By Michael J. McGroarty,
Perry, Ohio 44081 Copyright 2011
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People ask about trimming or pruning Japanese maples fairly often and the short answer is yes, you should prune your Japanese maples. Of course, the size and age of your tree, and the type you have determines how you should prune them. When Japanese maples are small, it is absolutely essential that they be pruned for shape and character. There is also some training involved to make sure they develop into the most beautiful specimens imaginable. All of my Japanese maples get pruned and trained at least twice a year.
When Should I prune my Japanese maple?
Really heavy or severe pruning of any plant is best done when the plant is completely dormant. However, that’s not the only time that you can prune Japanese maples. For the most part, I prune mine anytime they need it and that often ends up being the dead of summer. Doesn’t matter, they love it and they respond well to it.
Here’s the problem with pruning at the “Ideal time”. It doesn’t get done. You think your tree needs pruning and you log onto the Internet to find out when it should be pruned. The expert says you should prune them in the early winter or late winter or whatever the expert says. So you say to yourself; “I’d better wait, I don’t want to kill my tree.”
Then come winter it never even crosses your mind. You don’t think about it again until mid spring or the middle of summer. Then you cautiously wait again, and once again miss that window of opportunity. That’s why I am adamant that if something needs pruning, then by all means prune it right now while you’re thinking about it. Unless you are completely cutting a plant down to nothing, it can usually be pruned at about any time of the year.
So what if you cut off some flower buds. A nice plant with a few flowers is better than an ugly plant with lots of flowers. And . . . if you are a diligent pruner your plants will be nice and tight and loaded with blooms and your neighbors will be envious. Gardening is about the end result. How good does it look when you are done with it?
And so it is with Japanese maples. If it needs pruning, then by all means prune it.
Pruning or trimming grafted Japanese Maples
How do you know if your tree is grafted? The great majority of most really nice Japanese maples are grafted, but not all of them. Some are grown on their own roots, so the best thing to do is look for a graft union.
The above photo clearly shows the graft union on this small tree. In this case the graft union is down low, close to the ground, which in most cases is the ideal place to graft a Japanese Maple. However, some are done up higher and you have to look for and beware of that as well. You can see that the rootstock has bark that is green in color and the desired variety has bark that is red in color. It’s important that you locate the graft union on all of your grafted trees because any growth at all coming from below the graft union should be removed. Keep in mind that when a plant is grafted you actually have two different kinds of plants that are pretty much welded together. Of course the “weld” is a natural process that happens when two compatible plants are properly prepared and the cambium layers are lined up.
So watch for any growth that appears on or below the graft union because the leaves on that growth will be very different from the rest of the tree. If allowed to grow those little buds will turn into branches and the branches will grow up through the canopy of your beautiful tree and pretty much destroy it’s appearance. This happens a lot because gardeners don’t realize what it happening to their plant and they are not sure what to do about it.
As you can see in the above photo this graft union is much higher, which means that this tree will put out more growth from below the graft union that will have to be removed on a regular basis. The easiest way to remove that growth is to catch it when it’s still just a tiny bud and just run your thumb up and down the stem and brush those buds right off before they have a chance to produce leaves or a small branch. If you miss that window of opportunity, which is easy to do, you have to remove those little branches with pruners. Cut them all the way back to the stem of the tree so there is no evidence at all that they were ever there.
In the above video I show you exactly what I mean about removing buds from below the graft union as well as good information about training Japanese maples.
Essentially there are two types of Japanese maples and they are pruned and trained differently. There are upright varieties that naturally want to grow in an upright fashion. All new growth grows in an upright direction. Then there are weeping varieties and any and all new growth grows everywhere but upright. If let alone weeping Japanese maples would pretty much just lay on the ground and eventually pile themselves up into a mound. So in order to get a really nice specimen weeping Japanese maple there is both training and trimming that has to take place.
Pruning and Trimming Upright Japanese Maples
So let’s start with the upright varieties. If left alone to grow without any trimming or training an upright tree will grow in an upright direction. However, as it grows it will produce side branches. Some of these will be down low near the ground, or they might be up higher on the tree. It’s your job to decide exactly what you want your tree to look like as soon as you plant it so you can carefully craft it into the tree of your dreams.
All trees as they grow produce leaders. A leader is the main branch that makes up the center of the tree. A typical shade tree and many ornamental trees are grown with a single leader, commonly called single stem. One stem emerging from the ground to a point of four feet, six feet, or even higher before any side branches, or lateral branches are allowed to grow. It is my experience that upright Japanese maples just do not look natural, nor are they as desirable if grown in single stem fashion. I once had a number of upright Japanese red maples that we grew in the field. Most were multi stem, a few we trimmed into single stem trees. The multi stem trees sold much more quickly than the single stem trees.
So it is my belief and personal preference that upright Japanese maples be grown as multi stem trees. How do you make that happen? In some cases the small tree, all by itself will produce multiple branches down low on the tree. In this case your job is to allow these multiple branches to grow, but if there are a number of them you’ll want to select the ones that you think will most likely make for the most interesting and attractive tree and remove the rest while they are still small. Ideally, a multi stemmed tree will have at least three if not four main branches or leaders coming from very close to the ground. In some cases the tree might have a single stem up about twelve to eighteen inches, then the multi stem branches appear. Sometimes you only end up with two leaders, which is fine.
If you have a small tree or a small seedling that is say, eighteen inches tall, you can clip the top of the tree off to stop the pattern of the tree trying to reach for the sky with a single stem. This will slow the tree down, and more than likely buds and eventually branches will appear down low. It’s important to remember that we are dealing with Mother Nature, and at the end of the day she is in charge and sometimes we just have to make the best of what she gives us.
Once you have selected your two, three or four multiple leaders you allow those to grow in an upright direction. They will develop lateral branches as well. Some of these lateral branches you will leave, others you may opt to remove. Keep in mind that as a small tree grows, you want to maintain as many as many leaves on the tree as possible. It’s the leaves that feed the tree as it develops. But in time you’ll want to start removing some of these smaller lateral branches that are appearing down low on your main leaders.
The idea, when the tree is mature, is to be able to see those multi stems, at least up to a height of 30″ or so. Any branch on the tree that you know you’ll eventually want removed should be removed before they reach a diameter of 1/4″. Or the size of a standard wooden pencil.
