Gardening Q&A: How can I bring my Japanese maple tree back to life?

The experts at the RHS answer your gardening questions...
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Question:  Can you please help with a problem we have with an acer, a Japanese maple? My wife was given one as a leaving present when she retired from her job as a teaching assistant in 2003. The acer is in a pot. Half the leaves are green and the other half a reddish colour. This year, the edges have turned brown in at least half of the leaves. They have also started to curl up. The plant has sentimental value for my wife and she would hate to lose it.

Answer: When leaves turn reddish out of the autumn season, the plant is showing stress. The most likely reason is that the container dried out during summer. Check to see if next year's buds are there, all ready and waiting to burst into life, and in April, repot the acer into fresh ericaceous John Innes compost. If the plant is already in the largest container you can manage, cut away up to one fifth of the roots, and repot back into the same container. The leaf edges turning brown are again, a symptom of dry compost. During the growing season, it's a good idea to check the compost every day to feel whether it's moist, and when watering, keep going until the water comes out of the bottom of the container.

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