The Japanese maple is becoming increasingly popular in the local latitudes. The decorative tree loses its leaves in autumn, but what are the causes if this should also be the case during the vegetation phase? If the leaves suddenly curl, turn yellow or dry, and then fall off completely, it is usually due to pest infestation, improper care, or disease.

Drought damage

If the tips of the leaves initially turn brown, then the whole leaf dries out and falls off, this may be due to dryness. The Japanese maple has not been adequately poured. This should be remedied immediately and the plant should be given enough water. You should proceed as follows:

  • Immerse the bucket in a water bath
  • until no more bubbles form
  • alternatively, water the plant well
  • then allow to drain
  • this avoids waterlogging

In the following years, the maple is poured again regularly. Then it sprouts again, new leaves will appear again by next spring at the latest. However, if the shoots and branches have already dried up, then these must be removed. If the trunk is already affected, the Japanese maple can no longer be saved.

Tip: Brown leaf margins can also indicate waterlogging, so do not water immediately when the first leaves change color but first check the soil for any dryness.


Waterlogging can be very damaging to the Japanese maple. Because if it is too wet for too long, root rot occurs and the plant can no longer be saved if it is pronounced rot. If it is recognized that waterlogging is involved, action must be taken immediately. In the event of waterlogging, proceed as follows:

  • Take the plant out of the bucket
  • remove all soil from the root ball
  • Cut off roots affected by rot
  • use sharp and disinfected scissors for this
  • Let the root ball dry well
  • then plant in new substrate
  • Create drainage against further waterlogging
  • for this purpose gravel or potsherds over the drainage hole
  • then plant fleece
  • only then fill in the soil

Subsequently administer moderate amounts of water and avoid further waterlogging. After each pouring process, drain the saucer after about half an hour if water has collected here.

Soil condition

If the substrate lacks the properties that the Japanese maple wants, then the plant willingly acknowledges this with brown leaf tips and later leaf shedding. So the earth can be compacted. However, the Japanese maple needs a permeable and fresh soil in order to thrive and to absorb the necessary nutrients via the roots. If the earth is compacted, then the following should be done:

  • Take the plant out of the bucket
  • remove all soil from the root ball
  • Fill new substrate into tubs
  • Mix earth with sand and peat
  • Plant the maple again
  • fertilize with a regenerative preparation
Tip: Dense soil and waterlogging often go hand in hand. Because in a compacted soil the water accumulates faster.

Inappropriate location

A wrong location also makes the leaves more likely to curl. One of the reasons why the leaves of the maple tree react is that the plant receives too much sun. A warm, bright and sunny location is desired, but the maple cannot tolerate the blazing midday sun in summer. Burn the tender leaves. So the location for the Japanese maple should look like this:

  • sunny
  • Avoid blazing midday sun
  • ideal east or west balcony
  • covered terrace
Tip: If the bucket is placed on a stand with wheels, it can be moved on the terrace or a large balcony as required. If the midday sun shines very strongly in summer, the pot is simply moved to a shady place for this time.

Too little space

If the Japanese maple has outgrown its pot, the tub no longer offers enough space for the roots, then the plant also reacts here by shedding the leaves. This can be remedied quickly by choosing a larger bucket into which the Japanese maple is repotted. Drainage over the drainage hole and fresh substrate are also important. The reasons for this are that the roots can no longer absorb enough nutrients in a tight pot.


If there is a strong infestation of aphids, scale insects and spider mites, the Japanese maple also quickly loses its leaves, because many insects suck out the tender leaves. If the pests are found on the plant, then it should be washed off well. Spraying soapy water also helps against the annoying insects. If the infestation is very advanced, insecticides should be used.


A fungal disease called Verticillium wilt is widespread among the Japanese maples. Here, too, there are brown corners on the leaves, which also pucker at the corners. Verticillium wilt can be recognized primarily by the fact that not all of the leaves are affected over a large area, but only one or two branches at a time. Plants that are weakened due to waterlogging or compacted soil are attacked by the fungus. If this is recognized, the following action must be taken immediately:

  • remove all affected branches
  • do not add to the compost
  • from here the fungus spreads throughout the garden
  • Dispose of in a well-sealed bag with the residual waste
  • Disinfect cutting tools well after use
  • Close the wound against fungi with tree wax
  • Repot the maple
  • use new substrate
  • provide strengthening nutrients
Tip: Using fungicides is not worthwhile, as the fungus is well protected in the maple wood and cannot be reached by the chemical agents. Therefore, all affected branches must be removed. If the entire shrub has been damaged, the only thing left to do here is to remove it completely.

If the Japanese maple is properly cared for, leaves can be prevented from falling off during the growing season. Watering, the nature of the soil and the location in particular are often the causes of leaves shedding on the plant. If mistakes are made here in the care, then the roots cannot properly absorb the required nutrients, the Japanese maple is weakened and is then also more susceptible to diseases and pests such as the severely damaging fungus, the Verticillium wilt.

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