Doggy damage

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Q: I recently purchased an Acer palmatum ‘Koto-no-ito’ for a patio planter. I also have a puppy and soon after I potted the tree, the puppy removed it, along with a large amount of the bark from one side of it. Is there something I can do to help correct the damage, or is it too late?

Plants have a great capacity to heal themselves and often do it better and quicker than we humans with all our technology can.

Trees can survive with up to 70 per cent of the bark removed. The inner part of the bark is made of small tubes like drinking straws. These form nutrient and water channels like a highway from the top of the plant to the bottom and vice versa. If the damage is longitudinal (top to bottom), then the tree will heal itself and over time will flourish. If the damage went all the way around (latitudinally) then it is time to start again.

If the damage extends only partway around the trunk of your maple, make sure the wound is clean and there is no ooze or dirt in it. Avoid pruning sealers and other asphalt compounds, which have no real healing function. The plant will be in shock, however, so you can gently stimulate it by applying a mild liquid fertilizer, such as a transplant fertilizer 5-15-5 with a root hormone (diluted according to the directions), once every 14 days for the next three months.