why japanese maple dying

Why Japanese Maple Tree Dying? (Here’s How to Fix It!)

Japanese Maple tree dies mainly due to Shoestring root rot. Japanese Maple trees may also die due to Bacterial Leaf Scorch. Verticillium Wilt can also kill your Japanese Maple tree. Japanese Maple may also show dying signs due to improper watering.

Japanese maple or Palmate maple is an ornamental tree. The plant’s scientific name is Acer palmatum.

It is grown for its bright, colorful foliage. The leaves change colors in the fall season.

This plant is quite expensive and rightly so. Its foliage is brilliant with five to nine lobes. This plant becomes the crown jewel of your garden!

The plant takes time to grow well and establish. The wait is worth it. It is easy to care for this plant, but sometimes it does run into some issues.

Why Japanese Maple leaves dying?

Japanese Maple leaves may die and fall off in summer due to drought. Japanese Maple leaves drop off in spring due to excess heat.

Japanese maple losing leaves in summer

Japanese Maple trees lose leaves in summer due to drought. Japanese Maple tree loves to be in moist soil, it requires abundant water to thrive.

If the soil is dry, the tree loses leaves to keep up with the loss of water. This is because the loss of water occurs via foliage.

The affected leaves will become brown and crispy. Water the plant abundantly once you notice this issue.

Do not let the soil go dry. Do not let the plant go into winter in such a situation.

Japanese maple leaves dying in spring

Leaves drop in spring due to excess heat. This heat increases the temperature of the soil too. Increased temperature dehydrates the soil quickly.

You don’t want dry soil for your Japanese Maple tree. This causes the leaves to yellow. These yellow leaves are without any spots. These leaves drop off eventually.

Japanese Maple tree, like any other tree, needs abundant water in the spring. Make sure you give your plant the amount of water it deserves.

Why is my Japanese maple tree leaves turning brown?

Japanese Maple tree leaves turn brown due to leaf scorch. Leaf scorching happens when the Japanese Maple tree receives excess sunlight. Japanese Maple tree leaves may also turn brown due to Bacterial leaf scorch.

Japanese Maple Leaf Scorch

When the Japanese Maple is exposed to too much sun, the leaves turn brown. This condition is called Leaf Scorch.

Leaf scorch is characterized by dead areas in between the veins or the edges of the leaves. Brown spots are seen on the infected Japanese Maple.

This condition is commonly seen during summer. This happens when the plant is also stressed due to some other external factor like watering, winds, etc.

Japanese maple leaf scorch treatment

Water your Japanese Maple abundantly. Plant the tree in a place where it gets shade at least in the afternoon.

If the soil has been dry for days, then rising temperatures are the reason for the browning of leaves.

Insect Pests

Insect pests may cause browning in the leaves too. Aphids and Scale bugs infestation usually do this. Such infestations do not harm the plant in most cases.

Severe infestations may however harm the plant greatly. Leaves turn brown and prematurely fall off. They are not that easy to get rid of.

To fix: 

  • You can spray the affected branches with a powerful water spray to dislodge aphids.
  • Soap and water mixture, Neem oil sprays work wonders to get rid of aphids on your Japanese Maple tree.
  • Prune off the infected branches to prevent severe scale infestation.
  • You can remove them from the host plant with a brush or a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Bacterial Leaf Scorch

Bacterial infection may cause browning in the Japanese Maple tree. This is a fatal disease that is transmitted by Leafhoppers.

Initially, the leaf margins turn yellow or tan. Eventually, infected leaves turn brown and the branches get killed. In severe cases, the whole plant dies.

There’s no DIY technique to save an infected plant. You need to consult your local Arborist to heal your plant.

Note: Leaf browning may also happen due to improper watering. Check your watering schedule.

Japanese Maple with yellow leaves

Japanese Maple tree leaves turn yellow due to Iron, Magnesium, or Zinc deficiency. Japanese Maple tree leaves could turn yellow when the tree is affected by Shoestring root rot. Japanese Maple leaves also turn yellow due to improper watering. 

I’ll let you decide what’s wrong with your plant. Stay with me!

Mineral Deficiency

If the plant lacks the essential minerals, the leaves turn yellow. This happens when the plant doesn’t get enough Iron, Manganese, or Zinc.

Iron Chlorosis causes yellowing on the tips of new leaves. In severe cases, Iron chlorosis spreads to older leaves.

