Sugar maple trees are known for their sap and vibrant yellow to orange to red leaves during fall. They are tall and deciduous trees that often grow in forests and urban spaces. But, through time, many Americans have planted sugar maple in their backyards to benefit from shade, a standout landscape, and other benefits.
Sugar maple trees are tall and beautiful trees that provide shade and beauty and grow 60 to 75 feet tall. These trees have wide canopy leaves which color becomes very vibrant in the fall. Sugar maple trees grow in a round or oval shape when they are fully grown. They bloom abundantly in April and May and produce long and winged seeds that mature in the fall, specifically in September or October.
In this article, we will discuss the sugar maple tree and its interesting facts. We will also tackle how to grow this tree and why it is a good addition to your backyard.
What Is a Sugar Maple Tree?
Sugar maple is a great tree to plant in your backyard. It grows 60 to 75 feet tall and features wide canopy leaves that become particularly vibrant during fall. A sugar maple tree is a popular choice for many Americans’ backyards for it gives off wonderful shade and is a perfect ornamental tree.
Four U.S. states picked sugar maple as their state tree: Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and New York. It is also Canada’s national tree. Sugar maple trees are grown commercially for their sweet syrup and lumber.
One of the most remarkable features of a sugar maple tree is its leaves. It has dark green leaves that grow 3” to 5”, with 5, and rarely, 3 distinct lobes that are slightly prickly toothed. The flowers of a sugar maple grow in groups on the slender stems of the tree and curve downward.
Sugar maple trees grow in a round or oval shape when fully grown. They bloom abundantly in April and May and produce long and winged seeds that mature in the fall, specifically in September or October. The seeds of a maple tree grow about 1 to 1 ½” long.
During fall, the tree leaves turn from burnt yellow to bright orange and red, making this tree a wonderful sighting. Also, when planting sugar maple trees in your backyard, avoid putting them in confined areas where salt is an issue.
Why Are Sugar Maples Good Backyard Trees?
Sugar maple trees are tall and beautiful trees that provide shade and beauty to homeowners. Before planting one in your backyard, make sure you have researched this deciduous tree. It is not just about its syrup, which we put on our pancakes; sugar maple has more to offer.
Here are the reasons why planting sugar maples in your backyard is a good thing, aside from it being a standout landscaping item:
- Planting a sugar maple tree will help attract wildlife in your backyard. Sugar maple trees are grazed by white-tailed deer and moose hare. Their seeds, buds, twigs, and leaves are food for squirrels. However, there are some drawbacks, when deer visit and damage your yard, that could affect the growth of the tree.
- Sugar maple trees are highly adaptable trees. As previously mentioned, they grow well in USDA zones 3 to 8, which encompasses most U.S. states. They don’t grow well on the Pacific coast, southern Florida, or the Gulf Coast. However, they could span from sea to sea.
- Sugar maple trees are cold-tolerant, making them a good tree to plant in a cold climate. They also tolerate soggy soil, partial shade, and droughts.
- Sugar maple trees are best pruned in August or early spring, when they are dormant. Pruning a sugar maple in the spring isn’t advisable for it will lose a lot of sap. Pruning it in early summer, typically July or August, is much better for the sap flow to be slower and the pruning wounds to heal faster. Doing this will prevent the tree from getting any fungal infections.
- When you plant a sugar maple tree in your backyard, you are not just adding a standout beauty landscape in your yard but are also adding it for future generations to enjoy. Sugar maple trees, as mentioned earlier, can live for 300 to 400 years.
- Sugar maple trees are popular for their majestic leaves’ colors during the fall. Having this sight in your backyard would take your landscape to a new level of beauty. It is also a hardwood deciduous tree, meaning it sheds its leaves annually.
- The sap of the sugar maple can be harvested when it reaches its mature age, at 30 to 40 years old. On average, it can produce around 3 gallons of sap daily — that’s 9 to 14 gallons of sap per season. Having a sugar maple tree means having access to its sweet syrup.
Things You Need to Know about Sugar Maple Trees
A sugar maple tree, known scientifically as Acer Saccharum, is one of about 128 species of the Acer genus. It is native and mostly found in North America. A sugar maple tree is a medium-to-large tree species. Some homeowners like to put sugar maple in their backyards because it is a standout landscaping item.
A sugar maple tree is known for its production of sweet sap, which is used to create the famous maple syrup. This fast-growing tree can live up to 300 years under the right conditions.
If you are planning on adding sugar maple to your backyard, here are the things you should know about the tree first.
- Maturity and Dimensions
When a sugar maple tree reaches its mature size, it can grow 40 to 80 feet tall with the diameter of its trunk reaching 6 ½ feet. This tree spread can be 30 to 60 feet wide. When you are done planting a maple tree, it can grow 1 to 2 feet per year (30.5 to 61 cm.)
A 10-year-old sugar maple tree is about 32 feet tall. The largest sugar maple tree was 112 feet tall, with a 19 feet trunk, and a crown span of 91 feet.
