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Steve Nix

Why Does My Red Japanese Maple have Green Leaves?

By May 19, 2008

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I have a Japanese Maple Tree purchased from a nursery and planted two years ago. I believe it to be an Acer palmatum. My concern is that all of the new growth of this tree is green instead of the red variety I purchased. The tree is located in a shady area and receives the benefit of normal rainfall and/or weekly watering, as necessary. Why does my tree have green leaves? - Larry

Hi Larry,

All true Japanese maples are variants of Acer palmatum. You have purchased a great tree but may have managed it incorrectly - hopefully not beyond recovery. Japanese Maples come in several leaf colors and forms. The easiest trees to propagate are the green-leaved varieties. So nurseries grow green root stock and graft red-leaved stock off that root.

You have allowed the green stock tree (which will sucker from below the graft) to become the dominant foliage. Your photo shows a classic example of this.

Manage only the foliage above the graft line (if you have any left) and remove all green sprouts below. The tree's symmetry may be upset for a while. Japanese maple is a slow grower and you must give it time to develop its natural form. Heavy pruning is not necessary nor recommended.

Japanese Maple With Green and Red Leaves - Photo by Larry

Comments

June 1, 2007 at 4:35 pm
(1) Robin says:

My tree looks just like Larry’s! Can you explain exactly what you mean by “remove all green sprouts,” for those of us who are illiterate in Forestry lingo?

April 7, 2008 at 12:39 am
(2) robert says:

It is called reversion.You need to remove all green branches and limbs. It is dominant if allowed to take over the tree and it will be is originating parent Acer palnmatum subspecies palmatum which is green. Once it reverts it will not be red any longer.It will only be red in autumn.

May 25, 2008 at 6:09 pm
(3) jay matthew says:

my leaves on my red maple start out red but turn green how do i fix this

May 28, 2008 at 8:58 pm
(4) Garland says:

We bought a property with a red-to-green-back-red Japanese maple, which is now 10-12 inches through the trunk. It is at least 12 feet broad, and we can easily stand under its canopy. We have a small garden set under it. Good thing we like it, because there is no hope of changing it! I’ll be interested to see if those with younger trees are successful.

July 21, 2008 at 3:37 pm
(5) gail says:

Our japanese maple is 18 yrs old and I noticed the bark is coming off on 2 of the limbs. What is wrong?

August 10, 2008 at 12:55 pm
(6) Cathy says:

Hi,

I have a beautiful “red” Japanese maple. It starts with red leaves in the spring with lovely red winged fruit. As the season progresses, the leaves turn a rust red and then to brown/green. What can I do to keep my tree red as that is why we bought it?

Thank you!

October 25, 2008 at 5:34 pm
(7) William says:

I planted my Japanese Maple in April 08. It has developed little tiny holes in every leaf and the tips are turning brown. What can I do to save it?

May 10, 2009 at 1:33 pm
(8) Deb says:

Last summer I had a green leaf japanese maple planted. Now this spring, it has come in with RED leaves! I don’t like the red and will have it removed, but can you tell me why this happened? Is there anything I can do? My landscaper said he has never heard this happen before..

Thanks!

May 21, 2009 at 12:04 am
(9) Henry says:

Well,
There will probably not be many that read this but here is my 2cents. I bought a beautiful red Japanese maple in the summer of 07. The spring of 08 I had no growth/leaves. I asked the nursery where I bought it and they recommended and I treated it for “mealybugs”. It came back this year with a lot of growth. The leaves start off a brilliant red and then some of them are turning a reddish green, more red. I also moved it a month ago. It was in total shade with indirect sunlight under my patio cover. I still have it under my patio but it gets 4 hours or so of direct sun. It is a beautiful tree, I love it!

Henry

May 21, 2009 at 12:09 am
(10) Henry says:

William,

Your post was 4/08 so you will never see this but your problem was exactly what I had in 2008. It was mealybugs and there is an oil you can use to eliminate them. I used it 4 times in week intervals and my tree looked so much happier afterward.

Henry

June 9, 2009 at 9:38 pm
(11) Marcelo says:

I bought a japanese tree two years ago but never came with red leaves… only green. I was waiting to fall to see changes to the beautiful red or orange leaves with out succes.
Maybe this is a kind of Japanese maple with just green leaves?

Any recomendations..??

July 4, 2009 at 9:06 am
(12) Carrie says:

We just returned to our summer home where our gardner planted a red Japanese Maple two years ago. There is one large green new growth “shoot” coming up at an odd angle. Its “branch” is quite large–about 1.5 inches in diameter. Should we just whack that off? The rest of the tree is all red leaves, and looks healthy.

August 5, 2009 at 11:55 am
(13) David Parsons says:

I have a 20 year old red Japanese Maple and it used to stay red from spring till fall, but now it starts out red in the spring and by the middle of the summmer it is green. The leaves turn red in the fall and is very pretty. I have noticed in our neighborhood all the other red Japanese Maples do the same thing. I think the weather has a lot to do with this. Also, I have a new red Japanese Maple in the back garden, and it has turned from red to a rusty color now in August. I don’t know if it will eventually turn green or not. I suppose it is a throw back to it’s origin, the green Japanese maple.

