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8 Reasons Why Japanese Maple Doesn’t Grow

Maples have always held a special place in our hearts and gardens, not just because of their countless varieties, but also due to their distinctive leaf shapes and other unique characteristics.

A common issue with Japanese maples is their struggle with growth when they’re starved of light. They really do love their sunlight, and without a good dose of it, they tend to look a bit underwhelming, with thin and sparse foliage.

On top of that, these trees are quite fond of water and don’t do too well in dry spells. Dry, nutrient-deficient soil can further hamper their growth.

In the following sections, we’ll dive deeper into these issues and explore ways to give your Japanese maples the care they need to flourish.

japanese maple not growing

Maple not growing because of lack of water and disease

1. Underwatering

Maples are big fans of water and really need it to grow. If they don’t get enough, they’ll often stop growing, especially during dry spells.

You might notice signs like soft, drooping leaves or burnt edges on the leaves, which scream out for more water.

In the early years after planting, maples usually face growth issues if they don’t get enough moisture. But once they’re well-established, they rarely have problems with dehydration.


  1. Water your Japanese maple when the soil is dry about 1 to 2 inches below the surface.
  2. Always check the soil’s moisture level before watering.
  3. Remember, your tree will need more water in the hot summer months than during cooler, cloudier weather.

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

2. Overwatering

japanese maple not growing tall

Maple not growing because of overwatering.

Just as too little water can trouble maples, too much of it can also stunt their growth. When Japanese maple roots are submerged in water, they’re cut off from oxygen, leading to their demise. This sets the stage for root rot, halting growth and causing leaves to yellow and drop, while new shoots blacken and perish.


  1. Cut back on watering significantly, ensuring you only water when the top 1-2 inches of soil feels dry.
  2. If your maple is in a soggy spot, consider moving it to a location with better drainage and a lower water table.

3. Poor Substrate

japanese maple not growing leaves

Maple not growing because of chlorosis.

Poor soil quality is another hurdle for Japanese maples. Planting them in sandy, clayey, or rocky soils could hinder their growth.

Additionally, overly alkaline soil can be problematic, as it makes it tough for the maple to soak up vital micronutrients, slowing down photosynthesis and, consequently, growth.


  1. Plant your Japanese maple in nutrient-rich, well-draining, loose soil.
  2. Apply a layer of high-quality compost around the tree’s base as mulch.
  3. Fertilize your maple with a slow-release, multi-purpose fertilizer. Doing this once in early spring should suffice.
  4. If your soil is too alkaline, consider using soil acidifiers to adjust the pH balance.

Read more: What soil does a Japanese maple need?

4. Not Enough Sunlight

Insufficient sunlight can also hinder a maple’s growth. A Japanese maple that doesn’t bask in at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily may grow sluggishly. This is particularly crucial in cooler climates, where the growing season is shorter, giving the maple less time to prepare for winter.


  1. Move it to a spot that enjoys more sunlight throughout the day.
  2. Take care to avoid harming the roots when you’re transplanting.
  3. The ideal times for transplanting are during the spring or fall.

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

5. Frost Damage

While maples are generally robust against the cold, severe frost and wind can harm their buds, preventing them from opening come spring.


Guard your Japanese maple against frosty winds.
Consider relocating it to a more sheltered spot next spring to provide better protection from the wind.

6. Improper Planting

japanese maple is not growing

Maple not growing because of improper planting

Planting a maple incorrectly can also halt its growth, particularly if the trunk is buried in the soil.

This misstep is serious as it leads to trunk rot, stopping the maple’s growth. If the rot sets in during winter, the tree won’t sprout new leaves.


  1. Clear away the soil around the tree’s base until the junction of the trunk and roots is above ground.
  2. The exposed part of the trunk should be allowed to dry.
  3. When mulching, ensure there’s at least a 1-inch gap between the mulch and the tree trunk to prevent moisture buildup.

Read more: How to plant a Japanese maple tree?

7. Pests and Diseases

why is my japanese maple not growing leaves

Maple not growing because of scale.

Different types of rot and fungal infections can be a threat to maples. To prevent these, make sure to plant your maple in a spot where it gets plenty of sunlight and there’s good air flow.

Additionally, sucking insects can hinder the growth of your maple. If you notice many insects clinging to your maple’s branches, it’s crucial to address this right away.


  1. Treat any diseases by applying a fungicide to your maple.
  2. For insect problems, use horticultural oil on the tree.

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

8. Transplanting

why won't my japanese maple grow

Maple not growing because of transplant shock.

It’s common for plants to experience stress and halt their growth after being planted or moved to a new location. This stress often stems from root system damage and abrupt changes in their environment.

A Japanese maple might not show growth for a year or two if it’s reeling from transplant shock. However, not all plants undergo this shock.


  1. Provide shade for the tree for the first 1-2 months post-transplant to ease it into its new conditions.
  2. Make sure the soil around the roots does not dry out more than an inch.
  3. Give the tree a one-time application of liquid fertilizer to support its recovery.

Read more: How To Reduce Japanese Maple Transplant Shock?