to be healthy) came from the bottom or roots and grew in and around the branches of the tree. It does not look how it should. Should I cut back the tree to its roots or the ground? Do you have any suggestions on this problem?

    Thank you.

    • Mike on said:


      It sounds to me like the desired part of your tree died and what you have left is growth coming from the root stock. If it’s attractive just remove the dead wood and let what you have grow into a multi stem tree. If the leaves are not attractive dig up the plant and throw it away.

  69. Grace on said:


    We live in the SF Bay Area.

    We have a bench of Japanese maple trees in our garden. They all turned red and lost their leaves in November.

    Except one tree: this one grows partially under a roof and needs manual watering. On this one, the leaves colored brown, and they are still brown right now and on the tree.

    Is there a thing we should go? Water it when it is not freezing? Or not water it at all?


    • Mike on said:


      Not much you can do right now. I would suggest not watering. Japanese maples hate wet feet so you have to be really careful to not over water them. I’d just give this tree some time. Come spring it will either be fine or not, nothing you can really do to change that out come.

  70. Penelope on said:

    Dear Mike,
    Thanks for your website.
    I have a couple of Japanese Maples.
    One is a weeping tree I purchased a couple of years back. I reported it this Spring. Last year not long into Summer the tips of the leaves browned, then shrivelled and not all fell off. Thought I had killed it. So reported this year into terracotta tub mix and the tree blossomed! It flowered! Didn’t know these trees did that, awesome. Now, a third of the way through Summer, the tips are again brown. I was watering weekly, then changed to every two weeks sue to the browning tips, and now I haven’t watered in about three weeks. Half of the trees’ leaves have stayed green while the others turned red. After reading your replies to others here, I wonder if I should again repot it, yet tho time leave a third of the root system above the soil and cover it lightly with mulch. What do you think? Would this likely be too stressful for the plant?
    The other tree also took off this Spring after being reported. Yet there are some leaves/ branches with leaves which have browned/ dried out. Do the trunk test and leave it alone if still green? Most of this second tree is fine, although some misshapen leaves on the ends of new branch growth.
    Thanks very much for an opportunity to ask you about this. I love my plants and am learning how they talk so I can try to best serve them.
    Any help you are prepared to offer is very much appreciated. Thank-you.
    Penelope ☺

    • Mike on said:


      I’m not sure why you are keeping these trees in pots. If at all possible, they would be much happier in the ground. Trying to keep a tree like this happy in a pot is challenging. Planted in the ground they need little to no care at all, just a little pruning once or twice a year. In container you really only about one inch of the root system above grade but still covered with soil and mulch. I hope this helps.

  71. Leonie on said:

    Hi, we got a japanese maple last year in a huge pot. I am currently planning a japanese garden so unfortunately the tree is still potted. I have looked at it and if it werent for leggy lateral growths on the lower half of the trunk i would think it were dead.
    I guess i need help in knowing if i can rescue it and if so what do i need to do.

    • Mike on said:


      There is no magic to saving a Japanese maple. Best thing to do is get it in the ground, put it in an area that is not wet and at this point I wouldn’t fertilize it. A struggling Japanese maple can easily be killed with too much fertilizer. It sounds like you’re tree might be dead from the graft union up. This is how you test to see if a plant, or a branch on a plant has died. Just scratch the bark of your plants with your finger nail. If the tissue below the bark is green and firm your plants are fine. If the tissue is brown and mushy that part of the plant is dead.

  72. Connie rhodes on said:

    New dwarf Japanese maple planted by landscaper came with a yellow flakey looking moss like on the branches 1 wk ago 3 of which were $350.00 each we did have a freeze 1 night but all leaves are dry if you touch the fall off and crumble is this frost or just something else that has killed it Help

    • Mike on said:


      The dead leaves could be frost damage which isn’t great but the yellow flaky stuff sounds like some kind of fungal something or another. If the freeze got all of the leaves, that’s just not a good thing either. Hopefully these trees are guaranteed. They should be.