In the mean time the multiple leaders of your tree are growing in an upright direction. It’s up to you to decide how high you want them to grow. Many people will tell you that you can’t or should not try and maintain the height and size of a Japanese maple. However, it’s your house, your yard, and only you know how much room you have. Not to mention that the prettiest part of these beautiful trees is the foliage and if all of the foliage is way up high you really won’t be able to appreciate it. Every setting is different, and ideally you want to match your tree selection to the setting you have and the amount of room you have. But it reality that doesn’t always happen. You fall in love with a tree and you take it home whether you have the ideal spot for it or not. I do it all the time!
So as your tree matures you carefully craft it into the specimen you desire. Keep removing any low lateral branches that don’t belong and if necessary prune the top of the leaders to maintain the height you want. Eventually you’ll have nice clean multi stems down low and a beautifl canopy of branches up top. You’ll also want to pay attention to the interior of the tree looking for branches that cross, rub or compete with one another. If you find two branches that are rubbing, crossing or competing select the branch you want to keep and remove the other. Keep in mind that any branch growing inside the tree that is never going to find it’s way to any sunlight doesn’t really have a chance of survival so the sooner you remove it the better.
I should also point out that even upright Japanese maples often need staking when small. That’s only if they are drooping over or just not growing straight up.
This above video will give you a visual of what I am trying to explain here.
Pruning and Trimming Weeping Japanese Maples
All of the Japanese maples in the world, the Red, Weeping, Lace-leaf varieties are probably the most popular and the most sought after. That’s because they are beautiful and special in a way that you really can’t describe. But if left untrimmed and untrained they can get kind of ugly, and we don’t want that to happen to such a special plant. So I will explain just exactly how and why you should trim and train these weeping varieties.
But first, I’d like to point out that the selection of weeping Japanese maples is much greater than most people realize. There are green varieties and there are a number of different variegated varieties. So don’t limit your options! Here at Japanese Maple Lovers it is our goal to introduce you to all of these incredible and fascinating plants. Enjoy!
Have you ever wondered, or asked yourself; “Why are these tree so doggone expensive?” Two reasons. They are relatively slow growing and they are not the easiest plant in the world to grow. It takes time, effort and knowledge to produce a really nice lace-leaf weeping Japanese maple. Here at Japanese Maple Lovers my goal is to give you the opportunity to purchase these plants at small sizes, and at deeply discounted prices. But when you do that, it will be up to you to prune and train these Japanese Maples into beautiful specimens. You can do it! With a little education. But once you master this art you will so much more appreciate the trees in your yard because you will have had so much involvement with their up bringing. Sound familiar? Don’t worry, they won’t ask to borrow money once you have them raised!
The above photo is Acer palmatum dissectum, ‘Crimson Queen’. So that’s out goal right? To end up with a beautiful tree like this one.
However, what we often start with is a plant like this, or worse yet a plant like the photos of the graft unions at the top of this page. So let the work begin! The plant is this photo does not look happy at all, but that’s because this photo was taken in November after a frost or two. So some of the leaves were damaged and others not. Also, when I received this tree it had not been trained at all, and it was allowed to grow for probably two seasons with no training. That makes my job of getting it to look like I want more difficult, but not impossible.
As mentioned earlier the weeping varieties truly have no upright habit to them at all. They’d prefer to just lay on the ground and spread out as they grow. Unless you have a wall that the tree can creep over and hang down or some kind of a Japanese garden setting that’s probably not at all what you want. So the very first thing you need to do is figure out how you are going to get some height out of your tree. Typically, if you can get at least one main branch up to a height of 42″ or so, that would be ideal. From there you can allow the lateral branches to develop and eventually form a really nice head.
So the very first thing you need to do is put a stake in the ground next to your tree. The plastic stakes that you can get at the garden stores is fine. Then you have to find a branch that you can tie to the stake that will be your main leader. In the above photo you can see that I’ve tied a number, or a bunch of branches to the stake. Coming out of that bunch of branches I’ve got a main leader that will eventually make up the main stem of my tree. More than likely, over time, many of those lower branches will be removed because eventually I want a weeping canopy that will completely cover that part of the tree. The weeping canopy will eventually block all sunlight to that area and those branches won’t be able to survive any way. But for now they get to stay because they are helping to feed the tree through photosynthesis.
So the goal is to train at least one branch upright to a height of about 42″ and then start training all of the lateral branches to form that weeping canopy. Even though you eventually want a canopy that is say, 40″ wide, you don’t want to allow those lateral branches to grow out to that distance without trimming them at all. The more you prune them, at least a few inches off the tip of the branch, the more lateral branches they produce, and it’s that maze of lateral branches that make up the head of the canopy.
Every Time you prune a lateral branch you get more lateral branches from that branch. Each of those lateral branches will in turn produce more lateral branches. So don’t get impatient or worse yet, don’t be afraid to prune the tips of of those lateral branches. There’s nothing you can do to speed the process of trying to develop a nice head on your tree. It takes time, and it takes regular pruning.
And at this time I need to make a big announcement.
Japanese Maples do not like fertilizer!
They cannot process or use much commercial fertilizer at all. So no fertilizer is better than too much. Fertilizer will not make your Japanese maple grower faster. It can and will kill your tree. Japanese Maples like good rich soil that contains a lot of well composted organic matter that drains well. Two things that Japanese maples really don’t like. One is fertilizer, the other is too much water or being planted too deeply.
Think about the weeping canopy part of the tree as a snow ball. A snowball builds one layer at a time as it is rolled around in the snow. And as the saying goes; “The bigger a snowball gets, the faster it gets big.” Same thing for your weeping Japanese maple. You have to allow it form one layer at time. Each layer will produce a bigger, more intricate layer until you have a nice big, beautiful weeping canopy on your tree.
However, most people don’t know that and they are afraid to death to cut anything at all off their Japanese maples. That’s a big mistake and I want you to know better than that. A lace leaf weeping Japanese maple that is staked upright at the nursery, then taken home by it’s new owner and left untrimmed starts to look like an old fashion TV antenna.
The above photo is a lace leaf weeping Japanese maple that purchased from a wholesale grower. They did a good job of getting it staked upright from the very beginning, but now it has grown quite one sided. I’m assuming that’s because they were probably packed tightly together in the nursery and it just didn’t have enough room or adequate sunlight to develop on the side that is lacking branches. For me this is an easy fix. This winter I will go through the field and cut those lateral branches back to about half of what they are now.
