How To Save A Dying Maple Tree?

Maple trees, with the scientific name Acer, are native to Asia and also cultivated in Europe, Africa and North America. They comprise roughly 132 species, and have distinctive winged fruits, palmate leaves and striking leaf colors during the autumn season. These ornamental trees are often planted along streets, in parks and on lawns. However, like most trees, they are also prone to problems and diseases that could endanger their lives. 

How to save a dying maple tree

Determine the cause of the problem 

If you have ascertained that your maple tree is dying, it is essential to identify the cause of the problem. Your tree could be dying due to watering issues; check whether the leaves are drooping or dying. If you notice that the tree is producing smaller leaves, it is usually a cause for alarm. 

Your maple tree could also be manifesting abnormal leaf discoloration, slow growth or scorched leaves due to lack of nutrients or excessive fertilizers. Too much mulch could be harming the roots, resulting in the presence of pests or fungi. You may have to seek the help of an arborist to accurately pinpoint the problem. 

Alter your watering schedule 

If you have determined that the cause of the problem might be underwatering or overwatering, try to change your watering schedule. Younger trees, and even older, more mature trees, can be very fickle about their watering preferences. Overwatering can cause root rot and suffocation, so make sure you have a good drainage system. You may also opt for modern solutions like automatic water pumps or drip irrigation.

Try adjusting your fertilizer use 

Fertilizers are important for trees since they provide nutrients and facilitate photosynthesis which speeds up the trees’ growth. Which ones to apply can be determined by taking soil samples. However, trees can only absorb a certain amount of nutrients, and overfertilization could be fatal.  

Excessive nutrients can affect the natural physiological processes of trees. Overfertilization can also damage the trees’ cells. 

Prune the dying tree

Eliminate any ailing parts of the tree, like dry or dying branches and leaves, by pruning them off. This could prevent the spread of disease to other parts of your tree. Pruning also promotes aeration to bring about quick healing and encourage new plant growth. It also makes the trees aesthetically pleasing, but take care not to damage the healthy parts. 

The best time to prune your sickly tree is at the end of winter or at the beginning of spring when it is starting to bloom. Maple tree suckers also compete for nutrients. Prune the shoots by scraping the soil to expose the suckers’ base. Cut off the base of the shoot carefully so as not to damage the roots of the mother tree.

Provide mulch for the tree 

Mulching is essential to conserve water for the tree and to control soil moisture content. However, you should only not apply more than necessary, as too much could suffocate the tree. Mulch can also encourage the presence of pests, fungi and diseases. Apply fungicides and pesticides to safeguard your trees. 

Control pests and diseases 

Your maple trees could be dying because of pests or diseases.  Consult a tree professional to identify the problem so that the necessary measures can be taken.

Symptoms of a dying maple tree

  • Abnormal or excessive shedding of leaves. 
  • Changes in leaf color or the appearance of mixed color spots on leaf veins. 
  • Changes in bark color from gray and brown to a dull green color, indicating decay. 
  • Branches dropping off. 
  • Flowers falling off before pollination or failing to produce seeds.
  • New shoots drying up. 
  • Cracks on the tree trunk. 
  • Dry, brittle and weak wood. 

Maple trees, like most plants, can become stressed for various reasons and may end up sick or even dying. Those trees that live in the city are more exposed to water and air pollution that can strip their energy levels. Salt in the road, nutritional imbalances and long drought periods can also cause maple trees to become sickly and die. 


Maple trees add aesthetic beauty to lawn areas, parks and alongside streets because of their striking colors during autumn. Like most trees, they can be prone to diseases and other issues causing them to become sickly. Leaf color changes and abnormalities in the trunks and branches are just some of the obvious symptoms. Make sure to identify the causes, act on the problem at once or better yet, consult tree professionals to receive proper assistance in addressing the problems.

Image: / Dmitry Potashkin