Advice for Japanese maples after the freeze from Davey Tree

Advice for Japanese maples after the freeze from Davey Tree

It’s only 10:30 in the morning and Luke Werner, district manager for the Davey Tree Expert Company, has already visited two homes to examine Japanese maple trees which have lost their leaves.

Japanese maples in the east were hit with a late spring freeze. Photo by Doug Oster

I needed to talk to him, as my inbox has overflowed with questions from readers about their own Japanese maples who look worse for the wear after a late frost has them dropping leaves like it was October.

“Be sure you are looking at the frost damage,” Werner says and not another problem. “The tree will have shriveled black or brown leaves that might fall off. The good news is, a lot of those leaves will probably still grow back.”

Freeze damage can also cause tip or branch dieback and even present problems for larger trunks if the cold was severe enough.

“As the year progresses, Werner adds, the tree will probably push out new sucker growth. It will also probably produce more than the tree can support.” That means lots of vertical water sprouts and crossing branches. The key is to let the tree come back on its own and then later in the summer start some light pruning in an effort to gradually bring the shape of the tree back.

“Don’t get over anxious,” he warns. “The tree does need those leaves to send carbohydrate back into the stem and roots.”

He also cautions to be patient, that in some cases it could take three years of trimming to get the tree to where it should be again. “Never cut more than a third of the plant when pruning,” Werner suggests.

If a homeowner wants to fertilize the tree, don’t use a variety with high nitrogen, “a good balanced fertilizer is what the tree needs,” he adds.

If you’re concerned about your tree, it’s important to choose an ISA certified arborist. The team from Davey will come for free to examine your landscape to see what the issues are with your trees.

Japanese maples are pretty hardy and should bounce back from the frost event, Werner says.

Details: or call 855-982-8733.

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