6 Reasons Why Maple Trees Make Wonderful Shade Trees
Who doesn’t delight in a nice, sunny day, right? On the flip side, sometimes it is just nice to soak up the shade and bask in the cool breeze that only occurs right underneath a tree. Maple trees might be the tree to give you this moment of respite during hot summer days!
These trees have large canopies, grow tall (and fast), provide syrup, and are great, sturdy additions to areas all over North America.
Maples are not only beautiful and useful, but are also resilient and reliable.
As you consider what might be the best shade tree to invest your time and money into, maple should be at the top of your list. This tree could be your best option, depending on factors like where you live, and what you are looking for. Stick with us for a while so that we can go over all the basics. You’ll leave feeling informed and prepared!
Maple Trees Are Great For More Than Just Shade
Let’s start off with the main question on everyone’s mind. Are maple trees good shade trees? Yes, maples are wonderful shade trees, for many reasons.
You can rely on these trees to grow quickly. Maple trees are tall, have a wide canopies, live a long time, provide added benefits like sap that can turn to syrup, and provide shelter from not only the sun but also from other elements.
They Have Large Canopies
The distinction between a regular old tree and a shade tree has to do with the canopy- how dense it is, how wide it spreads, how tall the tree is, and how the height reflects the canopy’s ability to throw its shadow so that it can provide shade.
A maple tree, however, has a canopy that will reach 30 to 50 feet wide in most cases – which provides a very large shadow!
Maple Trees Are Diverse
Maple trees have their preferences about the environments in which they can grow and thrive, but this is no different from any tree.
Generally, with well over 100 species of maple trees, you will find a species that fits any given environment that trees can grow. It’s safe to say that maples can be found virtually everywhere in the United States.
They Grow Tall!
Maples trees grow up to about 2 feet, or 24 inches, per year. This makes them medium-fast growing trees and, at maturity, they might stand anywhere from 30 to 150 feet tall. What a range!
Between the height of the tree and the spread of its canopy, you are sure to find some great shade underneath.
Since these maple trees are able to grow quickly and adapt well, they might just be the right option for your next shade tree.
Maple Trees Thrive In A Lot Of USDA Zones
Maple trees do best in USDA hardiness zones 3-9 overall, but most prefer the slightly more temperate climate in zones 5-9. Their ability to thrive in a wide range of zones makes it possible to find maples all over the United States, and greater North America, even.
Maple trees are seen as one of the best shade trees due to their wide canopy, multifaceted uses, and growth rate.
Now, let’s get to the heart of it all. Here are 6 reasons maple trees are so great.
1. Maple Trees Can Grow All Across North America
There are approximately 132 species of maple trees, which means that each individual species is going to have slightly different requirements and respond best to different things.
According to the USDA, hardiness zones 3-9 encompass the regions of the United States where these trees are able to grow the best.
Since the hardiness zones go from 1-13, this means that maple trees are able to thrive in most areas of the United States, especially because the more moderate middle zones make up the majority of environments in the United States.
So, What Exactly Is A Hardiness Zone?
You may be wondering what is a hardiness zone and why do we care about it? Let us to tell you!
When we talk about the hardiness of a plant, we are referring to how ‘cold hardy’ it is. This is really just another way of saying, “Alright, how cold can it get in a region before the tree starts really struggling?”
So, the USDA hardiness zones give us a helpful set of parameters to determine the coldest it might possibly get in a given zone and, as it follows, what zones are best for what types of plants.
Maple Tree’s Required Hardiness Zone, Explained
The hardiness differs based off the type of maple tree we’re talking about!
Sugar maple, autumn blaze maple, red maple, and silver maple are some of the most common maple trees to choose from, and each will have a slightly different set of needs to consider as you determine what the best conditions to grow your tree are.
4 Kinds Of Maple Tree Hardiness Zones
- Sugar Maple: This species of maple grows best in USDA hardiness zones 3-8. That means that the range of average extreme low temperatures for sugar maple is -40 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Here are the best places to plant sugar maple trees if you go this route!
