Japanese Maple Trees
Q.

Saving a Japanese maple

Zone southwest lower Michigan | blbuszek added on June 27, 2014 | Answered

I planted this tree last fall. After a hard winter and late frost, the buds fell off. No leaves. Only suckers growing on bottom quarter of tree. Can it be saved?

A.
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theficuswrangler
Answered on June 28, 2014

Last winter was very hard on many plants, especially bushes and trees planted in the fall. It sounds like yours is sending up suckers from the roots. Have you tried to find out if the branches are dead? Do the twigs snap apart, all brown inside, or do they bend with green tissue inside? If you scrape some places on the trunk with a knife, can you find green tissue under the bark? If there's any green anywhere, the tree is still alive. Prune off all the dead branches back to the green tissue; here's some info on pruning: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/linn/sites/default/files/pruning_pub_handout2012.pdf
If the whole tree is dead, and it is a self-rooted variety, you can develop a new tree from the suckers. Choose the strongest one and cut off the rest, as explained in the article, and go from there.
Most Japanese maples are grafted, however, so the suckers are from the roots stock, and probably won't have the decorative value that you want. In that case, you'll probably want to remove the stump, and plant a new tree. Here are some thoughts on Japanese maple care: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/trees/japanese-maple/japanese-maple-care.htm

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