I went ahead and sawed it off two days ago and removed some other small stems that were dead. Pruning Japanese maples at the incorrect time can cause major damage or possibly even kill the tree. The best way to prune Japanese maples (Acer palmatum and Acer japonica) is to prune as little as possible. This improves the airflow and the amount of sunlight the tree gets during the day. Begin training the tree when it is two or three years old. This was not normal die-back. While the average tree can handle light pruning, all cuts wound a plant. My red Japanese maple is about five years old and has always done beautifully without any fuss. Japanese maples crave sunlight on all of their parts, which is an excellent key to pruning. History of the Japanese Maple. ( not an issue this time of year). Prune the branches back to the living tissue, where you see new growth coming from the branch. Should I cut the tree down to just above where the leaves are? Remove branches that intrude into the layers above and below them. For those who might be a little nervous, getting inside and pruning out the dead branches is a great place to start. Get complete site access to decades of expert advice, regional content, and more, plus the print magazine. Keep in mind that when pruning a Japanese maple to prune with restraint. The final step is to evenly thin the branches. Cut branches a half inch out from the trunk to avoid damaging the trunk's bark while it's in a weakened state. Laceleaf-maple pruning is often called “shell pruning” because, when done correctly, the top layer of branches forms a protective veil of foliage over the plant that resembles a shell. Pruning cannot change the essential character of these trees. The first thing to trim is the old, dead, and sick branches. Japanese maples graft branches beautifully, forming circles and shapes a single branch cannot achieve. Chances are the tree will survive but it will take time to fill back in if those branches are dead. The question I get most often is where do I start. Because the bottom of the tree is very cool, the branches inside are more likely to rot. My best advice is to leave the tree alone for as long as possible. Deadwood is all brittle branches and dead twigs that no longer develop foliage. Before cutting a branch, see where it goes. Because the bones of this tree are important to its overall beauty, you’ll want to keep many of the unique, twisting branches intact. ... it can still spread to your Japanese maple on your pruning tools. To avoid causing stress or stimulating unsightly growth, never remove more than one-fifth of a Japanese maple’s crown; you should also not prune a branch that is more than half the diameter of the parent stem. Never make one cut directly above the other or opposite another limb being pruned off in the same year. You would prune the upright Japanese maple as you would a regular maple trees during mid-summer or during the fully dormant stage in the winter just before the sap starts to flow. Branches over 3/4 inch in diameter might require lopper pruners (long handled pruners). Other than formative pruning for those Acers which go on to make large shrubs or trees, the Acers and Japanese Maples in particular are best left alone. Also evaluate the tree for branches that cross each other, rub together, or any branches that just appear weak. Other than formative pruning for those Acers which go on to make large shrubs or trees, the Acers and Japanese Maples in particular are best left alone. Are you sure you want to delete your notes for this recipe? Removing foliage will expose the tree’s thin, previously shaded bark to the light, inviting sunscald. The tree is well-established with about a 5-6" diameter trunk. 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