Japanese Maple Trees And The Risk Of Spring Frosts...

Another Valuable Japanese Maple Tree Article by

Ken Alston, The Japanese Maple Tree Guy

From the Desk of Ken Alston
The Japanese Maple Tree Guy

March 8th

Many trees and plants, including Japanese maple trees are susceptible to frost damage, especially early in the season when leaves are tender and new.

I am writing this article on Japanese maple trees and frost damage on March 9th. Today the high temperature here in central Virginia is a balmy 78 degrees Fahrenheit! And yet literally a week ago it was

snowing with a record daytime low of only 10F.

Yes it's late Winter/early Spring and this is the sort of crazy daily temperature swings you can easily experience. Needless to say the sap is rising in our plants and buds are visibly swelling on our Japanese maple trees. At this rate, even if temperatures drop to the usual norm in the 50sF it's only a matter of days until the leaves of some of the early maples start to emerge.

An example of an early cultivar of Japanese maple trees is: Katsura

As welcome as these harbingers of Spring are to see in our gardens there's a risk we run and a potential price we pay for this early show.

It doesn't take much for old man winter to reassert himself one last time (or two) and plunge us back into night-time frosts.

I have some pictures of trees looking nice with ice formed on the Japanese maple tree branches, but the result is often catastrophic for the plant.

you might be fortunate to have a slow thaw and the tender leaves may just survive, but you can't be sure. If you find you have blackened, dry and crispy looking remnants of leaves you've got frost damage.

Sadly the tree may not survive this hit. The SPring surge of stored energy went into opening the buds and unfurling the leaves. Now the tree relies on photosynthesis to feed itself. Without these first leaves, there may not be enough un opened buds left or energy stored to start growth off a second time around.

If you fins the branches and even the tree trunk are brown you may have lost the tree. using your fingernail gently scrape the bark on the branches and trunk. if you see green, live looking wood you may still be ok. but if all you see is brown dead wood, that's a bad sign.

Here are two things to do:

1. Watch the local weather forecasts until you reach your area's time when you can be fairly sure you will stay frost free. Until then, be alert and ready to protect your Japanese maple trees. At the garden center you can get a woven or spun fleece-like blanket to drape over your trees. You can try to protect like the Florida citrus growers do by spraying with water and hope this takes up some of the cold. These are not guaranteed to work, but you'll be better off than risking doing nothing.

2. If you feel like your tree still has a chance of hanging on, you can spray with a "tonic". I like to use a proprietary super-concentrated "reviver". You can find details here.


If all else fails and you do lose the tree, we'd love to hunt around the nursery and find a great replacement for you.

Happy gardening online and in dirt

Ken Alston

The Japanese Maple Tree Guy

Ken Alston is a green thumbed British/American gardener, maple-aholic and owner of http://Japanese-Maple.com who provides gardeners and fellow Japanese maple tree enthusiasts with valuable advice, information and hard to find Japanese maple seeds, seedlings and grafted trees.

Ken's FREE E-course on how to grow Acer palmatum is at http://japanese-maple.com.

Commonwealth Plants, LLC
PO Box 622
Earlysville, VA 22936
Ph: 434-806-2467

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