  73. susie on said:

    Please help! My beautiful acer which has always looked so lovely in the summer since it was planted some 7 years ago etc has now, although has small buds on, in parts; I can break off the branches because they did not develop leaves and the branches are snapping and look dead inside and I think they are dead! The branches which seem to be dead are covered in a whitish bark. Can you tell me if I can do anything to make my acer recoverable? Thank you.

    • Mike on said:


      This could be some left over winter damage from the past two previous winters. I’d trim out all the dead and just give the tree a chance to recoup. Many of my mature maples took a hard it over the past three winters and are still trying to recover. More than likely they will.

  74. Kat on said:

    3 years ago we moved into a home (Ontario, Canada) that has a large and beautiful Japanese Maple in the back yard. It’s probably close to 15 years old. The last two summers I’ve noticed the leaves on the lower branches withering/curling and drying up. I thought it was just because it was a hot summer but the top branches seem fine. Could it be verticillium wilt?

    • Mike on said:


      Probably not. Verticillium wilt usually attacks one complete branch. Just remove any failing branches, not much else you can do. I’ve done this and the trees recovered very nicely.

  75. Ken W on said:

    This spring my Japanese maple had its usual pretty red leaves but none on several branches. These branches were brittle with no leaves so I cut them off.The stems where I cut developed cracks. Within several weeks parts of the trunk and along several thick branches I started to see long lines of bark cracks. The other day I saw a green metallic beetle at the end of one these long cracks. It looked like a flat head or emerald ash borer.. As it slowly moved I saw what looked like sawdust coming out of its mouth. I killed it (sorry I did not keep it as a specimen for identification the Any recommendations would be appreciated.

    • Mike on said:


      The damage you described sounded to me like winter damage over the past two years. The beetle? I’m not sure. If the beetle is doing damage you should see boring holes. At least I think you would. ????

  76. Renee Kibler on said:

    I have read about the problems encountered by japanese maple owners, but none seem to have my problem which is a whitish/yellowish very tiny wormlike critter that is attacking the leaves of my dwarf japanes maple. Consequently, the leaves on the outer edges are intact but those closer to the trunk are gone. The trunk itself seems okay. The leaves of the coreopsis planted nearby have developed some holes in their leaves. Any ideas?

    • Mike on said:


      No ideas but you can spray for this worm I’m sure.

  77. Darnell on said:

    My Japanese Maple has turned brown when I scrape the bark and has mold on the trunk and the branches. Leaves only grow on certain branches at this point and it looks to be splitting for the most of the branches.. Can this tree be saved or should I be looking to remove the train which is right in front of my house ? Any chemicals I can buy from local store to bring this tree back to life ? Thanks in advance for your help.

    • Mike on said:


      Sounds to me like this tree is a gonner and for sure there are no chemicals you can use to bring it back. No matter what it says on the bottle.

  78. Mari Csiszer on said:

    My japanese maple is dying . Many branches don’t have leaves. The branches & trunk are covered with a scaley green sustance (the substance is now also covering a closeby rhododendrum that is dying with many unleaved branches also.

    • Mike on said:


      Japanese maples are pretty tough. The only thing that usually bothers them is severe winter damage which could be relevant from the two really bad winters that we’ve had. But they also hate being in wet soil as do rhododendrons. I suspect the soil in that area is too wet, maybe a downspout draining nearby.

  79. Bernice Butler on said:

    My Japenese maple has green colored bark. There are several branches that have turned brown and died. My Rhodi and Azeleas (in pots) have the same problem. Could they all be infected with a borer?and if so is there a treatment?

  80. Bernice on said:

    Thanks Mike but the tree and Rhodies aren’t covered in anything. Just dead branches. I live in Calif. and we’re going through a drought. But the branches look like they have tiny holes in them. When I scrape the bark it’s brown and dry. Is there anything I can do if it is borers. Maybe something systemic? Thanks

    • Mike on said:


      If you have holes then I’d suspect borers for sure. Bayer should have a systemic product that will help.