August 11, 2009 at 10:50 pm
(14) Wade says:

For those with changing leaf color from red to green, start writing down the fertilizer that you use and keep a log. August fertilizer and sun has an effect on the leaf color and the ability to change colors in the fall. I fertilize only in the spring and early summer, Use nitrogen sparingly in the late summer & fall.

October 7, 2009 at 11:13 am
(15) trudy says:

I think Wade may be right.

My Japanese maple, red for a couple of decades, went through some stress this summer that caused it to only grow leaves in the ends of the branches. I called my good tree company in a panic, and teh fellow said physical stress and fertilized it really well.

It has seemed to recover, and has leaves all along the branches now, but green has become the dominant color. Certainly it is not the case that a bunch of new sucker branches grew .

I hope mine will return to red next year, but as long as it is healthy, red or green leaves are fine with me.

March 9, 2010 at 5:40 pm
(16) Mark Baldwin says:

Some Japanese Maples naturally fade to green in the summer especially if they are grown from seed. It all depends on the variety of the tree. “Bloodgood” will hold the red color while “atropurpurem” and “Oshio beni” will fade to a more green as the season progresses. There are hundreds of varieties and they all behave a little diffently.

April 11, 2010 at 9:20 am
(17) Georgene says:

I bought a red maple about 5 years ago. In it’s first fall my lab puppy chewed it to the ground. I thought it was gone. The following spring I had a small cluster of red leaves. The spring after I had 1 stick, about 3″ tall, and a few leaves. I transplanted it away from the dog area. The leaves in spring are now green, but not solid. New stem growth is red. It is planted in full sun. Should I alter the shape in summer-fall, or should I let it grow with 1 main trunk or whatever shape it takes?

May 5, 2010 at 9:09 am
(18) admin says:

Great Advice!

May 11, 2010 at 11:49 pm
(19) cotton says:

My Japanese Red Maple has been in my garden for 4 years and it has been beautiful red all this time. We had a late freeze last year and while it survived, its foilage was poor. It blossomed this spring and it is fantastic…but – its color is mroe coppery than it normal bright red. Is there something I can do? What happened?

June 9, 2010 at 3:49 pm
(20) Dana says:

Georgene,
I have almost the same serino. Red Japanese Maple that my dog at the time chewed down to about half it’s size. Now it has green leaves. Planted in full sun. Is there any hope of it being Red again? It has grown to about 5 ft. tall now.

July 20, 2010 at 3:37 pm
(21) Ryan says:

Can I plant my Maple in direct sunlight. Will it grow?

November 20, 2010 at 10:43 pm
(22) jesse says:

yes hello i was just wondering if green leaved japanese maples can be planted in direct sunlight

May 10, 2011 at 7:04 am
(23) Alan Blissett says:

I bought a standard fine japanese maple 2 years ago . it looks great in summer but leaves just brown off then fall never turning red at all . It is now next to a brick wall should it be out in the open .

June 20, 2011 at 1:57 am
(24) randi kander says:

I bought a coral bark maple last fall. It’s about 6 feet tall and still in the black nursery pot it came in. I have it in partial shade and it’s well watered–because we live in Washington state and it’s been raining all the time. It leafed out beautifully earlier this spring, but now I’ve noticed that some of the leaves are wilting and dying and there are a few black spots on the beautiful coral bark. Just one on a main branch. . Farther out on the branches where the stems have turned black the leaves are dying. I’m going to prune them back tomorrow and disinfect my pruners with each cut. It doesn’t sound like what I’ve read about verticillium wilt– but aany idea what is wrong with it?

July 9, 2011 at 6:02 pm
(25) Linda says:

what causes and how to treat split bark on dark red (blood leaf jap maple? Thanking you in advance for your response.

July 24, 2011 at 5:00 pm
(26) Janet says:

I have a red Japanese maple that is red in the spring and then turns greenish-yellow. Is there a special reason this is happening?

September 11, 2011 at 5:48 pm
(27) Bee says:

Hi,
We took seeds from a RED Japanese maple and planted them in the hope of producing another red maple…only to find it’s grown GREEN…is there any chance it might change or is there anything we can do to make sure we grow a red next time?!

July 16, 2012 at 9:27 am
(28) destiny says:

it is actually a jap. maple cutleaf……….my grandma use to have a huge 1. they can have all red all green or a mix……..u dont need to trim off the green but its going to stay! it does not mean anything bad……..it is a nice healthy tree.

May 11, 2013 at 3:38 pm
(29) paul walters says:

I had a japanese maple that was nice and red then I transplanted it to another spot in my yard,and when the leaves came back they are green, what did I do or what can I do to get them red again?

July 10, 2013 at 4:06 pm
(30) maria says:

Hi I have a red maple tree last year after sandy storm, I noticed one branch had cracked away from the main trunk so I taped it.
this year when it grew back it has 3 branches from the main trunk, but one branch is green but as I looked closely I noticed it is also a different leaf, it looks like another maple tree in one, is that what happened to the one you took a picture of I really can’t tell , it looks like the same leaf but different color, mine is different color and different shape leaf, can I still cut off the green part as you said to save the red maple please advise
thank you

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