If I don’t cut those branches back to about 50% next spring they will put on all kinds of new growth, but most of it will be way out at the extreme ends of the branches making the tree even more one sided. I don’t want the tree spending all of it’s energy putting on branches where I don’t want new branches. I need to get this tree tightened up so as the weak side starts to develop new growth the stronger side will grow pretty much in proportion to the rest of the tree.
So training your weeping Japanese maple is a process and it’s a process that you really should do each and every year to make certain that your tree or trees just getting better and better.
Pruning a Mature Lace Leaf Weeping Japanese Maple
So now let’s assume that you have a fairly mature weeping Japanese maple in your yard that really hasn’t been pruned, or hasn’t been pruned properly.
1. Examine the tree. Look for leaves or branches that look like they just don’t belong. If your tree is of the dissectum family and has delicately cut leaves, all of the leaves on the tree should pretty much look the same. If they don’t, then that’s a good sign that you have a branch or branches that have grown from below the graft union. Those entire branches should be removed before you do anything else.
2. Go around the tree with pruning shears and remove any branches that are touching the ground, or are too close to the ground. How far up from the ground your tree should be is a personal preference, but I’d say that ideally you don’t want anything closer to 12″ to the ground. That distance will allow for new growth that still will not touch the ground.
3. Stand back and look at your tree. Ideally I think these trees should be shaped like an umbrella, or maybe a mushroom. High in the center then slowly tapering down as you get away from the center of the tree. Standing back and looking at your tree, picture that shape in your mind. Mentally draw an imaginary line with your eyes and pay attention to only what is inside of that imaginary line. Everything outside of the imaginary line should be removed.
4. It’s as simple as that. Everything outside of the imaginary line should be removed. If you do that each and every year your tree or trees will be beautiful.
Jim Head says
Thanks, Mike! The reading of the Pruning Japanese Trees highlighted a lot of information as to the “When and Why” the pruning is necessary.
I will take my first opportunity to bring my tree back to original structure as possible. I believe we have a Acer palmatum dissectum, ‘Crimsom Queen’ tree variety.
fairly useful material, overall I picture this is worthy of a book mark, thanks a lot
How should I prune a mature one-sided weeping maple? Because of its location it has grown leaning toward the sunlight. One side of the tree is in shade and the other is in sun. Its on the edge of a wooded area. The problem is that it is completely one-sided. There are no branches on half of the tree.
Thank you for your advice … so easy for a novice gardener to understand! I just bought (rescued?) a fallen-over upright Japanese maple (about 4 ft tall) and now I have a good idea on how to guide it through its life. I really do wish to inhibit its upward growth. Any other suggestions to make that happen will be much appreciated.
Nothing special, just trim new growth as it appears to your desired height. The more you trim the fuller the plant will get.
Is it too late to chop a tall lace-leaf maple down, leaving no leaves on it, hoping for an explosion of shoots? Or is it too late, when it’s too hot to get much growth in the shade?
Forgot to say – I’d be doing that for bonsai purposes.
Thanks for all the great info! I think I may have learned more practical, useful info here, that I can take directly out into the yard with me today, than just about any other site that crosses my mind. So many make it very complicated, almost to the point of assuming you’re already a trained arborist, that it’s hard to find just what you need.
The property we bought came with a beautiful, old red weeping lace leafed weeping tree that’s been ignored for years or more. It also has this odd specimen that has won my heart, that was presumably a red weeping tree grafted onto a green upright tree. Both were allowed to grow and are very old and form these strange conjoined twins that arc away from one another. Plus I’ve bought 3 baby green weeping ones for the gardens right outside of the house, a couple of 7-foot or so green uprights that were shaped to look as if they are blowing in the wind and 2 3-foot green uprights that will be living in large pots on my porch with one of the 7-footers. I’m on the hunt for another red or variegated weeping variety to go with the most dramatic tall upright/swept tree to complete a Mid-Century Modern entryway that I designed for the front of our property. And know I’ll know exactly how to prune and train it to make it a perfectly beautiful umbrella shape. Thanks again for all the info!
Hi. Great article!!! I have a situation with one of my JMs that seems really weird. I can’t remember the variety of the tree, but it (was) an upright, dark burgundy laceleaf. For whatever reason, this one tree didn’t survive the winter. Just in the last couple months, two branches sprouted from the rootstock. The graft union is now clearly visible since the top is dead. The weird thing is, the new leaves are also dark burgundy laceleaf, but the branches are weeping! I thought that rootstock was usually green and never weeping… ? The tree is in a large pot, and these two branches drape over the rim of the pot. I’m trying to figure out how to save and train the new growth, and if the “new” tree will have a good chance at surviving. Should I cut the dead top off at the graft union? If so, now or wait until winter? (I’m in NC, zone 7) Should I try to train both branches upright? One comes off the trunk a few inches above the soil, and the other is from below, not sure if it’s from the trunk or from the root. Thanks for any help that you can provide!
Cut of the top and train the weeping branches upright. I’ve seen branches coming from rootstock that are almost as nice as the grafted variety so I guess you never know for sure.
We had a bad drought about five years ago. ( The tree was about four years old, maybe 3-4′ tall and beautiful red leaves.) Tenants at the time said they would water the red maple but didn’t. It started drying up and dieing. My landscaper came over and said the only way to try and save it would be to prune it all the way down and hopefully it would come back. He cut it down and it has come back to about 6′ but the leaves are green. The blossoms were red but then green leaves bloomed. Will red leaves ever come back?
Sounds like he cut it down below the graft union. The tree may never again have the same red leaves as it did. You have a new variety. If it were me, I would have soaked it in water for a day or two to save it.
Jared Beane says
Hi Mike, I love the article and your youtube videos! I did have a concern for my young 2 year old upright Japanese maple tree, I pruned it a couple weeks ago right in the middle of July, and it only has about ten leaves, it doesn’t seem to growing it all now and I’m afraid it won’t continue to grow or I killed it, the leaves are still green though. When would I start to see new growth begin to take plac, or iI have I damaged it too much already?