  81. Kat in DFW on said:

    Mike, Our Japanese maple’s leaves have all turned completely brown. It looks like it would be dead if it were another tree( a tine bit of life with some green little leaves toward the center) Our yard has suffered so with the weather that we thought it must be dying of thirst but NOW I think may quite the opposite and that in an attempt to help our other plants around it, we have over watered it? Not sure what to do. My dog dug a nice hole at it’s base…my husband thinks that is also a culprit? If you have time to reply, thanks. All leaves are still on it ,

    • Mike on said:


      I doubt that the dog did any serious damage. I’m guessing the tree dried out in the heat. It could be over watering as well but that usually causes all the leaves to drop where a tree that got to dry just hangs on to dead leaves. Not much you can do other than water as needed but don’t over water and hope for the best. Check the soil and make sure it’s not soggy. It should be cool and moist, not soaking wet.

  82. Debbie on said:

    My Japanese Maple has white tips on the end of the leaves. What is it and what do I need to do?

    • Mike on said:


      Don’t be concerned and there’s nothing you need to do. More than likely those white tips are just the effect of summer winds drying out the tips of the leaves. I’m sure it will look great in the spring.

  83. Heather Moreno on said:

    My Japanese maple is a short one and about 7 years old. I’m in central CA, about 15 miles from the coast. Hot summers, cold winters. The past 2 years branches have been dying (not producing leaves) and today I went out and it was leaning forward (loose in the soil) and most of the leaves are curled and brown. I have no idea why. Please help! I don’t want to lose it (hope it’s not too late)! Thank you!

    • Mike on said:


      Doesn’t sound good, sounds like it dried out. Your climate is a bit iffy for Japanese Maples. About all you can do is tamp it in, and water it well. But I don’t know, doesn’t sound good.

      • Heather Moreno on said:

        Thank you, Mike. I just did both plus cut off dead branches and luckily there are live ones remaining (even though leaves are not). We’ll see. I also put some lavender mulch around the base. I appreciate your timely response.

  84. Antony on said:

    Hi, I planted two Japanese Maple trees, a Seiryu and an Ozakazuki about three years ago when they were both about 7 feet high. Every Spring they have plenty of new leaves but there is always some dieback with branches turning black and I have to cut off several branches and twigs. The trees never get any bigger and are slowly getting smaller as I have to keep cutting bits off, but where they do grow they look healthy and have lots of leaves. Do you know why? Thank you

    • Mike on said:


      Some tip die back on Japanese maples is pretty common. In your situation I have a couple of concerns. Are the trees able to go dormant and stay that way for a month or two? They really need to rest. Secondly I’d think about the soil they are planted in. Japanese maples hate wet soil and even in poor soil that is a bit sticky they’ll survive but not thrive. Their roots need to breath and they can’t do that if the soil is hard and compacted. If you think that’s a concern wait until they are dormant and try raising them a few inches and mound the soil around them. And lastly, could they have been planted too deep? Ideally the top of the root ball should be at least one inch above grade at the time of planting.

      • Antony on said:

        OK, thanks for your suggestions Mike, I will check out the soil

  85. Antony on said:

    I forgot to say in my last comment that I live in a fairly hot climate similar to California with very mild winters and no snow

  86. Antony on said:

    I live in a reasonably warm climate pretty much the same as Southern California, with mild winters and no snow. Three years ago, I painted two Japanese maple trees, a Seiryu and and Ozakazuki which were both about 9 feet high. Every Spring they produce plenty of leaves and look healthy, but lose several branches and twigs to dieback. The branches turn black. The trees never have new branches or grow any bigger and are slowly getting smaller as I have to cut the dead branches and twigs off each year. Would you know why this is happening? I planted a Chinese Elm at the same time and that is going well with no dieback at all. Thank you, Antony

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