Maple Tree Timeline: How Long It Takes For Full Growth

Close up view of golden red autumn color leaves on a red maple tree

Maple trees come in several varieties and multiple sizes. They can grow quickly, or take a while to mature, but once they are grown, they can provide shade, shelter from the wind, and attract wildlife. Let’s explore how long it will take for a maple tree to grow.

Some maple trees can take between 20 to 30 years to mature, while other species will reach maturity in half that time. Japanese maples are the turtles of this tree genus, growing only a few inches in a year, while silver maples can add over 7ft of growth in a single year.

We’ll go over the steps on how to grow your own maple trees from seeds and saplings, and how long it takes for these trees to reach maturity. Hopefully, this will help you decide what kind of maple tree you want on your property, and what to expect during each stage of its life.

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What Type Of Maple Tree Is Right For You?

Picking the right maple tree largely depends on what attributes you are looking for, as well as what size yard you have.

Some maple trees stay small and shrub-like, others stop growing when they reach 20 to 30 feet tall, while others can be towering giants that require a lot of space. 

Best Maple Trees For Small Yards

If you have a smaller yard, then a huge sugar maple, black maple, or sycamore would not be a brilliant choice. They all can grow to over 100 feet tall and grow nearly as wide. For smaller, more compact yards you’d be better off with Japanese, Korean, Norway, or paperbark maple trees.

Japanese and Korean maple trees can grow up to 35 feet tall, or be dwarf varieties, which grow slowly and only achieve a height of 5 to 7 feet. Paperbark and Norway maple trees will grow to heights of 25 to 60 feet, respectively.

Keep in mind when you decide to plant a tree that it needs to have space to expand. Trees that will grow higher than a one-story house need to be at least 20 feet away. Even small trees that topple can cause a lot of damage if they fall onto your house.

Tree roots have to be considered as well. Some trees can grow under, and into foundations causing major problems, so give them space to grow freely without becoming a problem.

Maple Trees For Big Yards

For those of you who have large expanses of turf, you have more options when it comes to maple trees. Silver maples, sugar, sycamore, and red maples, as well as the previously mentioned trees, can be incorporated into your landscaping. 

Some maple varieties can grow to 70 to over 100 feet tall. These include the big-leaf maple, sugar, black, red maple, and sycamore.

These trees will need to be planted quite a distance away from any structures or power lines. Thirty feet would be the bare minimum, but I’d personally put a few more feet of distance between them and my house. 

While maple trees are considered hardwood trees, some fast growers like the silver maple have softer limbs and trunks that can break or fall in high winds and during heavy storms.

You definitely don’t want any of these limbs falling on your roof, so keep them a fair distance away. 

How Long Does It Take For A Maple Tree To Grow?

Hands planting a maple tree seedling in a flower pot

Maple trees can take a few decades to reach maturity. This depends on if you are starting your maple tree from seed, seedling or you have a sapling you purchased from a local nursery. 

Growing A Maple Tree From Seed

Did you find some maple seeds on the ground while you were walking in your neighborhood, the park, or out hiking? You should be able to get these seeds to sprout into seedlings with the proper steps.

If you found seeds that started falling in the fall, then these will most likely need a period of stratification before they will germinate. Stratification is a period of cooler weather required for some seeds to grow.

Seeds that have fallen in spring do not require this chilling period and will probably not stay viable in storage for long. Red and silver maple seeds fall into this category and can be started without stratification.

According to the USDAsilver maple seeds start growing in April, take about three weeks to mature, and then will disperse from the tree. They require no stratification, and germination is usually successful in moist, organic soil.

When searching for seeds, only take the ones that have fallen to the ground. If you pluck them straight from the tree, they may not be mature enough to grow into a tree. Look for seeds that are firm, dense, and don’t have any holes in them.

How To Mimic Stratification For Your Maple Tree

Put your maple seeds in a sealable plastic bag with a moist soil medium. You want something like peat or a seed starting soil you then dampen. You don’t want it dripping wet or swimming in water. 

Put the bag with the seeds in the refrigerator. Make sure they don’t freeze, as this could ruin the seeds. Anywhere between 34℉ to 41℉ is a good range to strive for.

It’s important to keep the bag partially opened. Even through this cold process, the seeds need to “breathe.”

Now leave them for about 40 to 120 days, but check them every two weeks. Add a few drops of moisture to the soil if it’s drying out. Tap off any moisture droplets that have condensed inside and flip the bag over.

If you see any moldy or mushy seeds, remove them. Once they sprout during this time, remove them and put them in a seed starting tray or small pot. 

If the seeds haven’t started sprouting after 120 days, take them out and begin planting them. Keep in mind that most times, not all the seeds will sprout, so you will want to stratify at least 10 to 15 to make sure you get a few viable seedlings.