John jerry says
Call Mr Miyaghee
Beryl Hall says
This is very informative . I have learned alot about the Weeping Japanese Maple, and how to look after them. I have a new one that I bought this summer and is still young. With winter coming do I have to protect it from the snow or can I just leave it? The area I have it in is fairly protected but snow will still cover it. I appreciate your expert advise so I await your reply. Thankyou. Beryl Hall
Sharon Lomurno says
It depends, but you have to be really careful that you don’t do more harm than good in your effort to protect your plants from the cold. So first, let me explain a little about climates and growing conditions. I’m in northern Ohio, zone 5. It gets cold here. Bitter cold at times, wind blowing, blizzard like conditions. During the winter it’s not unusual for us to see temperatures as low as 15 degrees F. some winters we have days and days of single digit temperatures and possibly a few days around zero or below.
Jan Tuller says
Was outside today and all my leaves appear dead…all brown and withered. Where do I begin and what should I do now? Do I try to remove leaves? Cut back very far on branches? I am stumped plus I haven’t really done anything to this tree in a long time.
Jan Tuller says
Oh forgot to tell you where I live as this might be important for your answer.
Hi Mike: I have two Japanese maples about 6′ tall. I have had them since they were little more than 10″ saplings. Growing well until this year. One is full of buds/leaves the other nothing. I’m broken hearted. Could I cut all branches back severly? Would it help new growth? I just don’t want to give up on it yet as it’s only May 11. Thanks
Cheryl goode says
Thank you SO much for sharing your knowledge. I was given a red maple seedling that was 3″ high and is now 12″ and has 11 leaves. I know NOTHING about treed. At what point do I cut the top leaf to help create new branches for from the sides? Also, some of the leaves seem to have been munched by an insect. Can they tolerate pesticides?
Sandra bowlet says
I have a weeping dwarf red maple. It is full and seames to be healthy. The problem is the branches are lying on the ground
.should take lower branches off?
Yes, it needs to be pruned like any other plant. Remove those lower branches and light trim the rest of the tree so it continues to grow nice and full.
Kathleen Burke says
We live in Ohio and the sewer is going to be worked on this winter. Any tips to try and save my 15 year old very mature Japanese Maple tree? I’m just sick about it. Wish I would have known about the project in the fall so I could have moved it then.
You can still move it, anytime between now and early spring as long as the ground is not frozen solid. See this http://mikesbackyardnursery.com/2015/11/moving-a-large-laceleaf-weeping-japanese-maple-tree/
I have a red maple lace tree that is planted close to my home it’s 5 ft high and about 4 ft wide Can I leave it , and prune it
Of course you can and should prune it. Pruning them makes them grow fuller.
sally rowan says
Loved your article, but I have just a regular Japanese red maple it’s fully grown and I trim once in the fall . now the tree is covering my walkway and it’s spring can I shap it now? Thanks for your help
Sure you can trim it now.
Hope you’re right about trimming the upright varieties. Ours is a Bloodgood that is about 10 feet tall. I’d like to keep it under 12′, as a privacy plant between houses. I love the way it is now, leafy from 3′ up. I plan to trim the leaders this winter.
Jim R says
Just purchased and planted a Tamukeyama about a month ago and it is doing great – near Raleigh, NC. However, I expected this laceleaf variety to “droop” but on closer inspection most of the growth is upward. Can I safely prune somehow to change the growth direction to downward. P.S. I don’t have experience with the Japanese maple but have watched and enjoyed all your online videos.
Tamukeyama should weep. Maybe not weep, weep but the branches should be growing out horizontal with a bit of a downward angle. The leaves should also be dissected, are they on your tree?
The leaves are dissected and very lace-like. Most of the limbs are growing upwards rather than outwards or downwards. In the ground the tree is about 5-6 feet tall with the bottom of the leaves/limbs about 4 feet from the ground.
Not sure why it’s doing that, but in time I’m sure it will weep. Trim as needed to make it tight and full.
Thanks. The “Trim as needed…” part will be pure guess work on my part. I will watch your videos and learn. Thanks.
Rachel Gibson says
Hey I was wondering if there is a market for well established J. Maples? We have one estimated at about 8in if not more around base of trunk. Someone told us it could fetch $800. Is this true? We could really use the money. Are landscapers really hurting for such trees? Ours looks like the “Crimson Queen”. It’s about 3-4ft tall.
If the tree is really nice there would be a market, but a really small market and the tree would have to be professionally dug and it’s pretty big for that. The right person might buy it, but that person is going to be difficult to find.
Patty Pentell says
I have a multple trunk, about 10 years old.
since i waited too long to get it under control, what would you suggest?
You can pretty much prune a Japanese maple as hard as you need to, especially when they are dormant. It will fill back in.
Bessie Crowner says
Thanks for the information.It may be a little late for some of my trees, but I have been helped a lot.
Hi Mike –
The house I bought has a very pretty Japanese maple in the front. Compared to the pictures on your website, it looks like a lace leaf. I didn’t know I needed to take care of it, so it has been neglected for the past three years. This year, a green shoot started appearing taller than the tree itself. From the information I learned on your site, I think it is a shoot from the main trunk, below the graft line. The unwanted green “shoot” is almost as thick as the main trunk. Can I just cut it anyway? Is it safe to do this now (end of April in NC, highs in the mid to high 80s)? Do I need to apply any product on the injury site since it’s going to be pretty big?
Thanks so much!
You’re right, this is a sucker from below the graft union and needs to be removed. The wood is very hard, you’ll need good lopping shears or a saw. Yes, do it now, no you don’t need to seal the wound.
Vicki H. says
I have a lovely (for the most part) weeping laceleaf maple, probably about 4′ tall. The previous owners of our house planted a random shrub way too close to the maple, which caused one side to not grow. I have since removed the offending shrubbery, but should I do any special pruning, etc. to encourage the stunted side to fill in? Thanks for all the great information in this article!
Maybe some over all shaping to bring in the side that has out grown the other. It should catch if you prune it about twice a year.
Thanks for the video and you are right, I always waited for the right moment to prune my Japanese maple and never did. I have a blood good Japanese maple in a 24″ half barrel container on a roof top and it grew too tall (7ft) . If I cut the top, Will it grow branches in the lower section? Thanks jn advance for your reply.
That depends on how much sun that lower area gets.
Our tree is dying slowly. This is the 3rd spring that the leaves come out then dry up and die. Then the branch dies. We were told that the weather is changing and that it now needs protection in winter(in Montreal) we uncovered the tree 2weeks ago and the buds are forming on only about a quarter of the branches. I noticed some loose bark near what looks like a graft.
