New Foliage on Japanese Maples

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The weather is moderating somewhat, the days are shorter, and with a little moisture some of my Japanese maples are putting on new growth. Seen against the dull, tired foliage of last spring, this new foliage is brilliant, like the first foliage of last March and April.
This tender, new foliage responds to hot, dry weather and relentless sunshine just like a newborn baby at the beach: it sunburns. The maples will just keep trying. New leaves, followed by crisping and dropping of those new leaves. Not to worry. These are tough trees. If this new growth is not sufficiently mature (hardened off, in plant geek speak), then it will die back this winter. Next spring, after foliation, you will have to remove those dead stems (or not).
Don’t make the mistake of pruning off this foliage at this time of year. Your pruning cuts will only stimulate the tree to produce even more of this tender new growth. With Japanese maples, let your fall pruning be limited to removal of dead limbs. Any major pruning should be postponed until the new year.
Now, stand back and get ready to enjoy the spectacular fall foliage colors that make Japanese maples such great garden plants.

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Mike Rushing

Mike and Paula Rushing have been gardening in St. Clair county since 1990, and In Forest Park since 2007. A Jefferson County Master Gardener and course instructor at Master Gardening classes, Mike also volunteers weekly at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

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