How to Care for Silver Maple Trees

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Like other maples, silver maples turn yellow and gold in the fall.
Like other maples, silver maples turn yellow and gold in the fall. (Image: Autumn Maple Tree under Blue Sky image by loongirl from Fotolia.com)

It's said that when the star-shaped leaves of a silver maple turn over in the breeze and show their silver-gray undersides, it's going to rain. Silver maples are popular in urban areas, lining streets and shading avenues with their broad, leafy canopies. Despite the fact that they can grow to towering heights of 100 feet or more, silver maples are surprisingly fragile. They are softwood trees and are prone to storm damage. Care for them well and they'll enrich the life of your neighborhood for 40 to 50 years.

Things You'll Need

  • Long-handled pruning saw
  • Measuring tape
  • Fertilizer spikes with high acid content

Feed the tree once a year with fertilizer spikes that increase the acid content of the soil. Water frequently, especially if the tree is young. Silver maples can adapt to dry weather but grow best in moist soil.

Prune silver maples to promote a strong structure that will resist breakage from wind and weather. Silver maples tend to grow limbs that grow thick very quickly, causing them to droop and making them prone to split and break. Cut away any limbs that are more than half the diameter of the trunk. Run a tape measure around any limb if you're in doubt. Use a long-handled saw for this task, and stand well away from any falling branches. Hire a tree service if you have safety concerns.

Monitor your silver maple after pruning to make sure the tree is forming a hard, dry callus; this process takes several weeks. Consult a tree nursery professional if you see signs of rot, fungus or mold, as these can be signs of a serious problem.

Clear shrubs and plants away from the base of the tree, since they won't be able to compete with a silver maple's dense root system. Set containers of shade-loving annuals there instead. Avoid mowing too often under the canopy to prevent damage to surface roots.

Knock ice and snow from silver maple branches in the winter to lighten the weight load and to prevent splitting and breakage, particularly if branches overhang your house or driveway.

Watch for insect pests like ants, aphids and borers. They are not likely to kill a silver maple, as natural predators will often solve the problem, but infestation will weaken the tree. Your best defense against bugs is to keep the tree healthy through pruning and fertilizing.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you must cut down a mature silver maple, consider selling its wood. The curving, gnarled patterns of its grain are prized as "bird's-eye maple" by woodworkers and furniture makers.
  • Plant silver maples away from power lines and sewer lines to avoid damage to power and septic systems. The roots of the silver maple can crush a clay sewer pipe, and its crown may interfere with telephone lines.

References

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