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Young japanese maple bending over when leaves are wet

Posted by chisey TN (My Page) on
Mon, Apr 29, 13 at 8:43

Good morning. I don't have a picture of this but my young Bloodgood (planted in Fall 2011 at about 18" tall; now about 4.5 feet tall, trunk diameter an inch at the most) bends over under the weight of its foliage when it rains. Now that it has dried off, it still seems to be bending over but I'll see what happens after a day of sunshine.

It's almost like the little guy just has too many leaves in its canopy for its own good. Most of the growth in the top of the tree is new (last ~year) and hasn't hardened to the point of being stiff, but there are so many leaves that it seems like it can't stay upright. I didn't think it was a problem until the several inches of rain we've had in the last few days really weighed it down and bent it over. The top, ordinarily about 4.5 feet off the ground, bends over to about 2-3 feet off the ground.

Should I do something to support this tree? The way it's bending it will have a significant curve toward the mailbox if it stays this way. I don't want to stake it if I don't have to, and I don't want to remove foliage, but I'm concerned that I need to do something.

I can post pictures of what it looks like this evening if that will help . . . hopefully when I get home it'll be more upright anyway.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Young japanese maple bending over when leaves are wet

yes it needs to be staked ...

need the pic to tell you how ...

what did you throw in the hole to make it grow 3 feet in one season???

you are probably going to need an 8 foot steel pole plastic covered.. and put it down straight thru the root mass .. right next to the tree.. and tie is up ...

this is s splinting job.. not stakes and guy wires ...


RE: Young japanese maple bending over when leaves are wet

That's what I suspected. I think when you see the picture it will confirm your suggestion.

I didn't realize how much it had grown until I remembered that we had taken a before pic when I planted it in Fall 2011, and when I was squatting it didn't come up to my knee (I'm 6 feet tall). So we took a pic in Fall 2012 with me in the same position, and it was above my head. It seems to have grown some since then even.

I didn't amend the planting hole in any way. The only additional nutrients it gets are when I fertilize the lawn, which I do from a soil-up standpoint: the pseudo-organic approach of milorganite and feed grains such as soybean meal (feed the microbes and let them feed the plants). It gets some bonus irrigation from the lawn sprinkler nearest it, though I didn't irrigate that much last summer.

What should I tie to the pole with? I don't want to hurt the tender new growth. Is this a situation for strips of plastic grocery bag or something similar?

RE: Young japanese maple bending over when leaves are wet

A stake should be about 8 inches away from the trunk, then the tree secured loosely so that it can sway in the breeze.

This pub from NCSU illustrates 3 different methods for transplanted trees. System is the same for recently planted.

Here is a link that might be useful: stake a tree

RE: Young japanese maple bending over when leaves are wet

The tree only leans one way (wind cause it to sway, but not to bend over and stay there), and I think it's because of the way the foliage is growing. There's more on one side because both of the biggest "leaders" are going that direction. So I guess I really only need one stake on the opposite side to keep it from bending over, and only until the wood hardens enough to give it more rigidity. I'll post pics tonight or tomorrow morning to get confirmation on how I should stake it.

Thanks all.

RE: Young japanese maple bending over when leaves are wet

i knew jean or someone would suggest such ...

but check out the link ...

there is no way.. in MY EXPERIENCE .... to attach it any inches away ...

get long stake.. insert in ground .. a few feet.. use some of your 6 foot panty hose like at the link ...

i really would like to see a picture.. i am thinking topping this thing.. might be an option ...

do you have any height goals on this thing .. an integrated long term plan might help you .. e.g. if you want it only 10 feet tall ... i dont see a reason not to reduce its height.. and start it branching lower ... for architectural interest ...

i am still baffled by that growth rate ... is this a named variety???? .. are you sure its a JM ??? .. this growth rate reminds me of why i hate most other maples ....

BTW .. there is no true bloodgood ... they were seed grown for some many generations.. its hard to predict what yours will even do ... but on thing for sure.. is aint gunna be no small specimen.. lol ... i hope you planted it in a site that will allow for its size potential ... because it will only grow faster.. not slow down [unless it was hyper-fertilized in the pot just before sale ...]