How can I save this tree? It was beautiful for the first three years.
Problem not much you can do. 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. Remove any dead limbs once you determine they are dead. The bark could have been damaged during those two really cold winters but the tree really should be re-covering from that by now. Is it in wet soil? That’s a huge problem if it is. All I can say is give it time and see what happens.
When I moved to my first home 17 years ago, My Weeping laceleaf maple was the “perfect size”…. Of course it has grown and I wish I could put the brakes on it a bit…. It gets wider and wider, and is impeding on other things I have growing…. A couple of years ago It was shaped like and umbrella that was almost closed… meaning the branches almost touched the ground…. It was also starting to impede on my water feature, so instead of taking it completely out, which I didnt want to do I thought, I would just trim off the branches. So I gave it a haircut and went around in a circle… It didnt look so hot, but I thought I would only have to put up with the uglyness until the next spring when I got some new growth…. It did look better, never as good as before the haircut, but better…. it was as if the branches stick out more now instead of curling down twords the ground like I was hoping the would return to… Now its been a couple of years, and Im having the same problem….”growth”…. Its next to my house, watcher feature is starting to get covered, and Im thinking about another “haircut”, but this time Im really thinking about going in a couple of feet all around in diameter….. I love my tree, and I feel like I am trying my best to save and keep it…. should I do this, or should I give in to time and just take it out and put something else there, knowing that if I dont do it now , I will have to in couple of years anyway????? PLEASE HELP!
Wait until early winter and move it to a place where it has the room it needs.
Kathryn Langston says
I have a 2 year old red maple that has grown to be such a beautiful addition to our yard. However, I am very concerned that the last few weeks, mostly after rain showers, the top of the tree is seriously bending/sagging. I do not know if I should leave it be and perhaps let it grow or tie it or anchor it to the ground. I DO NOT want it to end up breaking the tip of the tree off. Does anyone have any advice for me??? Please help……..
I’d stake it unless you think it needs pruning. Keep it stake for a year or so.
I am about to plant my first Japanese Maple (Bloodgood) which is currently in a small 6″ plastic pot. When planting (into soil, not another pot), should I trim the roots that warp around inside the pot to ensure they spread naturally as the tree grows? If so, how far back?
You don’t have to trim the roots, just loosen them so they no longer wrap around the root ball. If needed, you can make about 3 vertical cuts on the root ball to stop that circling if you cannot pull the roots loose.
Helpful pointers! I have inherited a weeping laceleaf that hasn’t been trained so sits/hangs low to the ground. Planted in full sun and close to a window so I am concerned it will block the light if I do train it to get more height. Not an ideal location – is it even worthwhile to try transplanting? Or Better to leave it where it is and let it just be a dwarf? Thank you!
Trying to move it is going to be more work than you probably expect. I’d trust trim it to be nice and neat and leave where it is.
I have a young orangeola. Should it be trained to grow taller or will it do it on its own? Thanks
It really will not grow taller on it’s own, it has to be trained to do that. Just put a stake next to it and tie one or two branches to the stake. It’s a pretty slow process.
Just bought a Red Select. Is there a way to keep it below 6ft and will it spread much? Trying to find the best spot to plant it and right now, it’s little more than a long twig with leaves, so no clue how big it will get.
Red Select is a weeping, dissectum Japanese maple. It will not grow tall, not much more that 48″ and can be trimmed. Eventually it will get quiet wide.
Thank you for the quick reply. I’m thrilled to have gotten one. Should I prune it to the desired width or do I have to let it spread?
5/5/18 I have a Japanese Maple that I bought as a very small plant – no tag. It is performing nicely in my garden. For the most part I have let it develop its form naturally. Is there a way to send you a photo to get advice as to whether or not I should prune it? Thank you.
No, there is no way for me to see photos, I don’t see any of our incoming email.
5/7/18 Thank you for replying.
Barbara Cawley says
Hi Mike – 2 years ago, we moved to a house with an acer palmatum “Inaba Shidare”. One side of the tree had all branches pruned off (pruned and torn a bit at trunk union) in order to not grow into an adjacent viburnum. We loved the tree so removed the viburnum to allow the tree to fully grow. No shoots have grown out from the pruned side of the tree since then. I have bungee-corded a couple of branches from the opposite side to grow towards the “naked” side but am not sure this is this the right thing to do.
Thank you for any suggestions – I am so happy to have found your site.
Just keep the tree trimmed lightly. It will fill back in but it takes time.
Will do – thank you for your quick response! Barb
I’m thinking about getting a Sango Kaku. I’ve read that they get to 20 to 25 feet. That is too big for the area I want to put it in. How small can I keep this tree and keep it healthy?
I’d say any height you want it. Just keep it trimmed down and it will get nice and full.
We are thinking of getting a dwarf, lace leaf weeping JM. How tall do dwarf JM’s get and if it gets too tall, can it be it be pruned to be shorter?
They really don’t know how to grow upright, they typically just spread out more and they can be pruned.
Just ran across this post. Dog got ahold of my small J maple. Although I salvaged what was left of it, I’m fairly certain the part that’s still alive is below the graft. It’s doing well, but what will it morph into? Just curious.
If in fact all that is left is root stock it will likely be green leaves, maybe a red tinge. Some are nice some just drab.
I purchased a home that has a Japanese Maple. I’m trying to educate myself on this beautiful tree to hopefully watch it grow for years to come. The portion of the trunk that meets the ground and becomes it’s roots, is exposed. So much in fact I can see daylight through/under it, almost as though the tree is standing on its tip toes. The tree appears healthy, and I’m unsure if I should leave it be or add top soil to this area? The area of garden is elevated, a small mound of earth that the tree sits on…so being new to the home I don’t know if it’s eroded over the years or if it was always this way. Please let me know what you think, I’m happy to send pictures to better explain what I mean.
I would add enough soil to cover the roots but no more. Then maybe 2″ of mulch.
Teresa Synakowski says
I purchased a red lace maple last year, small. This year it now has large shoots of the green maple coming out from the right side only. So it was grafted wrong!? Very disappointing and now I need to move it, because it’ will big for the space of a weeping red lace. Weird.
Probably grafted properly, but those shoots need to be removed completely.
