Japanese Maples are Marvelous and Susceptible - Love Their Soil!

Updated: May 8, 2019

There's a fungal canker I'm seeing in Japanese maples located in highly alkaline clay soils which makes sense. They prefer natural, loamy soils. Give me a bad diet and watch my immune system decline; I can't say it often enough. At least, I can't for as long as we East TN tolerate poor soils being dumped in our beautiful new homes!

So, what you'll see in the pics below is a fungal endophyte (fungus that lives the majority if not all, of its life inside the plant host tissues). This fungus has 100s of species and readily hybridizes so I can't tell you the species name but if your geeky enough to want the genus - email me!


The fungus is Opportunistic as is true of many endophytes (this is what I studied throughout and after my PhD) - meaning, it becomes a pathogen when the hosts' defense system breaks down. Bad vitamins, bad nutrients = compromised immune system.


This fungus does not respond to ANY fungicides currently on the market. If someone tells you they can treat with a fungicide they either 1) don't know what they are talking about or 2) they want your money more than the trees' survival. I'm blunt because it makes me angry enough to spit nails when I hear about this kind of treatment.

Anyway, you can slow the growth of the fungus by treating the soils; lower the pH, break-up the 'plasticity' and 'density' of the clay soil. I have a recipe for this I will not share freely. The treatment takes about a year to show effect at the soil level and depending the beginning conditions the availability of nutrients will start to improve in ~3 months. These estimates are based on the data I've been taking from a few homes I am treating presently.


The fungus infects the heart tissue and slows the uptake and transport of water and nutrients. A light layer of mulch, preferably pine needles with a low nutrient fertilizer (5-5-0 for example) is something the plant-owner can do. Application of the low dose fertilizer should be early spring when the plant is budding and early summer. That's it.


Precision and STERILE pruning methods must be used. That means cleaning cutting instruments after every cut. This avoids spreading the disease. Precision pruning to ensure optimal architectural strength and reduce wounding, is also key.


Got questions? Contact me. Find a typo' (bc I am always writing these with too little time on hand), please be kind and let me know. BTW, the full-plant pic is prior to pruning and if you can enlarge - note the multiple dead tips.

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More INFO and DIY videos via youtube include:

1.  https://youtu.be/8BM1_9tkyso - Protecting Roots from Construction Damage

2.  https://youtu.be/lZGEstTCczI - Micronutrient Fertilization is Part of Total Plant Recovery

3.  Smart pest management means when, what, and how to apply insecticides to save pollinators!

https://youtu.be/iw1NXEdw0F0

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