The maple tree family is a large one, and it includes trees of all shapes and sizes. From broad and spreading Norway maples, to columnar red maples, to short and shrubby ‘Emerald Elf’ amur maple, you can find a maple to fit any planting need. Japanese maples are probably the best known members of the family, but we’re inviting you to meet other members of the clan. If you’re in the market for a tree, consider a maple. You won’t be disappointed.
First Editions Matador maple is a type of freeman maple (Acer x freemanii ‘Bailston’). The freeman maple is actually a hybrid of a red maple (Acer rubrum) and silver maple (Acer saccharinum). It displays the best of both parents: fast growth but with a solid structure, good fall color and adaptability. Matador maple unfurls bright green leaves in spring that turn deep red in autumn. Leaves hang on the tree longer than other freeman maple varieties, providing a long show of fall color. This is an adaptable tree, growing well on a home lawn or in an urban setting. Expect trees to grow 40 to 45 feet tall and 20 to 40 feet wide in ideal conditions. Hardy in Zones 4-7.
Variegated Norway Maple
For a good shade tree, it’s tough to beat Norway maple, unless you’re planting variegated Norway maple (Acer platanoides ‘Variegatum’). The green leaves with white edges brighten the landscape all season long. In fall, leaves shift to gold tones. Norway maple tolerates urban pollutants, but avoid planting it near driveways or sidewalks, because shallow roots can lift concrete. Trees grow 50 to 60 feet tall and 40 to 50 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-7.
Fall Fiesta Sugar Maple
Sugar maples (Acer saccharum) are native trees, making up much of the U.S. hardwood forest along the East Coast. As the name suggests, this is the maple that is tapped to release sap, which can be boiled down to make maple syrup. In addition to their sweet sap, sugar maples are famous for their stunning fall color. This maple makes a good shade tree. If planted in a row, it can form an elegant allee and effective windbreak. This grouping shows Fall Fiesta sugar maple (Acer saccharum ‘Bailsta’), which boasts strong, rapid growth and a rounded form. Leaves resist summer heat, wind and drought. Sugar maple trees grow 60 to 75 feet tall and up to 30 to 40 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 3-8.
Full Moon Maple Tree
The glorious fall foliage of full moon maple (Acer shirasawanum) 'Autumn Moon' isn't this tree's only plus. In spring, the new leaves emerge red before turning the tree's summer color of light green tinged with a slight red-orange blush.
Norway maple (Acer platanoides) is the ultimate shade tree, forming a dense crown thanks to leaves that grow up to 7 inches across. In fall, leaves shift to hues of yellow and gold. Give it plenty of space, because it spreads up to 50 feet. The form of this maple is a classic lollipop shape—a strong, straight trunk topped with a rounded leaf canopy. Norway maple tolerates urban conditions, but avoid planting it near driveways or sidewalks, because shallow roots can lift concrete. Trees grow 50 to 60 feet tall and 40 to 50 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-7.
Just because you have a small yard doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the fall color of a sugar maple. Look for this beauty: Apollo maple (Acer saccharum ‘Barrett Cole’). Apollo grows tall but not wide, making it the perfect choice for small urban yards or a side yard garden. The tree forms a pillar covered in classic green maple leaves all season long that fade to blazing hues of orange, gold and red in fall. This maple makes a good choice for a street planting or along a driveway, where its branches won’t block the view. Trees grow at least 25 feet tall and just 10 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-7.
‘Embers’ Amur Maple
A good xeriscape plant, ‘Embers’ amur maple (Acer ginnala ‘Embers’) turns fall into a season of blazing reds. Amur maple is easy to grow and tough as nails, withstanding hard winters with ease. Seeds form in summer and are a bright red that contrasts strikingly with the green leaves. Trees grow 15 to 20 feet tall and up to 15 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 3-7. Amur maple is considered invasive in some areas. Check with your local extension office before planting this tree.
Hot Wings Maple
If you don’t have room for a 50- to 100-foot tree, check out Hot Wings maple. It’s a type of tartarian maple (Acer tartaricum ‘GarAnn’) discovered and developed in Colorado, which means it tolerates dry, alkaline conditions. Trees open typical small, yellow maple flowers in spring after leaves appear. Flowers fade to form bright red seeds (helicopters) in summer, which contrast brilliantly with the green leaves. Fall color features shades of orange-red and yellow. This is more of a spreading maple that can be grown as a shrub or small tree. Expect trees to grow 20 to 25 feet tall and 18 to 20 feet wide in ideal conditions. At higher elevations, Hot Wings grows 15 to 18 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 3-10.
A native maple, Pennsylvania striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum) thrives in hardwood forests as an understory plant, a plant that grows best in the shade of tall trees. In your own yard, tuck striped maple into a spot with light to full shade. As the name hints, the bark on this maple features white stripes. Leaves have a trio of strongly pointed lobes, which give rise to another common name: goosefoot maple. This plant is also known as moosewood, because it’s a favorite food of moose (and deer). Fall color is vibrant yellow. Striped maple is the perfect addition to native planting designs or a wildlife garden. It thrives in moist, well-drained soil on the acidic side. Trees grow 15 to 25 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 3-7.
Colorful Chinese Pistachio Tree
Chinese pistachio (Pistacia chinensis) is a good choice for brilliant fall color in areas where the sugar maple won't grow. The leaves are slow to appear in the spring but hang on late in the fall, turning a brilliant reddish orange. Used for root stock for the pistachio nut tree (P. vera), Chinese pistachio produces fruits that aren't palatable to humans, but birds like them. Medium-sized tree (to 35 feet tall), drought resistant, USDA Zones 6b to 9.