How to Care for a Red Maple Tree

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The red maple is a tree native to the eastern U.S. It gets its name from the abundant red buds and twigs that adorn it in the winter months and the red flowers and leaves that appear in the spring and fall, respectively. The red maple has the ability to grow in many types of soils, and it is popular among homeowners. Red maple makes a fine shade tree, growing to heights of about 70 feet when planted in an open area. Plant your sapling with care, and it will thrive and provide you with years of beauty.

Things You'll Need

  • Red maple sapling or seedling
  • Shovel
  • Water
  • Fertilizer
  • Mulch
  • Plant your red maple in the early to middle spring for optimal results. This gives it most of the rest of the year to establish its root system. If you cannot plant the tree at this time, do it no less than six weeks before the first expected frost. Try not to plant a red maple in the middle of a heat wave; wait until temperatures moderate before putting it in the ground.

  • Choose a spot where the red maple will have some shade and check the acidity of the surrounding soil. Red maples do well in moist areas; in the wild, they typically grow in swamps and along streams and rivers. Avoid planting a red maple where the soil has a high alkaline content, as this precipitates a manganese deficiency that causes stress, stunting the maple's growth.

  • Dig a hole that is about four times wider than the red maple's root ball. The hole should be deep enough for the entire root ball to fit comfortably. After removing the sapling from its container, place it in the hole so that the top portion of the root ball is even with the surface. Allow the roots to spread out within the hole and throw in enough dirt to cover them. Water the roots thoroughly, then fill in the hole and pack dirt around the tree to keep it standing straight.

  • Water your red maple weekly in the first few years of its life, as it gains a foothold. One and a half inches of water per week should be sufficient. Do not over-water the tree or use too little water. Check the leaves for signs of drooping, which indicate either too much water or not enough.

  • Fertilize your red maple during its first growing season. Do this twice a month after the frost leaves the ground and just once each month during the summer. Stop fertilizing when the tree loses its leaves in the late autumn/early winter.

  • Pull up any weeds that appear initially. As the tree grows, continue to control weeds by putting a layer of mulch around the red maple. Avoid using chemical weed-killers. Rely instead on a 2 to 4 inch deep layer of mulch to prevent weeds from poking through.

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