Maple tree not doing well

by Catherine

We bought a maple tree a couple years ago and planted it about 5ft. from the sugar gum tree we had taken down due to ants.

We treated for the ants and planted the new maple. It did well the first year but second year a deer got to the tree trunk and rubbed off a bunch of the bark.

I covered it for a year thinking to protect it. I took the cover off last summer and this spring it just doesn't look very healthy.

It has buds but it hasn't grown much at all. It is on a hill but it's been raining a lot this spring.

I'm either thinking drainage or the trunk being damaged as the problem. Any ideas on how to help it?

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Catherine, sorry to hear your maple tree isn't doing as well as expected.

Unfortunately, you have no control over how the tree was treated prior to your purchase, so it could be that mistreatment is catching up to it.

I've found that getting trees on sale is really not worth it to the average homeowner, as what you may get is a totally rootbound plant.

This happens when the tree is planted in a pot in which it grows happily for the first few months, but then the roots encircle the bottom of the pot, eventually strangling themselves.

The only solution to this is radical surgery before you plant it.

If you bought this tree in good faith, and with any kind of guarantee, maybe the supplier will be good enough to replace it.

This may be a non starter as you bought the tree more than one year ago but it's worth a try.

If you're totally set on trying to revive the tree yourself, I would carefully dig it up and have a look at the roots.

If they're tangled up and still in the shape of the pot, this is the issue. Carefully cut some of the bigger roots and straighten some of them out so they can grow without strangling any further.

Other than that, I doubt if a little bit of bark missing from a deer will affect it - plants have the ability to contain damage and grow around it.

As long as there is still some bark, it will heal itself without any trouble, so you don't need to do anything (unless, of course, a whole branch is damage, in which case you have to prune it off).

If you don't feel qualified to take these steps, find an arborist who will charge you an arm and probably a leg to come and have a look.

A cheaper option is to replace the tree with a healthy one, making sure you prepare the planting hole with some organic matter, and dig it in a much bigger circle than the original pot size, and make sure it isn't rootbound.


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