University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
of New England in the fall and you likely think of the brilliant colors
sugar maples. Although the sugar maple
species provides the fall color of forests, there are some cultivars
(cultivated varieties) of it great for landscapes, plus some other good
to consider for cold northern climates. All these mentioned are hardy
zone 4 (-20 to -30 degrees F) unless noted.
sugar maple (Acer saccharum)
makes an excellent shade and lawn tree,
with an upright oval to rounded shape and reaching 80 feet high and up
feet wide. It doesn't tolerate salt,
soil compaction, or air pollution so may not be a good choice in cities
close to roads (yet you see many old trees along the backroads of New
England). 'Green Mountain' is a
selection with dark green summer leaves turning yellow-orange in fall,
oval habit. Another oval selection, but with a wider range of fall
'Flax Mill Majesty'. Fall Fiesta has
leathery green leaves turning primarily red in fall, and an upright
habit. There are several with a narrow
upright or "fastigiate" habit such as 'Barrett Cole'.
red maple (Acer rubrum) is a
native tree with showy orange to red
flowers in spring, and orange to crimson fall leaves on trees reaching
feet high. Not all selections turn red
in fall, some being yellow or greenish. The female trees may have
flowers and leaves. Best is to buy a
tree in the fall so you know what color it will produce.
red maple tolerates wet soils better than the sugar maple, but isn't as
so is sometimes called Swamp maple. Best growth and color
maples is in
acidic soils. There are several cultivars you may find for sale, but
not equally hardy. Among the hardiest
are 'Autumn Flame' with intense red fall leaves, 'Autumn Spire' that is
than wide, 'Franksred' (also known as Red Sunset) with orange to red
early fall, 'Northwood' with less brilliant orange-red fall color, and
Northfire with early red fall leaves.
silver maple (Acer saccharinum)
is seen in many landscapes as it is
growing, and tolerates a wide variety of soil types from dry to
Being fast growing it tends to have a weak structure,
subject to wind and ice damage, with leaves and branches littering
lawns. It tends to be shorter-lived than other
maples, has poor yellow fall color, and its roots near the surface can
sidewalks and pavement to buckle. With
these and other drawbacks, such as several insect pests, it is best
temporary shade while other trees establish.
better choice than the silver maple is a hybrid of it and the red
Freeman maple (Acer freemanii),
having the best traits of both without
their drawbacks. 'Jeffersred' has
brilliant red fall color, and unlike its red maple parent will grow
alkaline soils. Celebration is a Freeman
maple with good red and gold fall color, and tolerates urban
these selections, as well as others you may find, are medium-size
about 40 to 50 feet high, and about 30 to 40 feet wide.
maples are a very popular group of short maples, often seen in
mostly are only reliably hardy to USDA zone 6 (0 to -10 degrees
hardier alternative, sometimes living into
zone 4, is the Korean maple (Acer
pseudosieboldianum). It has bright
red, orange and purple colors
in late fall and may reach 25 feet high and half that wide.
are several other hardy maples that make small trees, generally 20 to
high at most. Striped maple or Moosewood (Acer pensylvanicum) is a
native, understory tree of woodlands so likes part shade. It is
short-lived, but has colorful striped
green and white bark, with attractive yellow fall leaves.
maple (Acer tataricum subsp. ginnala) makes a short tree only
about 15 feet tall, so is good under utility lines along streets. It
into natural areas, so may be considered invasive and should only be
streets where choices are limited and far from wooded areas. Amur maple
attractive leaves, red fruit in summer, and red leaves in fall.
of the choicest maples, and landscape plants in general, is
us in the north only reliably hardy to USDA zone 5 (-10 to -20 degrees
F). Paperbark maple (Acer
outstanding peeling red-brown bark with bluish-green leaves turning
fall. This informally upright maple
reaches about 20 to 30 feet high, and grows slowly.
you should not consider are the boxelder (Acer negundo) and Norway
(Acer platanoides). The
is a soft-wooded, weedy tree with weak branches subject to breaking in
and ice. It and the commonly seen Norway
maples seed around profusely, and so have been placed on many invasive
lists even though the box elder is native.
Winds blow their winged seeds, called "samaras", into wild
areas where the resulting plants displace desirable native plants. The
and red maples make alternatives to the Norway maple.
tree ideas for landscapes can be found in references such as Landscape
Plants for Vermont (www.uvm.edu/mastergardener),
and The Homeowner's
Complete Tree and Shrub Handbook (www.storey.com).