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Hi all,

I have 2 acers, one green and one dark red (don't know the names as they were from bargain bench in local garden centre 2 years ago and had no labels!) They are both in big pots in ericaceous compost. They are in shade most of the day apart from a few hours in the morning, and right beside the house so fairly sheltered. About a month ago the green one's leaves started going brown and shrivelling up, and all the branch tips are dying back. Now its happening to the red one too I have no idea what might be wrong or what to do, any ideas please? Thanks.



Have they always been potted up in ericaceous compost ? I only ask because I use bog standard multi-purpose for acers.

Alina W

Might sound obvious, but have you watered them enough? Are they in a windy spot?

And yes, they don't need ericaceous compost - multipurpose is fine.


Yes, they've always been in ericaceous, as both our local garden centres advised me thats what they needed! and I've been quite diligent watering them! Green one now has only 2 leaves, very sad



The wind of earlier in the year when the young leaves were emerging did not help but I think a few of mine suffered the same fate as yours due to the heavy rain. It compacted the soil enough that it stayed wet for ages and caused root problems. I removed mine from their pots, loosened the soil, added a small amount of fertiliser and am hoping ther their reserve leaves emerge. I scratched the trunk and they are still green underneath - so do the same. Even if no new leaves come out this year I would wait to see if they emerge next, so keep watering and looking after them.



Alina W

Because acers naturally grow under trees in leaf litter, a myth has developed that they need ericaceous soil. They will grow in ericaceous soil, but don't need it to thrive.

Alina W wrote (see)

Because acers naturally grow under trees in leaf litter, a myth has developed that they need ericaceous soil. They will grow in ericaceous soil, but don't need it to thrive.

Quite true! I use compost from my garden but do give an ericauous feed when I can remember to do so which is not that often.


I have one green acer of roughly ten years in the ground and one red one at two yrs old in a stone pot with ericaceous soil. I read/heard somewhere that the red ones are more partial to acid soil but to be honest, I need to put the red one on the ground in the next year or so anyhow so its gonna have to tough it out in my sandy soil.

Last time I did a soil test I was just about neutral.

Alina W

I have a red acer in the ground - my soil sounds very similar to yours, being slightly acid - and it has thrived for the last 20 years, so I wouldn't worry about it. Especially as I think it's probably hit alkaline builders' rubbish long ago

I have a red Acer in a very large pot, had it for about 10 years.  Last year, the leaves started to turn to green, still looked fairly healthy, but lost the red colour.  This year, it started out in the lovely red colour but recently the leaves have started to turn green again.  I absolutely love the red colour, especially in the sun when there are so many shades of red to see.  I have looked online to see if anyone else has had this problem and so far no-one has.  Anyone out there have any suggestions?


Is your red acer grafted? 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 may have allowed the green stock tree (which will sucker from below the graft) to become the dominant foliage. May be this is the case?

It also really depends on the cultivar as it seems that there are nearly a 1000 Japanese red maple cultivars.

Some will green up if in too much sun and others will green up if in not enough sun. In either case, it is not particularly unusual and does not indicate any ailment on the part of the tree nor necessarily a reversion in colouring.

Thank you for your prompt reply. Do you think  I might have to do a soil test?  I have potted it in 'normal' compost.  And it has been really happy for years.  Maybe I need to repot it in better compost....


Just keep topping up with fresh compost each year. Remove the top inch or so and replace it with fresh.

Plants in pots for any period of time need a soil based compost such as john innes no 3. Multipurpose compost has few nutrients and will just rot away over time as it is mostly organic matter. It's fine to do a mix of the two!

Lottie Lou

I was told that red acers need ericaceous compost to maintain their beautiful deep red leaves.  Mine started to turn green too.  I've just repotted it in ericaceous and fingers crossed it'll regain its red leaves.

Last edited: 21 May 2016 09:16:23



The acers losing their leaves might be being attacked by vine weevil.  It would be worth turning them out of their pots to see what's going on with the roots, I think.  Small off-white c-shaped grubs with a brown head - can kill the tree if they eat enough of the roots.

Lottie  Lou, ericaceous soil based compost but not ericaceous mpc. 

Acid soil is not essential but I think it better.

Mpc is a huge magnet for vine weevils too ....if you have used mpc Liri may well be right about weevil grubs.  Use Provado if you suspect their presence . Or nematodes 

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