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How to Save a Dying Maple Tree (In 7 Simple Steps)

How to Save a Dying Maple Tree (In 7 Simple Steps)

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The maple tree is a magnificent feature in any garden. They are easily identified by the brightly colored flowers in spring and autumn display of magnificently colored leaves that brighten up the landscape.

Maples are also synonymous with their whirlybird or helicopter-type seeds that spiral their way down to the ground as they drop from the tree. Maple trees have long lifespans, up three hundred years, so saving one of these legends is well worth the effort.

Save a dying maple tree by exploring the following seven factors:

  1. Determining what is causing the maple tree to die, do a pre-biopsy.
  2. Water supply and quality
  3. Fertilizer application
  4. Soil rejuvenation by mulching
  5. Pest and disease control
  6. Pruning
  7. Environmental factors

Around one hundred and thirty-two species of maples exist currently, with just over 50 of these being critically endangered. Maple trees are found mostly in Asia and found in North Africa, Europe, and North America.

If your maple tree is no longer thriving and you are concerned, there are some steps you can take to revive the tree so that it remains a beautiful feature for generations to come.

Seven Steps to Save Your Dying Maple Tree

Your tree may be dying due to disease, pests, human error, poor soil, or even environmental issues. By being aware of the signs of ill health in your tree and acting quickly, you can save your maple tree.

1 – Determine the Cause By Doing A Pre-Biopsy

The most effective way of determining what is causing a maple tree to die is to collect samples from the tree. This process may even include using drill needles that collect samples from deeper within the tree’s stem. Samples should be taken using extreme care so as not to cause more harm to the weak tree.

Laboratories exist in most major centers that specialize in wood and specific diseases found in trees. The labs will tell you if the tree’s decline is disease-related and assist in remedying the situation.

2 – Water Supply And Quality

All living creatures and plants need water to survive. Maple trees are no different. The watering habits of the tree may have been changed from what the tree is accustomed to and caused it to appear ill.

Too much water can often be as bad as too little for the maple trees. For example, an old tree in the yard that has survived perfectly for decades may not appreciate a new well-intended irrigation supply that delivers extra water. Excessive moisture in the soil can cause the roots of non-aquatic plants’ to decay, harming the tree.

Water quality also plays a large part in the health of maple trees. Trees accustomed to not being watered apart from rain may not cope with greywater containing detergents and household chemicals.

It is important to check that the water your dying tree receives is coming only from pure sources. If you correct this situation quickly, the maple should recover if there aren’t too many pollutants left in the soil surrounding the tree.

3 – Fertilizer Application

Fertilizer should be applied to plants and especially maple trees, precisely as recommended for the product. Incorrect application can burn the plant or tree and cause more damage than good. In addition, only nitrogen-rich slow-release fertilizers should be used on maple trees.

If you have recently fertilized your maple tree and notice that the foliage starts yellowing or wilting, go back and check that it was the correct type and given in the correct amount.

If you have given too much fertilizer, act quickly:

  • Try to ‘flush out’ as much of the fertilizer as possible by watering. Wash the entire tree and especially around the base of the tree. Saturate the soil so that the fertilizer will dilute as much as possible.
  • Remove any badly affected leaves that you can. There may be concentrations of fertilizer in some of the leaves, so removing them may be helpful.
  • Cover the base of the plant with a thick layer of organic mulch. You can use composted lawn cuttings or leaves.
  • Water again over the layer of mulch that you have laid down.

4 – Soil Rejuvenation By Mulching

Mulch is a protective layer, normally plant material, covering the soil around the tree’s base. Mulching protects the soil from harsh sunlight, assists in reducing evaporation, soil erosion, and assists in reducing the growth of weeds around the tree. Some organic mulches contain slow-release nutrients that encourage tree growth.

Mulch can take various forms depending on your needs. Mulch can be organic or non-organic; examples are dead plant material such as grass clippings, bark and wood shavings, pebbles, or even plastic sheeting.

All offer protection for the Maple trees root system, lock in moisture, and prevent or stunt weed infestation. Organic matter used as mulch is preferable as plastics can break down over time and cause unnecessary soil pollution.

5 – Pest And Disease Control

Maple trees, like all trees, are under constant threat by pests and disease, some of which can cause the tree to look unsightly or cause the maple tree to die.

Some common maple tree diseases and pests are as follows:

  • Verticillium wilt (Maple fungus)
  • Root rot
  • Gall Mites
  • Cankerworms
  • Aphids
  • Cotton scale
  • Petiole borers
  • Leafhoppers
  • Boxelder bugs

The correct identification of the pest or disease causing your maple tree to die is the key. Once you have identified a pest that is killing your tree, there are very specific pesticides available at your local plant store that will soon have your maple tree springing back to life, even if it was near death. Use this handy pest identification site to see if any of these are the culprits killing your maple tree.

If you suspect that disease is affecting your tree, you should take a sample in a well-sealed plastic bag to an expert at your local plant store. Some very helpful websites provide detailed photos of diseases that could be affecting your maple tree.

6 – Pruning

Pruning a dying maple tree may be beneficial by reducing the load and demand for nutrition and water required by the tree as a whole. Focus your efforts on branches showing signs of dying, disease, or patchy growth. Some healthy branches can also be removed to improve how the tree looks after removing the problem branches.

When pruning young maple trees, the very low branches can be removed to raise the tree’s canopy. Small branches that either grow in clumps on the stem or rub against one another can be removed. Cut unwanted branches as close to the stem as possible. Even with young trees, up to about five years of age, pruning will encourage growth even if the tree looks like it’s dying.

Large trees are, of course, tall. Caution must therefore be taken to prevent injury. In most instances, enlisting professional help is advised to avoid damage or injury resulting from falling branches.

7 – Environmental Influences

Environmental factors such as extreme cold, extreme heat, groundwater drying up, or acid rain can devastate maple trees.

In most instances, weather-related damage to the tree can be managed, and although the tree may look like it’s dying, the damage may only be superficial. In the worst-case scenario, you would have to wait until spring for the tree to produce leaves in its full splendor once more.

Factors such as groundwater drying up will require intervention in terms of artificial irrigation.

Acid rain is a problem spreading worldwide and needs to be addressed by the right people globally and is not a quick fix.

Soil quality has a direct influence on the health of your maple tree. In built-up or developing areas, using a retaining wall or even the foundation of a wall may restrict the tree’s growth. By regularly adding nourishing fertilizer to the tree’s base, you will be able to make up for poor soil quality.

In some instances, a tree may have been planted in very hard soil where an artificial hole was made in which to plant the tree. Over time, often years, the tree roots have filled this pocket of soil and are having a hard time growing out of this “enclosure.”

As the tree continues growing, the roots can no longer support the tree in terms of nutrition, causing the tree to starve. If this is the problem with your tree, you will have no option except to relocate the tree or free up the root system by removing the blockage. Once the roots can spread out further, your tree will begin to recover steadily.

Final Thoughts

Like humans, maple trees rely on sufficient sustenance and a healthy environment to support good health and sustain life. Early and correct diagnosis of the reason why causing your maple tree is dying is the key to success.

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