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How to Plant a Maple Tree


No other tree can outshine a maple when it comes to spectacular fall colors, shade production, and overall landscape beauty. Use these tips for planting a maple tree so you can get off to a great start this planting season.

Most of us are familiar with the large-growing varieties of maple trees and have probably enjoyed maple syrup from the Sugar Maple tree but there are many more varieties of maple trees growing in the United States.

Tall or short, shade or syrup producing, red or yellow, all maple tree varieties have a few things in common. The proper way to plant them is one of those common threads among the varieties.


Most Popular Maple Tree Varieties


Where & When to Plant a Maple Tree 

Finding the right planting area for your maple tree is imperative for it to thrive. All varieties of maple trees grow best in well- drained soil that is slightly acidic and kept moist. These hardwood trees grow best in a full sun location with one exception – the Japanese Maple. The Japanese Maple tree is a smaller, ornamental variety of maple tree and grows best when planted in a location that will provide the tree with afternoon shade.

Maple Tree Size

yellow maple tree leaves
Height of a Maple Tree| Photo By
白士 李
| Licensed By CC

Consider how large the tree will be when mature when selecting a planting site. A mature October Glory Red Maple will be 50-feet tall and have a spread of 35-feet. The Bloodgood Japanese Maples will be 15-feet tall and equally as wide when mature. All other maple varieties will mature to a size range somewhere between the Red and Japanese varieties, so consider that when planting.

Maple Seeds & Cuttings

Young maple trees can be purchased ready to plant or can be started from either a seed or a cutting. Seeds mature in either spring to early summer or late fall, depending on the species. Cuttings are taken in mid-summer or early fall.

Seeds from the maple tree develop and fall off in spring or fall. The seeds are in little pods that float and spin their way down to the ground. Pods are officially called ‘nutlets’, but are commonly referred to as ‘helicopters’, ‘whirlygigs’ or many other fun names. Open the pod and remove seed or plant with pod intact.

Fill a small container with peat moss and press seed 1-inch down into the center of the container. Water seed and place entire container in a plastic bag and place in the refrigerator for 60 days. This is called ‘cold stratification’ and mimics what the seed would go through in nature before it germinates.

After the seed germinates, place the container in a sunny indoor location. Keep soil moist. 

To start a new tree from a cutting, snip off a 4-inch branch tip from a young tree in mid-summer or early fall. Remove the leaves from the lower half of the stem and scrape off all the bark. Place the scraped end into a container of rooting medium, water well and place a plastic bag over the entire container. 

Place container in a warm location but away from direct sunlight. In 2-4 weeks the cutting will develop roots. Remove the plastic bag when roots develop and place cutting in direct sunlight. Keep soil moist until ready to transplant tree outdoors.

When seedling or cutting reaches 6-8 inches tall transplant it into a container filled with good quality potting soil. The potting soil will provide the young tree with all of the nutrients needed until its time to transplant the maple tree outdoors.

How to Plant a Maple Tree

Maple trees can be planted anytime except winter, but the ideal planting season for these beauties is spring or fall.

First you will need to dig a hole that is as deep as the container and 3-feet wide. Remove the sapling from the container and place it in the planting hole, making sure the soil line on the stem is even with the surrounding soil. If the root ball is buried too deep the roots may rot.

bloodgood japanese maple
Bloodgood Japanese Maple

Backfill the hole with the removed soil, and gently tamp the soil as you are backfilling the hole to ensure there are no air pockets. Level the soil surface and water thoroughly. 

Place 2-inches of organic mulch around the base of the trunk to help retain soil moisture. Straw or tree bark are good organic mulch products to use, since they will add nutrients to the soil as they decompose.

Maple Tree Spacing

Maple trees need a lot of above-ground and below-ground space in which to grow. The root system of a maple tree can extend 4-5 times its height, but the trees can be planted closer together than that. 

Space large growing red, yellow, and sugar maples 25-feet apart. The smaller growing varieties can be spaced about 10-feet apart. This will allow plenty of air circulation between the trees and minimal competition for soil nutrients.

Maple Tree Fertilizer

Do not feed maple trees for the first two years to allow the tree to develop a strong root system instead of an abundance of branch growth. 

Mulching with compost or organic matter in the second spring is all the food a maple tree will ever need. Feeding them after this will promote rapid growth that will create strong branches in the years to come.

How to Prune a Maple Tree

Maple trees can be pruned but only when a tree is dormant to prevent excessive sap loss. Tree sap will run freely from any cuts made to the tree during the growing season and could cause the tree to die.

Prune off any diseased or dead branches to keep the tree healthy, then trim it up to the desired size and shape.


We hope you found this blog on how to a plant maple tree useful and informative. Let us know your strategies and struggles in the comments below.

For more information on Maple Trees visit these links:

https://myperfectplants.com/2019/08/09/why-arent-my-maple-tree-leaves-turning-red-in-fall/

https://www.arborday.org/trees/treeguide/treedetail.cfm?itemID=870

https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_acru.pdf

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