- Soil Type and Hardiness Zone
Sugar maple trees like deep, moist, well-drained, and acidic to slightly alkaline soil. They also have moderate drought tolerance and are expected to grow in hardiness zone 3 to 8.
Sugar maple trees that grow in forests tend to have tall narrow trunks with branches emerging higher up to the trunk with a narrow canopy. Meanwhile, those growing in open fields or urban areas have wider trunks with branches starting to emerge lower down on the trunk, growing a robust and rounded canopy.
- Sun Preference and Temperature
Sugar maple trees prefer at least four hours of direct and unfiltered sunlight every day, meaning they thrive in full sun and partial shade.
Male species of sugar maple trees tend to be less common than their female counterpart due to their specific temperature requirements. This is for seed germination and better sap production. Also, sugar maples need winters with a full freeze.
In Northern regions, sugar maples grow in areas with an average winter temperature of 0°Fahrenheit and a summer temperature of about 61°F, while in Southern regions, they only grow at an average winter temperature of 50°F and an average summer temperature of 81°F.
- Root System
The sugar maple tree engages in a hydraulic lift mechanism. It means it can draw water deep into the earth through its roots, and then release the collected water into drier and shallow soils. This earthly mechanism does not only help the sugar maple tree but also the surrounding thirsty plants.
However, these sugar maple roots are known to invade plumbing, infrastructures, and grass growth because of their changeable growth in search of moisture.
Some trees produce unisex flowers, while others have bisexual flowers. Meanwhile, some are even polygamodioecious, which means the flower of a tree can either be male, female, or monoecious — possessing both sexual characteristics, allowing them to self-pollinate.
In a sugar maple tree, the flowers can switch from male to female, from male to hermaphroditic, and from hermaphroditic to female. Its flowers grow in dense groups and bloom very early in the spring.
The flower of a sugar maple tree grows in panicles with 5 to 10 clusters with a yellowish-green appearance. Some are apetalous. Staminate flowers, pollen-producing male flowers, have no stalk (sessile), while pistillate flowers, the ovule producing female flowers, have one pistil which is formed of 2 carpels with a superior ovary.
Regardless of the process of fertilization a sugar maple has undergone — self-pollination, wind, or insects — the fruit produces a pair of samaras. A samara, in botany, is a winged seed in which a fruit is contained in a globe-like seed and a pair of papery wings.
The samara of sugar maple trees falls in the fall season. The germination process of its seed is slow, and most of them will not make it until the following spring. Also, the seed must experience 45 days in 39°F temperatures to break down its protective casing.
How to Grow a Sugar Maple Tree
A sugar maple tree is one of the most spectacular sightings during fall in urban spaces. Throughout the season, its leaves turn green, but in the fall, the leaves change colors for a fall show.
Native to Northern America, sugar maple trees are best planted in early fall. They grow fast and steadily, adding around 24 inches a year until it reaches the mature age at around 30 to 40 years old.
Planting your Sugar Maple Tree
When planting a sugar maple in your backyard, select a large enough space. Consider how huge your sugar maple tree will grow, especially once it matures. Like many other slow-growing hardwood trees, a young sugar maple can be deceptive in size.
Plant yours in an area where it will receive full sun to partial shade. Also, plant your sugar maple in deep, well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. It is important to plant it somewhere where its roots could grow uninhibited. Sugar maple also thrives in soil with a pH level of 5.5 to 6.8.
Watering your Sugar Maple Tree
How much you should water your sugar maple plant depends on how big it is. Consistent watering is extremely important as the tree is still establishing in your backyard space. It is recommended to water it once or twice a week at first. As it grows, it will need around 5 gallons or more of water per week. If the watering isn’t enough, you’ll notice some signs of browning or wilting leaves, which means the plant needs more water.
Temperature and Humidity
As long as your sugar maple grows in the proper hardiness zone, you will not encounter any maintenance problems about the temperature requirements of the plant. However, temperature plays a crucial role in the growth of sugar maple. Indeed, the tree is best planted in cool weather, during fall or winter. To successfully harvest the sap of the plant, it relies on the oscillating climate of cold nights and warmer days.
If the soil in your backyard lacks nutrients, feed your sugar maple tree with a slow-release fertilizer specially made for shrubs and trees. Prune your sugar maple once the branches are hitting and damaging your roof, blocking the view, or invading your neighbor’s property. However, do not prune it during summer to avoid bleeding sap problems.
Sugar maples are also prone to some pests and diseases, the most common ones being cosmetic diseases that attack the leaves of the tree but not its overall health. These diseases include root rot, sapstreak, tar spot, verticillium, powdery mildew, and lichen.
Some of the potential pest nemeses are aphids, maple leaf-cutters, and sapsuckers. These pests can be removed by using strong jets of water or horticultural oil, like neem oil.
Now that you know more about sugar maple trees, it’s time to add them to your backyard and watch them grow beautifully, offering you some beauty and shade. Sugar maples are tall and deciduous trees. When planting them, make sure you have enough space since their roots are known to invade. With proper care and growing, your sugar maple tree will surely grow healthy and mighty.