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How To Keep Your Japanese Maple Healthy

Japanese Maples

Japanese Maples are relatively maintenance free but the incidence of Verticillium Wilt is causing many frustrations to those who love them in Michigan.

What you’ll see…is wilting leaves and dieback of branches, often one at a time or on one side of the tree. This can occur over a number of years, with remission in some years, or can rapidly progress to plant death in a year or two. Other symptoms of Verticillium wilt may include: marginal browning and scorching of leaves, abnormally large seed crops, small leaves, stunting, poor annual growth, and sparse foliage. Sometimes large areas of cambial tissue die from infections by the fungus and opportunistic fungi such as Nectria develop in elongated cankers. Late season infections may not be noticeable until plants come out of dormancy with branch dieback evident. Many times we have observed Japanese Maples leaf out in the spring and then to only watch some branches die off a month later. This observation confirms verticillium cut off the flow of nutrients and water to the stem or branch so it was only left to its reserves previously stored within the branch to push new leaves only with no way to sustain life. Some of the most common trees and shrubs found with Verticillium Wilt damage are: Japanese Maples, Burning Bushes, Viburnum, Most Maple trees and Lilacs.

The reason for the problem…is caused by soil-borne fungi, Verticillium albo-atrum and Verticillium dahlia. However, Verticillium dahlia is the species that most commonly attacks woody ornamentals in the Oakland County, Livingston County, Charlevoix County, Emmet County and Grand Traverse County in Michigan. Because of its ability to spread internally or systemically within the plant and to kill the plant, Verticillium wilt is considered a serious disease. Verticillium invades the root system directly or through wounds caused naturally by root growth through the soil or soil organisms. It is now being discovered that annual flowers create a higher incidence of Verticillium wilt infection when these plantings are installed near susceptible landscape plants due to the soil used at nurseries to pot annual flowers. Soil contamination is a problem at some nurseries due to the constant re-use of soils that could harbor soil borne diseases. If you wish to grow annual plants we recommend designating beds that are 6-10′ away if not farther from susceptible trees and shrubs. Once in plant tissues, the fungus produces toxins and invades the xylem (water conducting tissues), clogging it up. This robs stems and leaves of needed water and minerals. The fungus is returned to the soil as plant parts fall or die, and tiny resistant fungal microsclerotia are spread by wind, in soil and on equipment. Development of Verticillium wilt is favored by factors that stress roots, including wounding and droughty conditions.

You should… keep the tree growing with proper watering and maintenance.

Avoid planting annual flowers within 6-10’ of susceptible trees and shrubs
Remove dead and weakened branches. This does not remove the fungus from the tree, but prevents infection from other fungi. You must sterilize you pruners and saw blades with rubbing alcohol after caring for the infected tree so transmission of Verticillium fungi isn’t introduced to other plants.
Destroy plant material and debris.
We can help by…Providing a sound organic tree fertilization program that includes a soil fungicide known as Companion. If caught early enough we can protect from further infections. Never before have we utilized real sustainable landscape solutions but as you would expect Contender’s Tree & Lawn Specialist’s, Inc. is on the cutting edge of landscape science. You will be able to replant another Japanese Maple tree in the same location once treated! We have very happy clients that can attest to this after 3 years now.


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Posted on: August 4, 2015

What you’ll see…is wilting leaves and dieback of branches, often one at a time or on one side of the tree. This can occur over a number of years, with remiss...

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