- Autumn Blaze Maple: This type of maple tree prefers USDA hardiness zones 4-8, just a bit less hardy than the sugar maple listed above.The range of average extreme low temperatures for the autumn blaze maple species is anywhere from -30 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Red Maple: Our third species as an example this time prefers to reside in USDA hardiness zones 3-9. So far, this type of maple is the coldest hardy of our listed examples. The range of average extreme low temperatures for the red maple tree has a wide range of -40 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Silver Maple: Finally, we have the silver maple species, which can be found in USDA hardiness zones 3-9. Just like the red maple, that means that this species prefers an average extreme low-temperature range of -40 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
The good thing about the zones that maple trees grow in is that, since they are in the middle portion of the zone designations, you’ll find that at least one maple-friendly growing zone exists in each of the 50 states.
2. Maple Trees Have Large Canopies That Provide Excellent Shade
Maple trees, similar to their birch, oak, and other tree counterparts, happen to have canopies that are quite large. This makes them perfect for casting shade on even the brightest, sunniest day of the season.
While the maple tree, on average, has a canopy that spans from 30 to 50 feet wide, you might get a better idea of what to expect by looking at a few different examples, like we did above.
- Sugar Maple: This maple grows to be 60 to 75 feet tall, and its canopy spreads anywhere from 40 to 50 feet wide (they are also amazing maple syrup trees!)
- Autumn Blaze Maple: An autumn blaze maple is a bit shorter, growing anywhere from 40 to 50 feet tall, with a canopy spread of 20 to 40 feet wide.
- Red Maple: This one meets the top two somewhere in the middle in terms of height. Red maples get from 40 to 60 feet tall, and tend to have a canopy that is 40 feet wide.
- Silver Maple: This type of maple tree gets between 50 and 80 feet tall, with a canopy that ranges from 35 to 50 feet wide at full maturity.
It could be best to first search your growing zone, then get an idea of how much space you have that your tree of choice can fill out. This will help you begin to choose the right tree for your exact location.
Now overall, maple trees LOVE sun, which is why they are great to plant in areas where they get plenty of sun.
3. Maple Trees Make Sap (AKA Maple Syrup)
Shade isn’t the only thing you’ll be getting out of this deal! Let’s not forget that maple trees produce sap, which can easily be turned into the maple syrup that we all adore.
If you don’t love maple syrup, odds are you know someone that does. So, you can keep it to yourself or become the favorite neighbor that stops by with some syrup once in a while. Either way, you’re winning.
And get this – you don’t have to be a pro to get your own syrup, though. Simply grab a tap, watch a few online video tutorials, and you’ll be on your way!
You can learn more about maple sap by reading our article on the different maple trees that produce maple syrup incase that influences your planting choice!
4. Maple Trees Grow Quite Quickly
Maple trees are known for growing at a medium to fast rate, typically. While some trees may take a little longer than others, most are going to shoot up at least a foot per year, often much more. This means that you will have a shade tree relatively quickly even if you are planting your maple as a new tree.
Of course, it will take some time to get your maple to a size where it covers your desired area of shade, and it will not be able to produce sap until it reaches a certain age. If you start now, though, odds are that you’ll be reaping the benefits of a young-to-mature tree sooner than you might expect.
Maple Tree Growth Rates
- Sugar Maple: These trees are said to have a medium growth rate because sugar maples grow anywhere from 12-24 inches per year, which translates to 1-2 feet of vertical growth. On an annual scale, this isn’t bad!
- Autumn Blaze Maple: The autumn blaze maple has a fast growth rate, growing more than 24 inches, or two feet, in any given year.
- Red Maple: Much like its relative, the sugar maple, this tree grows at a medium rate. The red maple also shoots up about 12-24 inches, 2-3 feet, per year.
- Silver Maple: Similar to the autumn blaze maple, the silver maple is also a fast grower with vertical increases in size of over 24 inches, or 2 feet, per year.
You might notice that, unlike the hardiness zones in which maple species might thrive differently, the growth rate of maple trees tends to be comparable.
Read more about maple tree growth rates in our piece on the average maple tree timeline and how long it takes for full growth.
5. Maple Trees Do Well In Many Soil Types
Not only are maple trees flexible when it comes to the cold. They are also rather adaptable to different soil types, including clay. Maples do best in well-drained soil that is slightly acidic.
For context, many trees are well-suited for many soil types but will draw the line at clay and drier desert-like soils.
