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Why Is My Japanese Maple Not Growing?

Maples have long been part of the culture. The maple leaf even adorns the Canadian flag. I won’t even talk about the number of different varieties. And it’s all due to the very unusual shape of the leaf and of course other qualities.

Drought stress or overwatering are the main reasons why the Japanese Maple does not grow. In addition, poor soil, lack of sunlight, or improper planting can slow the growth of the Japanese Maple or cause it to stop growing altogether.

Below you will learn about all the possible causes of this and how to fix them in more detail.

Why is my Japanese maple not growing? Symptoms How to fix
Lack of water Japanese Maples do not grow or grow slowly. The leaves are drooping or burning. Water the maple when the soil is 1-2 inches dry. Don’t let the maple suffer from thirst in the summer heat.
Overwatering Japanese Maple is not growing. Young shoots turn black. Leaves turn yellow in the middle. Reduce watering. Water maple only when topsoil is 1 to 2 inches dry. Transplant the maple to a less moist location.
Poor substrate Japanese Maple does not grow or grow very slowly. Leaves may turn yellow with green veins. Mulch the maple with compost. Apply fertilizer. Acidify the soil if it is alkaline.
Not enough sunlight Japanese Maple grows very slowly. The young branches are very fragile. Transplant the maple to a place where it will get at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight.
Frost damage The maple tree not leafing out in the spring. Choose only hardy varieties if you live in cold climates. Plant maple trees in a place protected from northern winds.
Improper planting Japanese Maple is not growing, leaves are drooping and yellowing. Don’t dig the trunk deeper into the ground. The place where the roots and trunk connect should be above ground level.
Pests and Diseases Japanese Maple grows slowly. You can see signs of insects and disease. Spray maple with fungicide or horticultural oil, depending on what caused the stopping of growth.
Transplanting Japanese Maple is not releasing new leaves. Leaves are drooping and turning yellow. Shade the maple for a while. Give the tree enough water.
japanese maple not growing

Maple not growing because of lack of water and disease

Lack of water

Maples are known for their need for plenty of water. This is especially true of the silver maple. If there is not enough water, the maple will definitely stop its growth. This often happens during periods of drought.

Other symptoms can be soft and drooping leaves or leaf burn along the edge. Also, new shoots may appear and immediately wither away. This all indicates a lack of watering.

To solve the problem, you need to water your maple more often. The soil around the tree should always be slightly moist or dry out no more than 1 to 2 inches deep. Always check the soil moisture before watering.

The tree uses much more water in the heat of summer than in cloudy and cool weather. I don’t recommend watering maple during hibernation periods because it doesn’t need much moisture. But if the winter is very dry, you can water a bit 1-2 times a month.

Maple trees don’t usually grow for lack of moisture in the first few years after planting. Once the tree has taken root, dehydration problems are very rare.

Read more: How much water does a Japanese maple require?


japanese maple not growing tall

Maple not growing because of overwatering.

Too much water can also cause maple to fail to grow. This is especially true for Japanese maples because their leaves are highly dissected and the evaporation area is small. As a result, overwatering can cause serious damage to the maple.

If maple roots sit in water, they have no access to oxygen and begin to die off. At the same time, root rot begins. The maple stops growing and the leaves begin to turn yellow and fall off. The young shoots turn black and die off.

To remedy this, you need to reduce watering to a minimum and only water when the top layer of soil is 1-2 inches dry. If overwatering is caused by prolonged rainfall, you can only hope that the maples will recover on their own.

If you have planted the maple in a place that is too wet, you will need to replant it. Choose a place with a low water table. Place stones in the bottom of the planting hole for drainage. Plant the maple in garden soil that is half mixed with compost.

Poor substrate

japanese maple not growing leaves

Maple not growing because of chlorosis.

Poor soil quality can also stop maple growth. Generally, maples are known for their unpretentiousness to soils, but the maple you bought has grown all its life in a rich and well-drained soil in a nursery. If you planted it in sandy, clay, or rocky soil, it may adapt and not grow for the first year or even two.

Also, too alkaline soil can be the reason for poor maple growth. Although some maples tolerate alkaline soil well, not all of them do. Alkaline soil makes it very difficult for the plant to absorb essential micronutrients. As a result, photosynthesis slows down and the maple does not grow.

To avoid all this, you need to plant maple in a loose and well-drained substrate with sufficient nutrients.

But if you have already planted the maple in poor soil then you need to mulch the surface around the trunk with a layer of good quality compost. This will slightly acidify the soil and give the tree some organic fertilizer.