Manganese and Zinc deficiencies cause yellowing of the older leaves first. This happens on the inner branches.

If left untreated such deficiencies may eventually kill the plant. You can spray the plant with an iron-rich foliar spray.

The long-term fix would be to lower the pH of the soil.

Japanese maple root rot

Japanese Maple trees are affected by Shoestring root rot. This infection causes an abrupt die-back of the tree crowns. The affected tree loses vigor.

Foliage becomes thin, withers, and turns yellow. Eventually, as the disease progresses, the leaves fall off. Mushrooms appear at the base of the tree in early winter.

Remove the infected roots and dispose of the infected tree if possible. Do not plant any plantlings in the area.


Overwatering can cause foliage yellowing in Japanese Maple trees. Watch your watering schedule closely to determine the possibility of an overwatered plant.

Japanese maple overwatering symptoms

  • Check the soil around the tree, is it moist constantly? If it is, then the tree sat in waterlogged conditions.
  • Leaves appear green but become brittle and break easily.
  • Younger leaves wither and become yellow or brown before developing fully.

Here’s how you fix an overwatered Japanese Maple tree

  • Do not water the plant for a week or two. Check the soil with your fingers and water only when it becomes dry.
  • Add compost to the soil to increase water drainage.

How much water does a Japanese Maple need?

You need to water your Japanese Maple twice a week at normal times. In drought conditions water the tree 3-4 times a week.

Japanese Maple tree leaves turning brown and curling

Japanese Maple tree leaves turn brown at the edges and wilt when the tree is given less water than required.

Signs of underwatering in Japanese Maple

If your plant’s leaves wilt before they become yellow, the issue probably is underwatering. Wilted leaves may turn brown at the edges.

Underwatering causes a scattered canopy of yellow foliage. You’ll notice that the leaves fall off abruptly.

Quick test: Stick a screwdriver into the soi. If it’s hard to do, then your tree is probably underwatered.

How to fix an underwatered Japanese Maple tree

Try to give your tree partial shade if possible. Water the plant abundantly and only when needed. You can check this by sticking your finger into the soil.


Feeding your plant with too much fertilizer can cause foliage yellowing too. Feeding a plant less is always better than overfeeding it.

Did you fertilize your tree recently? Do you think you overfed the plant? Overfertilizing is followed by stunted growth of the plant.

The lower leaves of the plant become yellow and fall off. Excess salt deposits in the soil around the tree. To confirm overfertilizing, you need to send the soil for tests.

Once you confirm it, the best way to get rid of excess salts is by drenching the soil with abundant water.

Japanese Maple leaves wilting

Verticillium wilt disease causes leaf wilting in Japanese Maple trees. The wilted leaves will turn brown eventually and the branches die back.

Japanese maple problems with dead branches

This is a deadly disease that can infect your precious Japanese Maple tree. This disease begins with the wilting of the foliage.

Eventually, you’ll see discolored leaves on your tree. Leaf scorch is seen and the growth is stunted. The branches die back.

Peel off the bark of the infected part. If you see dark coloration, then it is probably Verticillium wilt.

Japanese Maple Verticillium wilt treatment

Testing the plant’s sample in a laboratory is the only way to confirm the disease. Preventing this disease is the best cultural practice.

You can prevent this disease by soil solarization. If the tree is already infected, care well for the plant to prolong its life.

Note: Leaves also wilt in the case of underwatering as discussed before.

Take good care of the Japanese Maple tree to avoid running into unnecessary diseases/disorders. Water the tree just enough and at the right time.

Newly planted Japanese Maple leaves wilting

Leaves wilt on a newly planted Japanese Maple when the plant is suffering from Transplant shock. This can also happen when the newly planted Japanese Maple tree doesn’t get enough water.

A newly planted Japanese Maple sapling takes some time to develop roots. Give the plant abundant water when it’s newly planted, and make sure the soil has good drainage.

Give your newly planted Japanese Maple some time to get acclimated to the new conditions in your garden.

Japanese Maple dieback

Cold conditions cause the Japanese Maple branches to die back. Dieback of stems is also seen in Japanese Maple when the adventitious roots choke the base of the stem and hinder the supply of water and other nutrients. 

This happens when the Japanese Maple is planted too deep into the soil. The adventitious roots grow from the sides of the tree, choking the base of it.

Cut off the dead branches after winter and you’ll notice recovery signs in the tree.

Happy Gardening 🙂