Very helpful article. I especially liked the realistic ‘don’t wait go the right week in winter as you will never remember when that week arrives’ recommendation lol. I’m going out today armed with your great instructions. ;-).
Lan Glenn says
My husband has a habit of plucking what he thinks are dead leaves off the tree, is this ok?
I have a Japanese Maple seedling that’s been growing straight up for 3 months from 2″ originally up to now 20″ now. Should I cut the top off to stimulate branches, or let it grow naturally now and maybe trim later?
I’ve found that just letting them grow seems to work best. If it’s out of balance or you want to change the shape later you can prune it then.
I just moved into a new home and there is a severely neglected and overgrown Japanese maple. After identifying the type of tree it was, I began researching the best way to care for it. Your page was extremely helpful and I am excited to care for it and restore it to its glory. Thank you for sharing all of your knowledge.
Glad that I could help. Enjoy your tree.
Hi, I have a fire glow Japanese maple whose main branches are pushing on each other. The tree is about 8-9 years old. Should I leave it alone? I’m worried if I cut each of the rubbing trunks the tree will lose 50% of its leaves.
Pruning this time of year, winter, is very easy on the tree, I’d trim as needed.
Carolyn Green says
I have a Acer Palmatum Dissectum that is about 30 yrs old in a front flower bed. My neighbor said it had never been pruned. When I moved here 3 yrs ago I pruned it as best I could from the inside of the bush and have trimmed off the bottom for the last 2 yrs. My problem is that it’staking over the sidewalk and I really just want to cut it way back but don’t want to kill it.
You really have two choices, hire somebody to move it which could be risky, or trim it so you can use your walk.
Our new home has a mature lacy leaf. It is unlike any I have seen before. It doesn’t have a center trunk. About a foot and a half above the ground it it splits to two thick trunks opposite of each other. One grows horizontal close to two feet before branching into more upright branches. The other of the two horizontal trunks grows about 10 inches before upright branches begin from it. There are numerous branches that are at least 3 inches diameter. There are no long hanging branches. Before losing its leaves this winter it was very full and large. Any thoughts on how to prune or care for this tree for long term? It is a focal point in landscaping.
The trunk configuration sounds interesting. You have to decide whether or not you want to see those branches during the growing season or not. Or maybe just trim it into a mound and leave it at that.
I have a very small potted Tamukeyama, I have had it for 15yrs. I have never pruned it but it has always seemed OK and 2 year ago was the first year we had seeds. This spring it only has about a dozen buds about half inch long and no other signs of buds coming. I am in South West UK. Should I prune (it’s April so could be too late). Do you think as it is quite small it could need a larger pot? Or planting out? The pot has been infested big time with ant’s for the last few summers, could this have harmed the tree or damaged the soil quality?
At this point I’d get it planted in the ground. You can prune it anytime it needs it.
Billy Humbleford says
Mike — Thank you for the post, I’ve learned a lot. My green acer palmatum has what my wife says is a “sucker” and must be cut off. However, I cannot find the graft and the branch in question has leaves exactly the same as the rest of the tree. My guess is acer palmatum does not have a graft point?
I happen to like the wild look of the acer palmatum with low branches, creating more of a bush appearance.
Will I regret not removing this “sucker”?
If the leaves are exactly the same as the rest of the plant then what you are seeing is probably not a sucker, just trim a bit if needed. And you’re right, Acer palmatum would not have a graft union. Acer palmatum often serves as the root stock for grafting onto.
Billy Humbleford says
Great, thanks Mike for the tips and input. I’ll let you know how it goes! If you are able to check out these two photos, one up close and one far away, would appreciate your additional perspective.
Photos of acer palmatum:
That clearly appears to be a sucker and I’m guessing that if you allow it to grow you’ll see differences in the leaves over the season. But sucker or no sucker it really needs to be trimmed and if it were me I’d remove it completely. I’m guessing that it originates just above the soil line, just below the graft union. Even if the graft union is not obvious.
Alleen Cater says
I have approx 20 Japanese maples, of different cultivars. Is there a good source/book for photos of ‘ideal’ forms ,either to the ‘western eye’ or the ‘Japanese’ eye? The J.D. Vertrees books identify by description and leaf appearance, but not by total look. Search online for photos of each cultivar does not necessarily get me where I want to go with this. For instance, my tall, skinny Shishigashira in a huge pot might need gentle shaping to be a bit fatter, and my ‘Hefner’s Red’ looks as if an elephant sat down in the middle. There are more questions, but you get my drift. If you are willing to look at a few photos, I will email them to you. Thanks!
I live in Birmingham, AL.
The J.D. Vertrees books are probably the best. I can’t do photos here but we do do that in the members area. http://backyardgrowers.com/join
Alleen Cater says
Thanks for your fast response. I am not inclined to join backyardgrowers at this time, but I will keep it in mind. Perhaps a different edition of Vertrees shows every cultivar as a whole tree; mine (Third Edition) does not.
charles elliott says
Thank you for the enormous amount of information about red maple. ou have taught me a lot that I didn’t know. I have one question. Is there a way to prune a bloodgood to minimize the width to 10 to 12 feet? Thanks again.
Absolutely. Just, prune it to your desired size. If the tree is way bigger than that now I’d do that kind of heavy pruning in the late fall.
I purchased a maple 5 years ago. It was labeled as a Red Select but in that time has never wanted to do it’s own weeping. I’ve tried staking it in place to weep but it’s always tried to grow more like an upright tree. In that time I’ve also not pruned it, I didn’t know I had to.
After finding this article I was able to locate what and where the join is, pruned off the lower branches, and have it staked upright. It looks so much better already, though a little one sided. Could it have been mislabeled?
It had dark red leaves when I first bought it. Over the last 4 years they have become more and more green. This year there isn’t an ounce of red on it anywhere. I have it located in the back yard along with other flowers. It’s surrounded by day lilies in the back, tulips in the front, with nearby lavender and yuccas. And also some pesky Japanese knotweed I pull up every time I go outside. Is the soil tainted from all these plants? I know this can happen with hydrangeas. Something else to note…the tree was purchased at Walmart. They’re not exactly known for their plants. Was the new graft possibly red and it was grafted onto a green variety that may have taken over?
It does sound like the grafted part has died and all that is left is growth from the root stock.
