How to Care for Japanese Maple Trees in Freezing Temperatures

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A healthy Japanese maple has highly ornamental foliage.
A healthy Japanese maple has highly ornamental foliage. (Image: Japanese maple image by Horticulture from Fotolia.com)

Japanese maples provide an attractive small tree to the home landscape. Depending on the variety, foliage color ranges from green to deep purple. Some varieties produce variegated foliage of several colors. In fall, the Japanese becomes an impressive ornamental as the foliage color changes. Japanese maples grow well in most areas but are prone to frost damage in areas with cold winters. While the damage is rarely fatal, such cold can ruin the tree's appearance if steps aren't taken to protect it.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning saw
  • Burlap
  • Stakes

Water the tree regularly in fall until the ground begins to freeze. Drying winter winds dehydrate the maple tree, so ensure the tree is not drought-stressed going into the cold months.

Inspect the canopy of the Japanese maple for dead or damaged branches. Prune these out of the tree before winter. A heavy snow load or wind will break off these branches, which can damage nearby branches or cause the trunk to split.

Wrap young maples, one to three years old, with burlap or a commercial tree wrap once the tree has entered winter dormancy. Tree wraps prevent wind damage to young trees and also preventing drying.

Erect a windscreen around mature maples. Place a 5-foot stake in the ground on three sides of the tree. Wrap the burlap around the stakes and secure it in place. The burlap prevents wind dessication and some wind damage on the maple.

Remove broken branches in spring before the maple comes out of dormancy. Canker fungi attack winter-damaged maples in spring, so removing damaged areas helps prevent disease.

Tips & Warnings

  • Plant maples in areas where other trees or buildings provide a windbreak against winter winds.
  • Anti-desiccate sprays are available for trees to help prevent winter drying.

References

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