The second thing to do is to feed the maple. A multi-purpose fertilizer in the form of slow decomposition pellets is ideal. One application in early spring is usually enough.

If the maple does not grow and the leaves are yellow but the veins are green, it could be chlorosis. So you need to acidify the soil along with the fertilizer. You can find soil acidifiers at almost every garden center.

Read more: What soil does a Japanese maple need?

Not enough sunlight

Lack of sunlight can also cause maple to not grow. If a maple grows in the shade and does not receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight, it can grow very slowly. The amount of light is especially important in cold climates because the maple has less time to grow and prepare for winter.

If you live in the northern United States or Canada and you plant your maple in the shade, the next spring you will need to transplant it to a location where it will get the most sunlight. When transplanting, be careful not to damage any of the roots.

Another scenario is also possible. If you live in the south and plant a maple tree in full sun, it can stagnate and not grow during the summer heat. The tree may even get leaf scorch. In this case, you need to transplant the maple to a place where it will stay in the shade for part of the day.

Read more: How much sun does a Japanese maple require?

Frost damage

Often maple trees do not grow leaves in spring. This can be the result of winter frostbite. Although maples are very frost-resistant plants, hard frost and wind can damage the buds. As a result, the buds will not open in the spring.

You need to carefully tear off one of the buds and cut it in half with a thin blade. If there is green inside, everything is fine. After a while, the maple will come out of dormancy and begin to grow. This can happen later in the spring.

If the buds are dead (brown) inside, the maple has most likely suffered from frost. Make a small incision in the bark of a branch of medium thickness, if there is a layer of green, the tree is still alive and it may come back to life after a while. If there is no green color, the maple is most likely dead and there is nothing you can do.

Maple can also suffer from late frosts. In this case, the frosted leaves turn black and the maple will no longer grow in the current year. You should not expect new growth until next spring.

A good solution to this problem would be to transplant the maple to a more wind-protected location.

Improper planting

japanese maple is not growing

Maple not growing because of improper planting

If you planted the maple wrong, it can also cause the maple to stop growing. I’m talking about the tree’s trunk being buried in the ground. As a result, the place where the trunk and roots meet is buried several inches in the ground.

This is a critical mistake because the trunk begins to rot and maple growth stops. If rotting occurs in the winter, the maple will not produce new leaves. If the trunk rots when there are already leaves, they may turn yellow and droop.

To fix this, you have to dig out where the roots and trunk connect. But do not dig a small hole where water will collect. Instead, remove a layer of soil around the plant 2-3 feet in diameter. The buried part of the trunk should dry out.

Next spring, transplant the maple so the trunk is not in the ground.

For this very reason, do not put mulch on the maple trunk. There should be a gap of at least 1 inch between the mulch and the trunk. The layer of mulch should not be thicker than 2-3 inches.

Read more: How to plant a Japanese maple tree?

Pests and diseases

why is my japanese maple not growing leaves

Maple not growing because of scale.

Among the diseases that can stop the growth of maples, root rot is worth mentioning in the first place. I have already written above about the symptoms of this disease and how to deal with it.

Then there are various rots and other fungal diseases. To avoid these you need to plant maple in a place with good air circulation and enough sunlight. If there is a disease, maple should be sprayed with fungicide.

Among pests, spider mites can greatly slow or stop the growth of maples. These insects are difficult to see because of their diminutive size. If your maple is not growing and has thin cobwebs on it, then look closely to see if there are little red bugs. If there are, you need to spray the maple a few times with acaricide.

Also, various sucking insects can cause maple to not grow. If you see a large number of insects attached to the branches of your maple, you need to spray the tree with horticultural oil.

Read more: How To Get Rid Of Bugs On Japanese Maple?


why won't my japanese maple grow

Maple not growing because of transplant shock.

At the end of the article I want to tell you about another factor that can cause why maples don’t grow, it’s transplant shock. Very often after planting or transplanting in a new place, the plants are stressed and do not want to grow. This is due to damage to the root system and the sudden change in growing conditions.

The plant may not grow for one or even two years if it has suffered a transplant shock. But this does not always happen; some plants do not go through a transplant shock at all.

If you planted a maple and it doesn’t grow, you need to shade it for 1-2 months to alleviate the conditions. Also, don’t let the soil near the roots dry out too much. This year the maple may not grow. New leaves will not appear until next spring.

Read more: How To Reduce Japanese Maple Transplant Shock?