Do Maple Trees Need Sun Or Shade? Here’s How To Tell

Autumn maple tree background

The maple tree. Home of the best syrup on the planet! Of course, an opinion, but one held worldwide by many. There are 128 species and they can live up to 400. Here, we’ll answer an important question; do maple trees need sun or shade?

Maple trees generally grow between hardiness zones 3-9 in the United States. In colder climates of zones 3-6 (north), maple trees need more sun than shade to thrive during the colder months. In zones 7-9 (south), maple trees benefit from both partial sun and partial shade to prevent overheating.

Maple trees are an asset to any property, but because it is a tree, you cannot easily pick up and move it if you need to! Read on to find out more specifics about how much sun (or shade) maple trees actually need.

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Maple Tree Sun Or Shade Using Hardiness Zones

Ok, so you are here because you want to know whether the maple tree you are about to plant, move or buy should have sun or shade. Excellent job in taking a proactive approach to your tree planning. 

Trees are a lifelong commitment, whether on commercial or private property. Knowing the best place to root down is essential to the life of the tree. Hardiness zones determined by the USDA are important, so let’s investigate this first.

Once you discover that your particular maple tree species needs 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day, the next step is looking up the hardiness zone you’re in. 

You can go right to the hardiness zone map at Arbor Day Foundation for the United States. It’s better than the USDA Forestry Map in this situation because you have to search a lot to find the specifics of what you need. 

Best Practices For Maple Planting According To Hardiness Zone

So, let’s say you are interested in a Japanese maple. Before you attempt to buy and plant one, find out what hardiness zone it should be in. The same amount of sunlight or shade is not the same between two extreme climates. 

A good example is if your maple tree of interest belongs in Arizona because it is hardy enough to take the extreme heat, yet you put it in New Jersey. The tree may not take it very well. 

Even if you put it out in the direct sunlight in upstate New Jersey, the cloud cover and temperature dips and extremes will deteriorate that tree. So, if your maple takes a lot of heat, do not put it in an area with frequent cold weather. 

So, this relationship is complicated. Going by the hardiness map and matching it with the specific species is best. 

Now, let’s look at some of the most popular maples in North America, along with the facts you need to know. 

Take into account the number of seeds you will be cleaning up in the future as well. You can read our full list of the maple trees that produce the most helicopter seeds, so you know what to expect from your maple tree!

How Much Sun Or Shade Does My Maple Tree Need?

The Sugar Maple Tree

Hardiness Zones: 3-5 | Ideally in Full Sun

The primary role of this maple is syrups, which make them aptly named. It grows well in a nice cold winter, so great for those climates with snow and ice. This type will yield the most beautiful fall show of color over any other species. 

Native Geography: Eastern Canada; Central North America; Northeastern America.

Best Soil: Acidic, drained sufficiently, and low salt content. Must have a lot of space to sprawl out and grow. 

If you are interested in learning about sugar maple trees and their syrup production, check out our article on the most common trees that make maple syrup!

Red Maple Tree

Hardiness Zones: 3-9 | Ideally 10 hours of sunlight per day

The red maple is an all-around maple. It can live in all conditions such as wet, wind, severe heat, dry, and excessive cold. A great maple for those who have never planted a tree and are nervous about failing. 

You may also know this maple as the soft maple or swamp maple. It will grow up to 24 inches per year. 

Native Geography: You can find them most often in the Northeastern United States. 

Best Soil: You can plant this tree in nearly anything such as clay, sand, acidic, drained, and moist. Give it ten hours of sunlight per day.

Silver Maple Tree

Acer saccharinum fresh foliage

Hardiness Zones: 3-9

The sugar maple has an interesting character as it grows in the shape of a vase and it has the largest seeds of all the maples! Similar to the red maple tree, the silver maple is quite versatile and can thrive in the majority of hardiness zones. 

Native Geography: East Central United States and Southeastern Canada.

Best Soil: Deep and moist acidic soil.

Paperbark Maple Tree

Hardiness Zone: 5

You may know this tree as blood bark as well from its red, peeling bark. This is one of the slowest growing maples.

Native Geography: China 

Best Soil: Acidic, but not too much, and well-drained soil.

Amur Maple Tree

Hardiness Zone: 3

This is a shorter tree and is quite invasive. Do not put this maple anywhere the seeds can travel too much. It should be planted in a place with low humidity and cold weather a majority of the time. 

Native Geography: Northeast Asia, Southeast Russia, but can be found in North America and Europe. 

Best Soil: Acidic or Neutral 

Striped Maple Tree

Hardiness Zone: 4 | Full shade or partial sun

You may also know the striped maple as moose or goosefoot maple. You can tell it’s a striped maple when it’s young before the bark turns brown. It will have white and green stripes.

Native Geography: Found in Northern America.

Best Soil: Moist and need full shade or partial sun most of the time. 

Korean Maple Tree

Hardiness Zone: 4

The Korean maple tree is also known as the purple bloom maple and can grow to 25 feet with purple and white flower blooms.

Native Geography: Russia, China, and Korea 

Best Soil: Well-watered, moist soil. Protect from droughts, and very high winds 

Japanese Maple Tree

Hardiness Zone: 6 (tolerant in zones 5-8)

This maple is a shrub, is short, and grown mostly in containers out of the ground. You can grow it in the ground, but be sure to follow the soil and watering appropriate for it.

