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8 Tips To Reduce Japanese Maple Transplant Shock

Japanese maples are available in a wide variety of types, known for their lush foliage and decorative appeal. However, moving a Japanese maple can present some challenges. Let’s dive into how you can reduce the impact of relocating one.

Transplant shock can occur if a Japanese maple is moved at the wrong time of year, if too many roots are cut away, or if it doesn’t get watered promptly. To lessen the risk of transplant shock, it’s best to relocate the tree in spring, ensure it gets plenty of water for the first three months after moving, and apply a root stimulator. Additionally, when digging it up, take extra care to preserve as many roots as possible.

japanese maple transplant shock

Japanese maple leaves turned brown as a result of transplant shock.

1. Transplant it in spring.

The ideal period for transplanting a Japanese maple is in early spring, just before the buds begin to swell. This timing allows the maple to establish roots by summer, reducing the likelihood of transplant shock.

Autumn marks another suitable time for transplanting Japanese maples, as they lose their leaves and enter dormancy for the winter. The decreased sunlight during this season further supports the transplanting process.

2. Avoid pruning it while transplanting.

Plants store energy in their stems and branches, so when you cut these parts off, the plant loses some of its energy. Additionally, the plant has to repair these cuts, which adds to its stress, especially since it’s already working on repairing its roots.

In my view, if you can avoid damaging the roots too much when digging up the plant, it’s best not to prune it. If you do decide to prune, it’s better to wait until the next autumn or winter, giving the plant time to recover from the transplant.

japanese maple transplant shock

Japanese maple wilted due to transplant shock.

3. Keep as many of the roots intact as you can.

Ideally, you should aim to preserve all the roots when digging up a plant. However, given the complex growth patterns of roots, some damage is almost inevitable. Despite this, it’s important to save as many roots as you can. Doing so helps the maple efficiently transport water to its leaves.

4. Replant your Japanese maple as soon as possible.

The longer your Japanese maple stays out of the ground, the more it will struggle with transplant shock after you replant it. This happens because the tree has become accustomed to its original soil environment and starts to adapt to its new, soil-less conditions the moment it’s removed.

If it spends too much time out of the ground, it will have to adjust twice: first to being out of the soil, and then again to being back in the soil, increasing the plant’s stress levels. Therefore, it’s best to replant it as quickly as possible, ideally within an hour or two, or just the time it takes to dig and prepare its new spot.

japanese maple transplant shock

Japanese maple leaves curled due to transplant shock.

5. Shade your Japanese maple.

After moving the Japanese maple, it’s beneficial to shield it from direct sunlight by creating some shade. This significantly lessens the sun’s impact on the leaves, helping the tree retain more moisture.

You can use netting or even a garden umbrella to provide shade. If the transplant took place in the spring, you can remove the shade by early fall.

6. Water your Japanese maple regularly.

Japanese maples can withstand dry conditions well once they’re mature. Yet, while they’re young or have recently been transplanted, it’s important to water them once the top 1-2 inches of soil have dried out.

Ensure to use at least 1 gallon of water for each watering session to thoroughly soak the soil, allowing all the roots to access the water.

japanese maple transplant shock

Japanese maple leaves have yellowed due to transplant shock.

7. Apply a root stimulator.

Root stimulators are popular among gardeners for their ability to promote root growth. These special liquid formulas are mixed with water according to the manufacturer’s directions and applied around the plant’s base.

Transplanting a Japanese maple often results in some root damage. The tree must then heal this damage and regrow its roots, all while adapting to a new environment. Applying a root stimulator can significantly ease transplant shock by encouraging quicker root recovery.

8. Apply a layer of mulch.

Applying mulch, like compost, wood chips, or bark, around the tree’s base creates a welcoming environment for beneficial insects. As the mulch breaks down, it releases stored nutrients into the soil, enhancing its quality.

Mulch also shields the soil from direct sunlight, preventing the surface from drying out too quickly. This is crucial because, without mulch, water might not penetrate deeply into the soil, reducing the moisture available to the tree. This is especially important when the tree is recovering from transplant shock and needs all the water it can get.

So, go ahead and add a layer of mulch around your tree. Just make sure not to pile it too high against the trunk to avoid stem rot.


Wednesday 31st of May 2023

I transplanted an old Japanese maple into a pot in spring. It’s been 2 months and still no leaves on tree (May in NY) some branches are dead, some are not (snap test). How long will it take for tree to recover? Can it recover with out leaves? Thanks. Jane.

Igor Viznyy

Sunday 4th of June 2023

Hi Jane, Check to see if the buds on the branches are still alive. If so, there is a chance that the tree will come back to life next year. Move it to full shade so the summer sun doesn't burn what's still alive.

Judy ehlers

Saturday 27th of May 2023

I forgot to mention that we live in the Pacific Northwest, zone 8b Judy

Judy ehlers

Saturday 27th of May 2023

My lovely little Coral Maple is suffering from transplant shock. The leaves are yellowing. It was transplanted about a month ago and we experienced an unseasonable heat wave . Is it too late for me to apply transplanting solution. I have applied it one time.

Igor Viznyy

Sunday 28th of May 2023

Hi Judy, provide your maple tree with as much shade as possible for this summer.