How to Grow a Sugar Maple Tree

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Every year tourists flock to the New England states to enjoy the brilliant red, orange and yellow foliage of the sugar maple tree (Acer saccharum). This beloved tree is also a favorite of Boy and Girl Scouts who tap the tree in winter for its sap to make maple syrup. In summer, the dense canopy of leaves keeps us cool. Add the sugar maple to your landscape for year-round enjoyment.

Things You'll Need

  • Sugar maple tree
  • Shovel
  • Garden shears
  • Mulch
  • Purchase a sugar maple tree in either a container or balled-and-burlapped. If planting is delayed, keep the sugar maple well watered.

  • Choose a planting site in either full sun or partial shade. Soil should be moist, well-drained and slightly acidic. The sugar maple does not tolerate salts. Planting close to a street where it could come in contact with winter road salt is not advised. Optimum conditions result in faster growth.

  • Prepare the tree for planting. Gently remove containerized trees from their pot by laying the tree on its side, rolling the pot back and forth, and easing the maple from the pot. Balled-and-burlapped specimens should have all wire and twine removed and half of the burlap cut away from the rootball.

  • Dig the planting hole at least 4 times the width of the rootball and equally as high, slopping the sides outward from the bottom.

  • Position the sugar maple in the prepared planting hole and backfill a small portion of soil to steady the tree. Fill the planting hole with water and allow rootball and surrounding soil to absorb. Continue to backfill the original soil. Water again deeply to help remove air pockets and provide additional moisture.

  • Spread a layer of mulch over the planting site and maintain a mulch depth of 2 to 4 inches. Mulch helps the soil retain moisture, important for the sugar maple.

Tips & Warnings

  • The sugar maple is a deciduous broadleaf tree that is successfully grown in zones 3 through 8. Check the USDA Hardiness Zone map to verify its suitability in your area.
  • The sugar maple can grow to a height of 100 feet and have a spread of 70 to 80 feet. For planting in smaller sites, look for the "Goldspire" variety. It features a narrower canopy and has golden autumn leaves.
  • The dense canopy of the sugar maple is excellent for providing shade and keeping houses cool. However, the canopy also makes it difficult to grow grass under the tree. Choose your planting site accordingly.
  • The sugar maple can scorch during long, dry spells so water regularly with 1 1/2 inches of water per week. Newly planted sugar maples are particularly vulnerable to scorching.
  • Pruning the sugar maple should not be done in spring. Sap will bleed from the pruning cut over the growing season making the tree unattractive. Pruning to maintain the tree's form and to remove dead branches is best accomplished in June or in fall.
  • The sugar maple is susceptible to urban pollution. Norway and red maples are better suited to locations where air quality is a problem.

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