Types of Maple Trees

Black maple
No matter what size garden you have, there's a colorful type of maple tree to fit your needs.

Japanese Maple

The elegant form and foliage of Japanese maples has been treasured throughout the centuries. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from with beautifully serrated green or red foliage.

Name: Acer palmatum

Growing Conditions: Full Sun/Partial Shade

Zones: 5–8

Grow it because: In general, Japanese maples remain compact and can fit into tight spaces. You also can grow them as a bonsai.

Coral Bark Maple

Year-round color! That's what you get with coral bark maple. This type of maple tree has coral-color bark and pale green leaves that turn bright yellow in the fall—one of the favorites of yellow maple trees. This golden maple tree prefers slightly moist soil and full-sun to light-shade sun exposure.

Name: Acer palmatum 'Sangokaku'

Growing Conditions: Full Sun/Light Shade

Size: 15–20 feet tall, 12 feet wide

Zones: 5–8

Choose it because: In the winter, the color of the tree's bark brightens so it stands out in a snowy landscape.

Paperbark Maple

Perfect for tight spaces, this gorgeous, slow-growing maple tree develops lovely, peeling, red-brown bark. This red maple tree produces bright green foliage, which turns reddish-yellow in fall. This type of maple tree enjoys full-sun exposure and is able to thrive in a variety of soil conditions.

Name: Acer griseum

Growing Conditions: Full Sun

Size: 20–30 feet tall, 12 feet wide

Zones: 5–7

Choose it because: Paperbark maple provides year-round interest in your garden. Small specimens also can be used for bonsai.

Sugar Maple

When it comes to fall color, sugar maples are at the top of the list. This Canadian maple tree natives are absolutely spectacular in autumn when their foliage turns to shades of red, orange, and yellow. They make excellent shade trees for large backyards, while preferring full-sun exposure.

Name: Acer saccharum

Growing Conditions: Full Sun

Size: 50–75 feet tall, 30–45 feet wide

Zones: 4–8

Choose it because: There are a number of variety options to choose from, but 'Green Mountain' is one of the most popular because it is drought resistant. Other top picks include 'Fall Fiesta,' 'Flashfire,' and columnar 'Barret Cole'.

Silver Maple

Silver maple is a graceful, fast-growing type of maple tree that does best planted in moist locations away from buildings because they tend to drop branches easily. They also have aggressive root systems that can infiltrate sewer systems. Like many other types of maple trees, this Canadian maple tree prefers full-sun exposure and a variety of soil conditions.

Name: Acer saccharinum

Growing Conditions: Full Sun

Size: 60–80 feet tall, 40–60 feet wide

Zones: 3–9

Choose it because: Look for hybrids such as 'Silver Queen' or 'Silver Cloud' that are not as messy or invasive as the native form. Use in windbreaks or open areas.

Norway Maple

Resistant to heat, drought, and air pollution, Norway maples are reliable varieties of maple trees that develop yellow and orange fall foliage. However, these yellow maple trees are not native and are considered invasive in certain states. These Japanese maple varieties thrive in full-sun or partial-shade sun exposure and are low-maintenace when it comes to soil conditions.

Name: Acer platanoides

Growing Conditions: Full Sun/Partial Shade

Size: 40–60 feet tall, 40–50 feet wide

Zones: 4–7

Choose it because: Look for varieties that produce less seed such as 'Faasen's Black,' 'Globosum,' and 'Columnar.' Norway maples have aggressive root systems, so avoid planting near a sidewalk or patio.

Red Maple

An American native, red maple forms a handsome oval crown of bright green leaves that turn fiery red in autumn. Growing at a moderate rate, these varieties of maple trees are a sturdy and reliable shade tree. Plant red maple in full sun or partial shade.

Name: Acer rubrum

Growing Conditions: Full Sun/Partial Shade

Size: 40–60 feet tall, 30–40 feet wide

Zones: 3–9

Grow it because: Red maple has great form, color, and hardiness. Look for top varieties such as 'Red Sunset,' 'October Glory,' 'Red Supersonic,' 'Ruby Frost,' and 'Columnar.' Wrap the bark of newly-planted red maples in the winter to prevent sunscald.

Box Elder

Tough conditions are no match for box elder trees. These vigorous types of maple trees will survive in regions where other trees give up. They can be messy and invasive, so look for cultivated varieties. These Canadian maples will thrive in full-sun to partial-shade sun exposure and love all sorts of soil to grow in.

Name: Acer negundo

Growing Conditions: Full Sun, Partial Shade

Size: 30–60 feet tall, 30–40 feet wide

Zones: 2–9

Grow it because: Colorful forms of box elder, such as 'Auratum,' 'Flamingo,' 'Kelly's Gold,' 'Violaceum,' and 'Variegatum' add interest and beauty to the landscape.

Hedge Maple

The rounded form of hedge maple is easily sheared to any height to create a privacy screen or living wall. Use these Canadian maple trees singly or in groups. In the fall, it develops pretty, pale yellow leaves—the most gorgeous yellow maple tree on the block! Plant these trees in full-sun to partial-shade sun exposure.