Here is a link that might be useful: link

RE: Young japanese maple bending over when leaves are wet


Here's a pic before I staked it:

This is it almost exactly a year ago from pretty close to the same camera angle but much closer up (you can tell how much the foliage has increased by the sheer # of leaves):

There are two main leaders at this point, both suffering from the same top-heavy problem and leaning in the same direction. So I used two 6' plastic stakes about 2 feet away and twine+velcro straps to pull them upright and slightly separate them. How long do you think I should expect to leave it staked? I'd rather not do it for long if I can help it . . . just long enough for the branches to strengthen. It didn't have this problem last year but I'd say it has >3 times the foliage now.

It's definitely a JM but I can't guarantee how true to bloodgood it will be. It grew up under a mature bloodgood at my dad's house, presumably from seed? Either way I'm expecting it to be large for a JM . . . its parent tree is probably 15' high with an 8-10" trunk, and is at least 15-20 years old. This one is in a spot where that size would be fine, so I'm not worried about its growth potential . . . I just don't want abnormally fast growth to keep it from being the beautiful tree it has the potential to be.

Thanks again.

RE: Young japanese maple bending over when leaves are wet

ok ...that is nothing like i pictured ..

that is normal growth.. in a NORMAL JM shape ...

ignore it.. and prune for structure later in the year ... i would not have staked it .. trees are supposed to blow in the wind ...

and i would prune heavily.. for the branch arching toward the road ... no hurry.. but that is going ot be a problem.. soon enough ...

take a pic.. and come back when the tree is bare ... and we can offer some pruning advice ...

and try snapping pix closer toward dusk .... or on cloudy days.. to avoid the washout ...

just dont love this thing to death ... its a maple ... near weed ... and you better hope your lawn sprayer is a master..


ps: what possessed you to pic one of many.. with two 90 degree bends in the trunk .. lol ..

RE: Young japanese maple bending over when leaves are wet


It's not growing toward the road. It's bending toward the road under the weight of its leaves. The wind didn't cause that bend-- rain did, and it didn't perk back up (though that's actually about 10-12" more straight than it was when wet). I actually did post for pruning advice before it leafed out, but for some reason GW keeps changing my HTML and my old image posts don't show properly anymore. Here's a pic:

You can see that one of the top branches is growing toward the road but for the most part it is upright. Or at least it was until the leaves weighed it down.

So for argument's sake let's just say I want it to grow upright and not at a 45 degree angle toward the mailbox. A stake is necessary, no? Otherwise the weight is going to keep it going that way and will eventually dictate a permanent lean.

I'm not getting your comment about lawn sprayers . . .

As to the corkscrew in the trunk, that's part of the reason I chose it. I asked in a previous post if anyone thought it would pose a problem but never got feedback on that question.

RE: Young japanese maple bending over when leaves are wet

Japanese Maples aren't normally straight trunked trees. They are usually crooked in one way or another. Very often (I'd say "usually") they have multiple trunks.

These aren't "normal" overstory trees; they are understory trees (trees which normally grow deep in the forest, underneath the main canopy) and tend to grow like that, even when they are out in the open.

What you want is to force it to grow in a fashion which is essentially unnatural for it. You *can* but just realize you are going against the grain here.

RE: Young japanese maple bending over when leaves are wet

As far as ken's "lawn sprayer" comment, he hates maples and considers them undesirable in general ;)

RE: Young japanese maple bending over when leaves are wet

Thanks for the feedback you provided to Chisey. I think I've got the version of this that you all imagined based on their description.

I had the tree staked last year and it proved helpful but it continued to grow at a very rapid rate all the way through fall.

For those of you who are curious. The tree had been in a smaller pot for 5 years. We then transplanted it into a large 4'x4' planter box over the placenta from our recently born child. It took off in it's second year. I suspect the roots found the new soil as well as the top soil under the box.

RE: Young japanese maple bending over when leaves are wet

In my personal opinion as a grower of Japanese maples, the tree in question needs no staking. As mentioned, a less than arrow-straight, vertical growth habit is common, if not typical. Nor is an evenly rounded canopy. That is one of the characteristics of JM's that makes them so appealing - they are sculptural in their growth.

I see no indication of a 45 degree angle in any of the photos. Just a bit of directional growth habit, which again is part of the character of the tree and deserving of encouragement rather than artificial manipulation. This is still a very young tree after all and with that crook so low on the trunk, you are never going to realize a very determinedly upright growth habit. Go with the flow!

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