'Crimson Queen' dying

Discussion in 'Maples' started by Daniel Mosquin, Jun 27, 2003.

  1. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    The following was received via email:

    Hey there,

    I purchased a Japanese Maple about three months ago from a reputable local nusery here in Vancouver, BC. I believe it is 'Crimson Queen'. The tree is about three feet tall and looked amazing when I took it home. The tree lives on my terrace with morning sun and afternoon shade.

    It has been looking ill for over a month now. The leaves appear to be literally disintegrating. First they shrivel, then break apart and shrivel some more until there is nothing left but the twig. I have checked for bugs thoroughly but can't find any. I also water it regularily. However; when I do water it appears to drain right through the pot. The tree is in its original container which appears to contain a very hard clay soil. Is the tree perhaps not getting enough water because of lack of absorbtion into this" clay". What should I do? I love the thing and it was quite pricey so I don't want it to die.

    Please help.
  2. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Metro Vancouver, BC, Canada.
    Some Japanese maples (and other shrubs) are grown in field conditions that dont end up being the same as what they end up in at your yard. We grow some trees and such in Chilliwack where the soil tends to be very heavy clay. The best thing to do is to remove the burlap sack ( I know we tell you not too do this normally) completely, scarify the root area with a small knife, that is cut into the rootball about a quarter inch deep, running from top to bottom, do this about 7 to 10 times around the rootball to reduce glazing and circling roots. Try to spread the looser roots about the new planting hole if at all possible. You may find benefit from adding a mycorizzae product to the soil, especially if it was a relatively inert planting mix (AKA packaged soil). A wetting agent in the water may help penetrate the rootball, use a small squirt of dishsoap the next time you water. Take a few leaves, of moderate damage to the local nursery and let them have a look, the more evidence the better for ID'ing the problem. Watering would probably be about once every 4 or 5 days, apply enough water to saturate the rootzone and runoff through the drainage.
  3. dalake

    dalake Member

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    Newcastle, Northern California
    I think the heavy clay rootball was placed in the container and then the container was filled with potting soil. When you water the tree the water is draining through the potting soil without soaking into the rootball.

    I think that if you remove the burlap you will find that the rootball is hard and dry. I would be tempted to place the whole container (if it is small enough) in the laundry sink or a large tub and fill it with water to the top of the rootball and soak it overnight.

    Then after thoroughly draining the container establish a watering regimen that does not allow the rootball to become totally dry.
  4. whis4ey

    whis4ey Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Northern Ireland
    I think dalake is probably right here
    The rootball is in a hardened clay 'prison'
    Allow it to escape and it will thrive
  5. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Dalake, you are quite correct that our water in California will not penetrate the
    root ball very well. Sometimes, even with super saturation we still cannot get
    water to penetrate a heavy clay root ball. I learned the hard way that with any
    balled and burlap plant coming in to me that I had to break the root ball or ultimately
    lose the plant. Whether the plant is a Maple, a Dogwood or a Deciduous Magnolia
    it may just be imperative to break the root ball even from a healthy plant in a 15
    gallon to a 24" or even 36" box. It is much easier dealing with losing half of
    the roots in some cases and the time in turn with the subsequent babying of the
    plant for a while, rather than to carry out a diligent watering and care regimen
    for the plant and still watch it die right before our eyes. Of course some people
    do get lucky and have no problems with the heavy clay soils but I know I will not
    take that risk again.

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