As the seedlings grow, you can cull the ones that aren’t growing so well. 

You can plant seeds outside and let nature take care of the stratification for you, but this process could take up to two years. That’s if squirrels, deer, or other animals haven’t eaten the seeds or seedlings. 

Now Plant The Maple Seeds

Whether they have been stratified, or they’re from a species that doesn’t require a cold snap to get them to grow, it’s time to plant them. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil—less than an inch is plenty—then place them in a warm area of the house, preferably near or on a windowsill.

Keep the soil moist while you are working on germinating the seeds, but don’t drown them. Now is not the time to get impatient, because some seeds can still take 40 to 90 days for the seeds to sprout.

Once you have a few maple tree seedlings growing, reduce the frequency of water just a bit. You don’t want to keep the soil moist all the time, as root rot can set in. Instead, let the soil get dry to the touch before misting it again.

You’ll also want to start setting them outside in a partially shaded area, so the new seedlings can harden. As they reach around six inches tall, you can plant them in their new home, or transplant the maple trees to another, larger pot until they get larger and stronger. 

It’s around this time that you will want to give your maple tree seedlings more sunlight. Most maple trees are sun-loving trees. While they can survive in shady environments, maple treesl do much better when they get between 4 and 8 hours of sunlight. 

Deer, rabbits, and sometimes squirrels often eat maple seedlings. You may want to take steps to protect them by either wrapping them in chicken wire or leaving them in pots until they are a few feet tall. 

This may take a year or up to five years, depending on variety, for the seedlings to grow into sapling size. This means the main trunk is about two inches in diameter. 

When And How To Plant Maple Saplings

Row of young maple trees in plastic pots. Alley of seedling tree

Fall is the best season for planting, and maple trees are no exception to the rule. While you can plant them at any time, fall is the best season because it gives the trees a chance to establish their roots in new soil. 

It’s important for the roots to get acclimated so that when spring comes around, the tree can send moisture and nutrients up to grow new branches, leaves, and flowers.

Choose Your Planting Spot

Choose a site that gets plenty of sun and is far enough away from structures, sidewalks, pathways, or any kind of water pipes. Remember, maple trees LOVE sun!

Maple roots are often shallow and can raise or crack cement and asphalt. Some maple roots also will disrupt drain pipes in their search for water, so be mindful of supply lines and septic fields.

Dig The Hole!

Next, dig your hole. Dig as deep as the container and about two to three times as wide. Loosen up the root ball so the roots can spread out and mix the existing soil with a good garden or potting soil so there are plenty of nutrients for the new tree. 

Set The Maple Sapling Inside

Set the sapling in the hole, but don’t bury the trunk deeper than the original soil level in the container. Before you fill in the remainder of the soil, water the hole and root ball very well. This makes sure the water reaches the roots.

Fill The Hole And Wait

Now fill in the hole, compact the dirt, and add a layer of mulch. Spread the mulch in the shape of a donut while keeping it away from the trunk a few inches. 

Once your maple sapling is in the ground, it can take 10 to 30 years for the tree to mature. During this time, you may need to prune the tree occasionally for health, but the main thing you can do to make sure it remains healthy is to make sure it gets enough water.

Fertilizer isn’t really necessary for maple trees unless you can tell it’s NOT growing well. Their roots spread out far enough to find the nutrients they need. With regular leaf mulching, mowing, and keeping a layer of mulch around the tree, it finds enough nutrients to stay full!

Keeping Your Maple Strong From Sapling To Young Tree

Maple saplings are still susceptible to damage from foraging animals that like to snack on tender tree bark and the soft tissue underneath. Deer, mice, squirrels, porcupines, and beavers all will seek new saplings, especially when other food sources are scarce. 

According to the USDA, when deer feed on saplings, they increase potential frost damage, weaken the tree and insect infestation. These can increase the mortality of the saplings.

Place A Wire Mesh Around The Maple Tree

To keep them protected, you should erect a wire mesh frame around them. You can use metal fence posts, wood stakes like these Bond Manufacturing Hardwood Stakes, or anything else rigid enough to hold hardware cloth. 

Pound them into the ground around the tree, then take some hardware cloth and attach it to the posts to enclose the tree in a tight cage. Nueve Deer Hardware Cloth has ½” holes that will keep animals out and away from the tree.

Use Chicken Wire

Chicken wire will help against deer and some larger animals, but mice and squirrels can get through the openings. 

Next, drape some netting or mesh over the top of the tree and secure it with bread ties or zip ties to keep small climbing critters like squirrels out. Feitore Deer Fence Netting will help to deter them.

Keep Your Maple Tree Watered

Saplings need to be watered more often than big, established, mature trees. You’ll probably have to water them on a regular schedule, especially during periods of sparse rain for the first two years of growth. 