It’s one of the least hearty of the maples. Any prolonged drought or being planted in poorly drained soil can kill the tree. 

Native Geography: Japan, Mongolia, China, Russia, and Korea

Best Soil: Well-watered, moist soil. 

Norway Maple Tree

Hardiness Zones: 4-7

In North America, it isn’t planted much because of its invasive quality. The roots grow close to the surface of the soil so it robs nutrients from neighboring plants and trees. 

However, it can live through some drought. 

Native Geography: Western Europe, Central, and Eastern Europe. 

Best Soil: Moist and well-drained soil

Freeman Maple Tree

Hardiness Zone: 4

Freeman maple trees do well in cities and urban conditions. The soil can be Alkaline and yhey produce bright red colors and a fantastic fall show! 

Native Geography: American Eastern Region

Best Soil: Alkaline 

How Long Does A Newly Planted Red Maple Tree Take To Grow? 

Rainy autumn afternoon with maple trees

The red maple tree grows between 1-2ft per year and will stop new growth at about 25-30 years. It will grow plenty of leaves before it halts its growth and provides a good amount of shade to a small circumference around it. 

To understand the growth of the red maple, we must know the facts about the maple tree as a whole.

The key is to know the species you have, the hardiness zone you are in, and how to care for it from birth to maturity and beyond. A maple tree could take between 10-15 years or 20-30 years to mature. 

Once the red maple matures completely, it will end up in the neighborhood of 40 to 60 feet tall and up to 45 feet in circumference. You’ll enjoy the red color each year as it gets stronger and bolder.

The red maple gets its name from the red flower blooms that will soon turn into stems that will then turn into the red leaves we commonly know. Most people don’t know they bloom flowers, but they do. 

The flowers are the way the tree spreads its seeds and flourishes. If you notice red flowers getting caught up in the breeze and falling to the ground, you can do something great to encourage the growth of new maples. Take them and plant the seeds within them.

If you are not interested in having more maples, then rake up the flowers and dispose of them so you do not have unwanted sprouts on the property. They are hearty and easy bloomers! 

What Is The Best Place To Plant Maple Trees For Full Sun Or Shade?

Young maple sprout fenced with a painted tire in the spring sun. Glowing leaves in the ambient light.

The most common type of maple is the Red maple. This maple tree has a root system that will push up your pavement. So, make sure that you don’t have it near any structure or sidewalk.

So, the best place to plant your maple tree is somewhere with no underground structures in a clear, open field. If your maple tree needs shade, plant it in a way that when the sun hits a nearby building or structure, the maple tree will be covered by the shade for part of the day.

What’s The Best Time To Plant A Maple Tree?

As long as the ground you have chosen is not frozen, you can plant them anytime. However, you may want to plant in the fall for the most optimal time. The ground is not frozen, the weather is cooler, and you can still manage the soil. 

New grower? Try this Red Maple Tree Seed Grow Kit. It includes everything you need to care for your tree from the seed. You get the seeds, growing medium, a mini-greenhouse, and detailed instructions… fancy!

Make sure you plant them in either full sun or no more than partial shade. We must take advantage of the nutrients from our big gas giant. The soil should also be well-drained. 

Now, before you sink the tree into the ground, the hole should be as deep as the container the tree came in if you are planting a sapling. It should also be about 3 feet wide. 

Check the soil line left on the stem of the sapling. Make sure the soil is NOT deeper than that to prevent root rot. 

Now you should fill the hole, starting with the soil the sapling came with. If you need more, make sure you do NOT get soil with any fertilizer or any other component in it. 

Remove the air pockets by filling them with dirt and packing it. Not too tight, just enough to make it firm. You can use your hands to pack the soil in.

Once you have filled the hole, water it deeply. You can add 3-4 inches of mulch to keep it moist. 

Most Important Tip For Planting Maple Trees

Never force a maple tree to grow too fast; this can be fatal to the tree. You may not notice it until it’s too late. Never fertilize the maple tree until the second spring after planting.

If there is nothing wrong with how it’s growing–then just do not fertilize–period. 

Although, if you do decide your tree requires fertilizer, read 5 Best Maple Tree Fertilizers (And How To Use Them) to choose which one to use!

There’s a way to try your hand at growing a tree for the first time. Or, you can have your kids learn with a Brussel’s Bonsai Live Trident Maple Outdoor Bonsai Tree. These trees have been taken care of for 5 years already, and are ready for you to enjoy their beauty.

That’s A Wrap! 

Well, that’s all we have! We hope you have much maple planting success! Take this information and pick the perfect tree for you.

See you in the next piece and thanks for stopping by! 


Westermann, C. M., Leeuwen, R., Raamsdonk, L. W. D., & Mol, H. G. J. (2016). Hypoglycin A Concentrations in Maple Tree Species in the Netherlands and the Occurrence of Atypical Myopathy in Horses. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine30(3), 880–884.

Bauce, E., & Allen, D. C. (1991). Etiology of a sugar maple decline. Canadian Journal of Forest Research21(5), 686–693.

Bauce, E., & Allen, D. C. (1992). Role of Armillaria calvescens and Glycobius speciosus in a sugar maple decline. Canadian Journal of Forest Research22(4), 549–552.

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