Helping a Languishing Maple Tree


TheGardenLady received the following question from Jean.

I live in a condo-type community and some of my yard is maintained by the management company. There is a maple tree that was planted about 8 years ago. It’s the third one in that spot because the first two died. After eight years, it doesn’t look much different than it did when they planted it. Every year, it hobbles along and the leaves turn before the surrounding trees, and fall off sooner. The bed it is planted in is sort of a high mound. It is watered with a sprinkle type irrigation system every few days. I haven’t fertilized it, and I’m not sure if the landscape company does. But I’m sure they treat it the same as everyone else’s trees. The other ones grow, and mine doesn’t. Do you have any suggestions?

You asked for some suggestions about the maple tree that does not look like it is thriving. I will give a few suggestions since it is difficult to give an accurate diagnosis without seeing the tree or at least some good photos of the tree.

First you did not mention if you checked to see if the tree has any visible diseases or pests that could cause problems. Maple trees, though hardy, do have some disease and pest problems. Check the tree carefully to see if you notice any problems. Some things to look for are on this website. I always recommend that you take some tree samples and photos to your nearest Master Gardener office or your state agricultural extension office for a diagnosis.

The second thing is to see if any roots are showing. See if these roots are girdling the tree and strangling it. Sometimes if the tree is not planted properly or was not maintained properly in the nursery girdling can be a problem. Check the bottom of the trunk of the tree to see if this is the problem with your tree. To know what to look for, read this article on girdling and follow the suggestions to help remove  the girdling.

If the above are not the problems, you might need to check to see if the soil is lacking any nutrients. Have the soil tested. You can take a soil test where the tree is planted. You can purchase soil tests at many garden supply centers or at your Master Gardener office or state extension office. The soil kit bought at an office will tell you how to gather the soil and the results will be sent to you, plus if you need help understanding the results someone at the office can explain what to do. If you buy your own soil kit you will have to go online to find out the soil requirements for a maple tree when you do the test yourself.

You could also try feeding the tree and giving it more water. There are many fertilizers to spread near trees to help them. (see here) Read the package label to see if it is good for maple trees.

Finally, because the community condo probably hired the firm to plant the tree, ask to see if their company has a certified arborist who will come  to look at the tree to see if he/she can diagnose the problem. If they do not have a certified arborist, call a tree company that has a certified tree arborist to see if they will come to diagnose the problem and suggest the remedy needed. I would only trust a certified arborist because they are trained to be knowledgeable about tree problems. You can find them listed in your area on line. Often the first visit is free to private home owners. I do not know the policy of companies that go to condos. You might have to ask your association if they are willing to pay for someone to come out to help the tree.

Some of the problems that you cannot see may be that the tree was planted improperly. For example, it might have been planted in an area that does not allow the tree root to expand. Or the soil in the area where that one tree was planted might have poor drainage. An arborist might be able to see this when he looks at your poorly growing tree.

I hope these suggestions are things that will help your tree grow into a healthy specimen. Good luck.

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