Maple trees need a good, drenching watering every couple of days to keep them healthy.

The biggest concerns here are to make sure the water soaks in and reaches the roots, but also to keep from watering them too much. Root rot is hard to fix and can be fatal, especially in newer trees. 

Let the top of the soil dry out before watering again so the tree’s roots can “breathe,” instead of drowning the roots in water. When watering your maple sapling, give it a few gallons at a time. Proper watering is the best way to prevent sunscald and leaf scorch.

Properly Mulch Your Maple Tree

A good three to four-inch layer of mulch around the tree helps to keep moisture in, and as the mulch decomposes, adds organic nutrients to the soil. 

Once the tree is about five years old, you can remove the protective mesh and start letting nature water your tree. In times of drought, you can water your tree to keep it healthy, but during normal conditions, the tree should be able to fend for itself. 

Congratulations, you have a strong growing maple tree! It should give you and your family a lifetime of beauty, shade, and enjoyment. Aside from the occasional pruning and watering during droughts, you shouldn’t have to do much else to keep your maple tree healthy. 

How Fast Do Maple Trees Grow?

Maple tree turning yellow in autumn in a public park.

Again, this is species specific. Some maple trees grow very slow while some will reach maturity quickly, for a tree that is. 

Some of the slower-growing maple trees include most species of Japanese maples, sugar maples, field, and Shantung maple.

Many of these trees will grow no more than a foot per year. For trees that can reach over 100 feet tall, this means it could take a lifetime for them to attain their full height.

Common Maple Tree Growth Rates 

Sugar maples will take about 30 to 40 years to reach a tall, mature age. Dwarf Japanese maples are some of the slowest growing maple trees. They only reach five to seven feet tall, and it may take them ten years to attain that height. 

Maple trees with a slightly faster growth rate will grow up to two feet per year. Medium growth maple trees include trident maples, Norway, red, and some bigger varieties of Japanese maples, such as Acer palmatum, or Bloodgood. 

Red maples may reach a mature height of 40 to 60 feet tall in 20 to 30 years, while a Bloodgood Japanese maple will reach a max height of 35 feet tall in 15 to 20 years. 

Fastest Growing Maple Trees

The fastest-growing maple trophy goes to the silver maple. This tree can shoot up almost as fast as bamboo (but they aren’t nearly as invasive).

The speedy silver maple can grow up to five or six feet in a single year. These trees can reach maturity in less than 10 years.

If you are looking for a super fast-growing tree, look no farther than the silver maple. But with that quick growth brings a soft, easily broken wood, so keep that in mind. 

Other fast-growing maple trees include the autumn blaze and freeman maple. These are hybrids of the red or, in the case of freeman maple, a red and silver maple mix.

While they don’t grow as fast as the silver maple, they are still considered fast-growing maple trees. 

Can You Grow A Maple Tree In Your Zone?

Some maple trees can grow from Maine to Florida, while others can’t deal with extreme heat. Most maple trees are fairly hardy from U.S. grow zones 4 down to 8, but again it depends on the species. 

Maple trees can be found all across the United States and Canada. While sugar maples favor the eastern side, they can grow in the west.

The bigleaf maple is native to the western states and can be found in Washington, Oregon, California, and even up in Alaska.

You should be able to find maple trees that are native to or will grow well in your zone, no matter where you are.

Establish a relationship with your local nurseries and ask them what maple trees will work for you. They’ll be able to provide you with all the information you need to grow your own maple trees. 

That’s A Wrap!

Trees can provide benefits for people, wildlife, and the environment, so go ahead and take up this hobby. The trees you plant can provide several generations with beauty, shade, and happiness. 

Whether you’re planting sugar maples, sycamores, or Japanese maple trees, these iconic trees are fun and exciting to care for and watch grow up into strong healthy trees. Get out there and start planting.

References:

Ostfeld, Richard S., Robert H. Manson, and Charles D. Canham. “Effects of rodents on survival of tree seeds and seedlings invading old fields.” Ecology 78.5 (1997): 1531-1542.

Carl, Clayton M., and Albert Granville Snow. Maturation of sugar maple seed. Vol. 217. Northeastern Forest Experiment Station, Forest Service, US Department of Agriculture, 1971. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=jK2cxrI_AycC&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=maple+tree+seeds&ots=Nvh34JltBC&sig=IWTAlHe0addJNsuJd-uCWIYR-P8#v=onepage&q=maple%20tree%20seeds&f=false 

Farmer, Robert E., and Maureen Cunningham. “Seed dormancy of red maple in east Tennessee.” Forest Science 27.3 (1981): 446-448.

Tremblay, M-F., Yves Mauffette, and Yves Bergeron. “Germination responses of northern red maple (Acer rubrum) populations.” Forest Science 42.2 (1996): 154-159.

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