Name: Acer campestre

Growing Conditions: Full Sun, Partial Shade

Size: 20–35 feet tall, 20–30 feet wide

Zones: 5–8

Grow it because: Hedge maple can be allowed to grow into a natural shape, or it can be pruned into any desired height. It is also tolerant of poor soil. 'Metro Gold' and 'Royal Ruby' are two reliable varieties with bold fall color.

Crimson King Maple

Few people realize that this highly popular purple-leaf maple tree is actually a form of the common Norway maple. In fall, the foliage of 'Crimson King' maple turns a deep maroon. This variety makes a beautiful shade tree, while preferring full-sun exposure.

Name: Acer platanoides 'Crimson King'

Growing Conditions: Full Sun

Size: 35–45 feet tall, 25–30 feet wide

Zones: 3–7

Grow it because: When mature, 'Crimson King' maple trees form a spectacular mountain of dark foliage. Like other Norway maples, it can become invasive.

Snakebark Maple

Named for its unique, striped bark, snakebark maple is a relatively compact type of maple tree, making it a great choice for small backyards. Plant these small trees where you can admire the spectacular patterned bark. This maple tree loves full-sun, and even partial-shade conditions.

Name: Acer pectinatum Forrestii

Growing Conditions: Full Sun/Partial Shade

Size: 15–20 feet tall, 15 feet wide

Zones: 5–9

Grow it because:  Snakebark maple becomes more colorful with age. Variety 'Alice' has pinkish branches with thin white stripes. It looks terrific in any season.

Korean Maple

If you love Japanese maple varieties but live in a region where they won't survive the winter, try Korean maple. These rugged, small trees can tolerate cold temperatures. The trees have deeply lobed, dark green leaves that turn crimson in autumn. This type of maple tree loves full sun and partial shade.

Name: Acer pseudosieboldiana

Growing Conditions: Full Sun/Partial Shade

Size: 15–25 feet tall, 15 feet wide

Zones: 4–8

Grow it because: In the spring, Korean maples develop small purple flowers that add to the color show. They also grow well in containers. Korean maple does not like hot, dry conditions.

Trident Maple

Resistant to air pollution, trident maple is a good choice for streetside plantings. In the fall, this variety of maple tree's bright green lobed foliage changes to deep scarlet and orange. Trident maple grows slowly, so it rarely needs pruning. Plant this red maple tree in full sun or partial shade.

Name: Acer buergerianum

Growing Conditions: Full Sun/Partial Shade

Size: 20–30 feet tall, 20–30 feet wide

Zones: 5–9

Grow it because: Trident maple makes an excellent low-maintenance shade tree, especially for smaller yards. It's also relatively drought and disease resistant. Look for varieties 'Naruto' or 'Ningpoense.'

Three-Flowered Maple

Also called roughbark maple, this versatile, small maple tree grows well in sun or shade and develops interesting ridges or knobs on the trunk as it matures. It is one of the few varieties of maple trees that develop fall color even if grown in the shade. You can plant this type of maple in any soil condition—it's very low maintenance.

Name: Acer triflorum

Growing Conditions: Full Sun/Shade

Size: 20 feet tall, 20 feet wide

Zones: 5–9

Grow it because: Three-flowered maple looks great in four seasons, has few pest or disease problems, and is drought resistant.

Morton Miyabe Maple

First selected at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, the award-winning Morton miyabe maple has proved itself as a durable, easy-care maple tree with amazing fall color. This type of maple tree's dense branches make it a terrific shade tree, but it prefers to grow in full sun.

Name: Acer miyabei

Growing Conditions: Full Sun

Size: 40–50 feet tall, 30–35 feet wide

Zones: 4–6

Grow it because: This adaptable and hardy maple is tolerant to heat, cold, soil type, and urban pollution. It is not invasive and would be a good substitute for ash trees where ash borer problems exist. Two excellent selections are 'State Street' and 'Rugged Ridge' varieties.

Tatarian Maple

A relative of Amur maple, tatarian maple is a tough, attractive maple tree that tolerates cold winters and hot summers. Look for varieties of maple trees that develop spectacular scarlet seedpods, such as 'Hot Wings'. These types of seedlings grow fabulously in the summer preferring full-sun to partial-shade conditions.

Name: Acer tataricum

Growing Conditions: Full Sun/Partial Shade

Size: 15–20 feet tall, 15 to 20 feet wide

Zones: 3–8

Grow it because: Small yellow flowers in the spring, bright red seedpods in the summer, and yellow and orange fall foliage make tatarian maple 'Hot Wings' an showstopping landscape plant. Variety 'Rugged Charm' is also an excellent option.

Photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries

Black Maple

Although closely related to sugar maple, black maples are more heat and drought resistant. Otherwise, these close cousins are similar except for leaf shape. Black maple leaves have three lobes while sugar maples have the traditional five lobes.

Name: Acer saccharum nigrum

Growing Conditions: Full Sun

Size: 50–75 feet tall, 50 feet wide

Zones: 4–8

Grow it because: Black maples form a large, rounded crown which makes it an exceptional shade tree. In the fall, their leaves turn brilliant shades of yellow and red.

Photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries

SOURCES:

Forestfarm: forestfarm.com

Mendocino Maples mendocinomaples.com

Maples are also available at local garden centers and online through wholesalers such as Bailey Nurseries baileynurseries.com and Monrovia Nurseries monrovia.com.

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