Q: I have a twelve-year old Japanese maple, which has branches that umbrella into a five foot diameter canopy. There is new growth on only twenty five percent of the branches. What would you recommend now for this beautiful tree?
A: Wait until early May to see what sprouts. Branches that have no leaves can be pruned back at this time to good wood. Since stressed Japanese maples are susceptible to sunscald on the trunk, pruning expert Norm Mittleider suggests making a frame of wooden stakes to support an old bedsheet or shade cloth over the tree while it regrows its protective leaf canopy. This will take time, perhaps as long as three years. You may have to decide whether it’s best to keep it or replace it.