There are more than 125 species of maple trees, many of which provide beautiful fall colors in the autumn but can offer so much more year-round. Different types of maples can thrive in different regions and can provide various benefits to the landscape. The following will provide insight into 10 types of the best maple trees to plant.
1. Sugar Maple
As you may be able to guess, the sugar maple tree is known for being the source of maple syrup production. Sugar maple trees are of the species Acer saccharum and can grow over 80 feet tall and 60-80 feet wide. Sugar maples can sometimes grow up to 150 feet tall in exceptional conditions, making them one of the largest types of maple trees. You may recognize one red maple leaf in particular because one proudly blazes on the Canadian flag as Canada is known for its generous maple syrup.
If you’re seeking a maple that has a wide range of beautiful colors when it comes to fall foliage, this type of maple tree delivers. Sugar maple leaves can be orange, red, and yellow. It makes for a beautiful landscape but doesn’t do great around urban pollutants. It’s native to Eastern North America but that does not mean it can’t be planted elsewhere!
2. Red Maple
The red maple tree is known for its prominent, beautiful red leaves. It’s known as the Acer rubrum species and can grow up to 60 feet tall and 20-30 feet wide. Red maple leaves are known to be V-shaped and have three-lobed leaves with dips in between. Most red maple leaves remain red all year round but definitely not all.
While this particular tree prefers moist soils and sun, it can and will remain strong in the face of cold weather. However, ensure it’s free from the shade if you want to see it reach its full potential. They are from the eastern deciduous forest but can thrive as far as Texas!
3. Freeman Maple
Freeman maple trees are also known as Acer x freemanii. This type of maple is a naturally occurring hybrid maple that’s a cross between both the Acer saccharinum and Acer rubrum species.
Freeman maples can grow up to 60 feet tall and about 40 feet wide. It can thrive in both full sun and partial shade but definitely needs moist, slightly acidic, and well-drained soil. It can be found in the Eastern North American region where both its parent species live. These maples can definitely thrive in city gardens as they are low maintenance and require minimal pruning.
4. Japanese Maple
Japanese maple trees grow wild across the hills of Japan—and across other countries like Korea and Russia as well. There are many different cultivars within the Japanese maple group such as the Crimson Prince Japanese Maple or the Fireglow Japanese Maple. They can grow anywhere from 20-35 feet tall which means it will work great for small spaces while still providing a landscape with beautiful foliage.
Said to be “near carefree to maintain” these vibrant trees can be both subtle and breathtaking. They can grow in both full sun and partial shade, however, when in partial shade it will grow into and produce more vivid foliage.
5. Paperbark Maple
The paperbark maple tree (Acer griseum) is a small deciduous tree. It’s called “paperbark” because the bark is thin like paper and can be easy to peel off. They can grow up to 20 to 30 feet tall and 15 to 25 feet wide, making this another great maple for smaller spaces, while still providing beautiful foliage.
Paperbark maple trees can do well in both full sun and partial shade but most definitely need moist and well-drained soil. Its unique upright branching leads to an oval or rounded crown. Its leaves start as a soft green but turn orange to scarlet in autumn. These maple trees are native to China but were introduced in new areas like the UK and Southern Florida as well. These trees can tolerate subtropical ecosystems as they prefer a more consistently wet landscape to intermittently wet ones.
6. Oregon Maple
The Oregon maple tree is from the Acer macrophyllum species. Another common name for this tree is the bigleaf maple. They are deciduous trees that are native to the Pacific Northwest so they can be more easily found along the coast from San Diego all the way up to British Columbia.
One of the most interesting facts about this maple is that it has the potential to live up to 300 years. Also, they usually grow as large as 50 to 100 feet in height—leaving them to be by far one of the largest maple trees in existence—even larger than most sugar maples.
7. Amur Maple
The Amur maple tree is of the Acer ginnala species and is native to Northeastern Asia. This includes both Korea and Japan but also can be found in the Russian Far East. It’s another small, deciduous-leaved tree that can be found in both a garden or in a bigger city.
They grow only to 15 to 20 feet tall and 15 to 30 feet wide. Its red and orange leaves are captivating like most maples are known to be. This particular tree also produces small fragrant white flowers in late spring. It’s a very low-maintenance tree but can be more susceptible to certain plant diseases to be sure to do further research to keep this maple in optimal health.
8. Black Maple
The black maple tree, also known as the black sugar maple, is of the Acer nigrum species. It’s known to be closely related to the sugar maple (Acer saccharum). They both have a dense, rounded crown with dark bark and provide a vibrant autumn color when it’s time for fall foliage.
This tree does have differences from its family member the sugar maple. This tree generally has five-lobed leaves while the sugar maple is known only to have trees. They are also not as pronounced in color. They also are more limited in their geographic range—known primarily to remain in the midwest of the United States but can also be found in the east of the U.S. and the southeast of Canada.
It is a deciduous tree so it will lose its leaves seasonally. They can grow up to 60 to 75 in height and about 40 to 50 feet in width. This tree also prefers acid soil that stays moist but is also well-drained. It can tolerate dryer sites and acid soil—but if you want to see it thrive to its fullest potential it’s best to grow it in a climate that can meet its immediate preferences.
9. Bigtooth Maple
The bigtooth maple tree is of the Acer grandidentatum species and is native to western North America. While it can be found in the state of Montana all the way down to Texas, it can also be found in Northern Mexico as well.
These shrub-type trees only grow to be about 10 to 15 feet in height but on rare occasions, they can grow to be taller (some claim up to 35 feet). They can be found in, and thrive in, many soil types from moist to dryer areas. Its leaves are large with blunt “teeth ” along the edges—hence its name “bigtooth” maple.
10. Norway Maple
The Norway maple tree is of the Acer platanoides species. They are native to eastern and central Europe as well as Western Asia. They can also be found in Spain, Russian and Northern Iran. They didn’t find their way into the United States until the mid-1700s.
Norway maples can grow up to 40 to 60 feet in height and branch out anywhere from 35 to 50 feet in width. They have been known for being a great provider of shade as well as making beautiful ornamental trees around the landscape. However, because they are not native to the U.S. they are considered “invasive” trees with dangerous roots that spread aggressively and threaten other local, native trees in their surroundings.
Choosing maple trees
Things to consider before planting are region, weather, and soil—which can easily adapt to climate change and which cannot. You have to be able to provide good drainage for your maples if you want them to thrive in health and live a long time. You also have to ensure that if a specific species is not native to your area, will it not negatively impact the other plant life in your area if planted.