Danny G. says
I am looking to purchase an emerald lace acer and I have two to choose from at my local growing center. Both are about 3 ft tall from the ground. One has had its top cut off, and has a beautiful umbrella canopy. The other has its top canopy stems and is more full from the bottom up. I want mine to eventually grow taller in tje space I am planting it. With a relatively mature japanese.maple, weeping emerald lace, if the top has been cut off, will the trunk continue to grow upright? Any help is most appreciated.
A true weeping Japanese maple, acer dissectum, they really don’t have the ability to grow upright. They have to be staked and trained to grow upright. Eventually they get incrementally taller as more new weeping growth appears on top of the weeping growth that it there but most never see 48″ tall.
Matt S. says
Hey Mike — thanks for a great article. Question for you: We have a Bloodgood by our patio in the back that’s about 7′ heigh now. It’s gorgeous, or it was until about two hours ago. I turned our patio table on its end to clean it and a huge gust of wind blew it over. The table crashed into the tree and took out one of its three main leaders. It scraped the bark of several smaller limbs but those all survived the impact. The tree looks completely flat from the house now. It actually looks like the letter “Y” which is… well, I’m pretty upset about it (and it’s 100% my fault, which makes it worse!). So, question: In your experience will the tree regenerate to fill in this space / become 3-dimensional again? Will a new leader form close to where the old one was? Is there anything I can do to encourage the tree to replace that leader? Or is our gorgeous (expensive!) tree going to have to come out so we can put a new one in? Any help is really appreciated.
I wouldn’t be overly concerned but you do need to be patient. Clean up the damaged spots by simply making sure the broken branch has a nice clean cut and if the scraped areas have ragged edges clean those up with a knife so water runs off of them easily and not under the bark. Trim the remaining branches a bit and wait. It likely will fill in nicely, but it won’t happen fast. Probably two to three years before it looks really good again.
Matt S says
Thanks for replying and for the advice! We will clean up the edges as best we can, give it a nice drink of water, and hope for the best. 🙂
Liz Crone says
I have a Japanese maple that was cut down by the beaver. it is now sending out lots of side shoots. How can I keep the tree? Will it ever get big again? Or will it always look like a shrub?
You can train it to grow as a multi stem tree which can be quite nice. Eventually start removing some of those lower branches keeping just a few main stems.
I planted an Emperor Japanese Maple (about 4-5 ft in size) at the beginning of summer. It’s gotten full sun and it’s been very, very dry here in Central IL. The leaves started to curl up on the edges, and i’m also noticing small holes in some of the leaves. Most concerning is that the trunk is getting green at the bottom, and both the trunk and branches higher up look almost like the color is “fading”. I know nothing about growing trees – or, well anything, really. The arborist recommended this species, noting that it was fairly easy to care for. I’ve increased the watering, and i’ve also created a way to provide some shade for it when the sun is blazing. PLEASE HELP! I want desperately to save this beautiful tree!
I forgot to mention that the bark underneath the trunk and branches is still green! Yay!!!
Shade in the heat of the summer is critical for a young Japanese maple. However, the shade will cause the leaves to turn greenish. Don’t worry about that, leaves are temporary. Same for the holes in the leaves, I don’t worry about things like that. Shade and the right amount of water are really all the tree needs right now. Don’t fertilize it.
Hi, just yesterday our landscaper trimmed our fabulous weeping Japanese Maple . The longer weeping branches are now cut off and all the branches are the same length. It looks like a pyramid with no weeping limbs.
It is at least 35 years old. Will it ever regain it’s beautiful shape and is there anything we can do save it’s appearance?
Just relax, your tree will be fine and probably better looking in the future. Your landscaper might have gotten carried away but I’m sure your tree will be fine, they respond well to pruning.
MONICA E PASK says
We bought a house that has a JM right next to our front stoop stairs. It is about 6 feet tall and only has leaves on the top 1/3.. Ideally I’d like the whole tree to be about 4 feet tall. The bottom has three solid swirly branches that start at about 2 feet and I’d like to encourage growth between the 2ft and 4ft which currently has no leaves. Is there a way to shift the overall growth down? Is this possible, and if so, what would you recommend?
First, is the tree to close to the house or the steps. If so, I’d consider moving it, but if it’s leafed out now you can’t move it until Thanksgiving. In the mean time about all you can do is trim the ends of the branches. That will encourage the tree to put on growth closer to the inside of the tree. If the house is shading the tree a lot it’s going to be a challenge to get it to fill in. But . . . if you keep trimming those branch tips, the tree will fill in.
Monica Pask says
Thanks so much for your reply. It is pretty close to the steps and I wanted to try moving it but my husband is afraid we will kill it. It’s leafed out now so will do as you suggested in the meantime. Thanks again!
Brad Mcfeggan says
Haven’t heard anyone comment on getting severe dieback at the pruning site after pruning.
I have 2 Bloodgood’s on my property. Both were bought and planted about 10 years ago.
I have been have a issue. The trees are very healthy with no dieback. However, a couple times when a make a pruning cut I get severe dieback at the location I pruned.
Now I’m a certified Arborist and I know I’m making good pruning cuts. For example; I have one tree that developed a codominant stem about 7 ft up the tree. So I removed one of the codominant stems. The next spring the entire half of the tree died (it started at the pruning cut and went all the way down to the ground).
I’ve done a few other cuts on my other tree that had similar severe die back (starting at the location with pruning cut was).
This doesn’t happen all the time but it seems to happen frequently enough that I’m afraid to shape my trees.
I’ve been a certified arborist for over 10 years and I work at a pretty robust forestry program. I’m never seen a tree react to pruning cuts like this.
I really don’t know but it sounds like your pruning is triggering verticulum wilt. ???
Wow. This is brilliant. Thank you so much for all your advice.
Gary Flynn says
We have a red JM and we have had it for about 19 years. It looks like the top is bare and not doing well. The leaves are growing on the sides and I have trimmed them off the ground several times with no issues. I do need to trim the bottom edges again, but am concerned about the top. Will we lose the tree if it continues to thin out on top?
Chances are the tree will survive but it will take time to fill back in if those branches are dead. 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. See this; https://mikesbackyardnursery.com/2020/01/why-is-one-side-of-my-japanese-maple-or-just-one-large-branch-completely-dead/
Gary Flynn says
Can I send you a picture of our tree? Looking for guidance on trimming up the top to help it recover.
