I have what I think is an Acer palmatum that has been in a large planter for 2 years now but this year 2 of its branches have turned brown from green and shed all their leaves.

The planter is 64" x 24" and 24" deep at its shallowest point. It sits on top of an old broken concrete patio and is deeper beneath the Acer. It's well sheltered. It gets sun most of the day but will be mainly dappled due to the surrounding foliage. There are 5 other plants of the Alpine variety. The Acer's leaves are variegated green and cream with pink tips.

enter image description here I am in the UK South London.

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  • Can you help us out here and add your pictures as uploaded images?
    – kevinskio
    Jul 16, 2018 at 18:14
  • Where are you in the world? How many other plants in the same container and how deep is it? Are the leaves variegated green and cream on the Acer?
    – Bamboo
    Jul 16, 2018 at 20:13
  • I am in the UK South London there are 5 other plants of the Alpine variety the planter is 64"x 24" and 24" deep at its shallowest point as the planter sits on top of an old broken concrete patio and is deeper beneath the Acer,leaves are variegated green and cream with pink tips
    – Tony Hall
    Jul 16, 2018 at 20:31
  • Hi Tony Hall! Thanks for provided the detailed answers to our questions. I put the information from the comment into the question itself for everyone to see! Comments here get deleted from time to time, and I didn't want us to lose anything. If you do want to add more feel free to go back and edit it right into the question. Thanks! Jul 17, 2018 at 3:36

1 Answer 1


From the looks of the strong, green stems and your confirmation of its leaf coloration, your Acer is not a palmatum variety, but is actually Acer negundo 'Flamingo'. This is a large tree in comparison to palmatum varieties, and grows fairly rapidly; being confined to a container is likely why you have significant dieback, because there's insufficient root room for it. Information here http://www.burncoose.co.uk/site/plants.cfm?pl_id=70 but note that the colours of the leaves shown in the image are exaggerated, a not uncommon trick used by sellers; they are not usually so pink as they look there other than possibly when they first leaf out in spring.

This tree, in the ground, often produces reverted branches, meaning they have plain green leaves - these are cut out as soon as they are noticed, though preferably not between leaf break and midsummer because of the risk of bleeding. It is possible to keep it as a small tree (around 10 feet) by pruning annually, either from end of July onwards or in winter before end of January. If you want to keep it, you need to find a spot in the garden for it and perhaps replace it in your container with an actual Acer palmatum variety, which are generally much slower growing and smaller trees. If you do transplant it, best done in late autumn, especially this year with the drought conditions and heat we're having; remove the dead parts now or when you transplant.


Thanks for the close up of a leaf. Having seen that, your plant is not, as I said earlier, Acer negundo, it is Acer palmatum 'butterfly'. It isn't a small nor particularly slow growing variety, reaching 2.5m after ten years, but because it's a palmatum variety, it may have suffered some dieback in parts. Clearly, though, there is new, strong growth, but this particular variety is a grafted plant - if the leaves are the same as they were last year and growing off that new growth, then it's likely to be the original, grafted plant. If not, then it might be growth off the root stock, and the original grafted section has died back.

We're having a very hot summer with virtually no rain - your Acer, you say, is in sun all day, albeit in a sheltered position. It's possible the dead part was affected by a combination of the intensity of sunlight and drought at some point this year, if this dead area appeared after spring. If the dead area was there prior to leaf break, the extreme and sudden cold in March/April may have affected it, causing dieback.

Remove the dead area by cutting it out at the base, and I do suggest you move it into a large container on its own, or plant it in the ground, as it's growing very strongly. https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/62336/Acer-palmatum-Butterfly-(P-v)/Details

  • Many thanks for your reply I read the information on the Acer negundo 'Flamingo' and noted the leaves are different would this be just a variety difference?
    – Tony Hall
    Jul 17, 2018 at 8:42
  • I was going by the green stems and their thickness as much as anything, but if you'd like to add a clear close up photo of the leaves its actually got (they're fuzzy and not easy to see clearly in the current photo) that would be very helpful to confirm/deny ID. I've grown this myself, and there was a fair bit of variation in the colour and shape of the leaves though...
    – Bamboo
    Jul 17, 2018 at 10:48
  • See updated answer...
    – Bamboo
    Jul 17, 2018 at 13:39

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