If you have a maple that is growing in a climate that is a bit drier, you may be concerned about the amount of water it has access to.
Perhaps you aren’t around to regularly water your plants, or maybe you’d just like to take one thing off your to-do list. If that sounds like you, we recommend using an irrigation system to help your maple tree get water in dry climates.
This CARPATHEN Drip Irrigation Kit comes with drip emitters, ¼ tubing, and drip connectors, and is a great choice for your yard, garden, and even patio plants.
Use Fertilizer To Sustain The Tree In Different Climates
Beyond that, if you are looking for a way to help sustain your maple tree a little beyond what the soil itself can provide, you may consider using a fertilizer.
We’ve found that, for maples, that a fertilizer with an NPK of 10-4-6 or 16-4-8 has the best balance of elements that your tree needs.
NPK stands for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. This acronym helps us easily list the ratio of each of these important elements to one another.
So, since maple trees need more of the first number, we know that they require more nitrogen, and then slightly less potassium, and, finally, even less phosphorus.
The Andersons Professional PGF Complete 16-4-8 Fertilizer with 7% Humic DG is a granular fertilizer, which is one of the preferred methods of receiving nutrients for maple trees.
For a more detailed guide, check out our article on the best maple tree fertilizers.
6. Maple Trees are Resistant to the Elements
On top of all of their other benefits, maple trees have been known to protect people and homes against more weather than just the sunThe maple tree itself may just help protect your home and yard from wind damage, harsh storms, and any other severe weather.
Live maples are wind resistant thanks to their sturdiness, and are often planted in places where they can best offer this protection from the weather.
While we hope you don’t need to utilize your maple for any sort of shelter or protection, it’s good to know that you have a sturdy structure growing right behind you.
Should I Plant A Maple Tree?
Even as you read through the reasons that a maple tree can be a good shade tree, you might wonder if it’s the tree for you.
So, is there any reason to avoid planting a maple tree? Well, like every other tree, there are some things to consider as you think about how much time and effort you will put into a maple tree’s growth.
For the sake of giving you as much information as we can, we want you to know what might be a bit more time-consuming when it comes to having a maple tree.
Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Plant A Maple Tree
- Maple trees have a very shallow root system, which can end up causing cracks in sidewalks, uneven soil around the base of the tree, and tripping hazards for people and pets alike.
- Some maple species are invasive, so you want to make sure that you are picking a species that will not overtake other nearby plants.
- Maple trees are messy, thanks to the helicopter seeds that fall from their branches, and the sap that may drip from any wounds on the tree.
None of these reasons are particularly, well…bad. They’re just things to keep in mind as you make your decision.
Learn more about the best maple trees by reading our article on the best maple trees to plant – it’ll give you a detailed walkthough on the best ones to plants and where they should go!
Okay, that’s it for now. Rest assured that we have lots more in the way of shade tree writing. So, if you still aren’t convinced that maple trees are the right shade trees for you, you can search our site for more articles on trees that make wonderful shade trees.
So, in closing, maple trees are great shade trees. Also, who doesn’t love maple syrup? It’s a win-win situation!
Why are maple trees such wonderful shade trees?
- Maple trees can grow across the United States (& North America)
- Maple trees have large canopies that provide excellent shade
- Maple trees make sap (AKA maple syrup)
- Maple trees grow quite quickly
- Maple trees do well in many soil types
- Maple trees are resistant to the elements
We want to congratulate you for taking the time to do your research before choosing your next shade tree. It’s always better to know before you grow!
It may take some time to get familiar with your tree of choice, but we are confident that you will choose the best species to offer you shade, among all the other great things that a tree has to offer you.
Until next time, good luck as you continue along your tree journey. Remember, we are right here with you.
Bauce, E., & Allen, D. C. (1991). Etiology of a sugar maple decline. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 21(5), 686–693.
Godman, Richard M., Harry W. Yawney, and Carl H. Tubbs. “Acer saccharum Marsh. sugar maple.” Silvics of North America 2.654 (1990): 78.
Tremblay, M-F., Yves Mauffette, and Yves Bergeron. “Germination responses of northern red maple (Acer rubrum) populations.” Forest Science 42.2 (1996): 154-159.