Mandy Lalande says
I am looking at purchasing a large Japanese Maple Bloodgood. It is really nice but it’s a single stem rather than multistem. The trunk is about 18″ high before it starts having branches.
Will it grow additional branches on the lower main trunk?
Will the lower trunk of the tree keep getting taller or will the new growth only be at the top of the tree?
If the lower trunk doesn’t get any taller this should work as I want some lower clearance for other plantings. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
New growth on that stem is possible, but it will be so shaded from the top of the tree that I really don’t think it will mature into true branches.
We have a rather large Acer close to the house that is obstructing a lot of light. I was wondering what options are open to us in terms of heavy pruning. I wish I could add photos to better explain.
The central trunk is 5 inches in diameter and after 12 inches from the ground it splits into 3 x 3 inch diameter branches. Ideally we would like to cut it right back to the 3 branches. Would this be possible without killing it were I do use prune seal on the exposed cut points?
Many thanks Wil
You can do that kind of pruning in the winter when the tree is dormant and it should be fine. But I can’t ever promise anything. Just sayin. Go to http://mikesbackyardnursery.com/ and search pruning Japanese maple to see a post I did a while back.
Hi! Thanks for your information!! We have an upright variety maple (bought at a big box store – variety unknown) and it is growing great. However it has a lot of long branches growing parallel to the ground (not so upright and not weeping). These branches are getting way too long. Can I head them off to reduce their length or should I just be going back to the main trunk branches and taking them off altogether?
I’d probably remove them completely.
Terry Newbound says
CAn I move a 2 year old beni acer from gArden to a pot where a previous acer grow.it is about3 foot high.love your advice on acers.nice one
Terry Newbound says
2yeR old acer from garden to pot.is itok
Don’t move it until it is completely dormant, no leaves at all.
Leigh Stringfield says
Great article! We have 2 mature weeping Japanese maples that are probably about 2” thick on the main trunk and were probably planted 9-10 years ago. They were not trained by the previous owner of the home and the main branch of each is growing at a 90-degree angle with other branches going all sorts of directions! One of the trees even has grafted the 90-degree branch into another branch so there is an open oval shape in the middle of the 2 combined branches. Therefore, there is no hope of this beautiful mushroom/umbrella shape that you speak of. Is there any hope of fixing these crooked trees? How far back can you trim? I think it would take cutting all the way back to just about leaving only 15” of the main trunk and no branches. Or do we just dig them up and start over with new trees?
I really don’t think you need to prune them that severely. Simply trim around them to get them in shade and they will fill in nicely.
Thank you. One is really squeezed in by another shrub. Does a tree that age transplant well? Any tips?
As long as they are moved when completely dormant and a large enough root ball is taken. for tree with a 2″ caliper you should have a root ball 24″ wide and at least that deep.
Jacqui Smith says
Such a great informative site-Thank You!
I have grown a few Japanese maples that are seedlings found in the garden from an old original maple. I have 2 enormous multi-stem mature trees thus far. With this new batch of seedlings which I have in pots, some have a single upright stem which I thought of training into the “standard” shape. They currently stand 30cms high, and are staked. When should I begin trimming off any lower branches to create the standard shape? I don’t want to compromise the growth of the trees by removing the source of food through the leaves prematurely. The maple is not a weeping variety, and I live in Melbourne Australia
You can start removing lower branches slowly, never letting any branch get bigger than an dime or 1/2″ in size, preferable remove them before they get that big. As long as you have a significant number of leaves the trees will be fine.
Jacqui Smith says
Thanks for your reply. That’s very helpful.
How do I go about pruning a potted weeping maple that is root-bound? Unfortunately, the pot is just a bit smaller at the top than at the bottom so I can’t pull the tree straight up and out of the pot without breaking many of the branches. The tree is not full but does have a decent weeping form. Can I prune the branches severely – while still maintaining the form? If so, will the tree re-grow into a weeping form?
It is dormant right now, which is a plus. I would root-prune, as well, and would appreciate some direction there, too. It will be replanted in another somewhat larger pot.
Santa Cruz CA
Without a doubt get it out of that pot and loosen the roots that are circling the inside of the pot. Cut the ones that you need to. For sure make at least three vertical cuts from the top of the root ball to the bottom of the root ball to break that circling habit. This will cause the tree to put on new fibrous roots once repotted. Trim the top of the tree as needed or desired. If it is a weeping variety it will continue to weep after you prune it.
Mike, help! I purchase a weeping waterfall japanese maple that is one sided. I am inexperienced and thought, wow what a great price. Cheaper than the others! Is there anyway to fix this??
Just trim it up lightly and it will eventually fill in.
John H says
Great info. I have a Japanese Tamukeyama that I planted last year. It looks absolutely great but I noticed a branch that has all green leaves that are not the proper shape. I didn’t realize these trees were grafted and growth from the donor tree was possible. I’ll trim that branch off tomorrow now that I know the cause. It’s just a baby now- less than 3 feet tall and maybe 2 feet across, but it has filled in a tremendous amount already this spring. I can tell it will be fabulous when it’s mature.
Hi. I have a dwarf Japanese maple tree I bought and planted last spring. In the fall I had new siding done on my house and the guys working broke most of the branches off the tree accidentally while walking by it. The limbs were very delicate. Will they grow back? It now has only about three left and all on the back side of the tree. The front of the tree doesn’t have any branches on it at all. Thank you.
More than likely it will fill in. Just prune the remaining branches slightly to keep the tree balanced.
Do you have any idea if I should see some growth over the summer months? Thank you.
I really like your approach and writing. Very pleasant to read.
Thanks Chris, I appreciate that.
My Japanese maple has whiteish trunks at the top do you think that it’s going bad otherwise it’s got lots of leaves and branches . I trim it back every year so it looks like an umbrella.
I pruned my bloodgood maple to get rid of crossed branches in the early spring. Now in May, I have buds all over the tree that aren’t blooming but a ton of new shoots at the bottom of the tree covered in leaves. I don’t want any of the new growth at the very bottom of the tree. What should I do for my tree? Can I cut off all the new growth? Will that help the buds on the rest of the tree bloom? I’m worried in killing it!
I don’t think you have done anything wrong, but your tree might be in trouble. I’d probably give it a few weeks then check to see if those branches are alive. 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. If the tree is fine remove the suckers from the bottom. If not, you may not want the tree at all.