Anyone have a sugar maple tree?

ilovemytrees(5b/6a Western, NY)April 17, 2014

We just ordered 3 from Ebay. After losing all of our Burning Bushes along one edge of our property to voles, dh said he gives up on planting what we wants there, which is shrubs. So he said it'll be a lot easier to protect maple trees from them, using those tree protector things we see everyone around here using. I just wish we weren't like everyone else and have maples. I wanted something more for us....

Does anyone have any experience growing them? They'll be in full sun and get plenty of TLC. In the best of circumstances will they grow moderately fast? I really don't want 70 ft tall trees on my property, but everyone else around here does. Our next door neighbors have a HUGE Willow Tree, and they live on land no bigger than a postage stamp! But boy do they love their tree....

Here's the link to the guy we bought the maples from. Hopefully we'll have as good a luck with him as we had from the seller we got our bareroot Golden Raintree from.;hash=item2a388e7963

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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Well, sugar maples are among my favorite trees, and my favorite large maple.

First off - you say you don't want a 70 foot tree. Sugar maples WILL grow to 70' or more, eventually.

They grow slower than many maples, but with good conditions, moderate to even somewhat fast. Not by any means the fastest growing tree, but not the slowest, either.

They're strong wooded, gorgeous in fall (orange usually, sometimes reddish or yellow). Native in pretty much all of New York State except parts of Long Island. Should do fine in your area as long as they're not too close to pavement as the reflected heat and root zone restriction is something they don't tolerate too well.

They need room to spread their roots. They can be a bit finicky in that they don't like either too much or too litte water. Bad for poorly drained areas, but they will scorch if the summer is too dry or hot - probably not a major issue in your area. They should tolerate any drought New York could throw at if once established, but as with any tree, I'd water the first couple years until they get established.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 9:19AM
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Maples are generally used to being in shade when younger. They are later in stages of succession and usually wait for an opening in the canopy before they take off.

One thing to keep in mind. They are pretty shallow rooted and when large or improperly pruned can rip right out of the ground with high winds.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 12:55AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

in the pic above.. note its siting.. that is not suburbia ... not a small suburban lot ...

note the mulch ring under it.. what might you think that is.. 15 to 10 feet ...???

and understand.. that all maple are incredible water competitors.. and note that nothing else is growing under it... probably including grass.. and perhaps that is why the mulch is there ...

not to mention leaves that turn slimy when trying to shred them.. and those helicopters... etc ...

if you cant tell.. as a hosta grower.. i hate maples....

i like the color.. but there are a lot of downsides.. over the decades ...


    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 8:25AM
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beng(z6 western MD)

I dunno, Hair. Sugar maples have colonized the primary flood plain downstream of my lot. The soil is sandstone-based (so well-drained), but the water table is always near the surface. One on my lot is directly on the stream bank, but the roots do visibly avoid the water. Seems they tolerate wet spots reasonably well & can take occasional flooding -- but not like red/silver maples.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 9:33AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Well, Ken, that's why I said they "need room to spread their roots".

To a point, they'll MAKE room for their roots, but of course in too constricted of an area (parking lots, streetside, etc) they will eventually decline.

They do grow best without much else around them, and it's not a tree to try to grow anything under - although sugar maples arne't quite as bad in that regard as red, silver, or Norway from what I've seen.

If you want to grow hostas, or anything else under the trees, I'd stick with oaks, hickories, etc.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 9:38AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Interesting, beng.

Poor drainage is always cited as a reason for failure for sugar maples. BLACK maple (Acer nigrum) often grows in floodplains, but I've never heard of straight sugar maple doing that.

However, the genetics of Acer saccharum and it's variant species is quite diverse, so the population of native trees in your area may well have evolved to be adapted to that. Even Acer grandidentatum, sugar maple's little western brother, native to dryish areas of the West, can tolerate wet feet.

Or it's just a matter of the crown itself having to stay out of floodwaters, but the roots are more tolerant.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 10:21AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

For zone 5 or lower the only tree capable of rivaling the beuaty and majjestic nature of the a sugar maple is a White Oak.

Sugar maples actually have a deeper root system than most other maples. They are best suited for open lawn areas vs garden beds.

Keep in mind the variablity of a species tree. You won't know the vigor and fall color.

Also it takes 50 to 100 years for a sugar maple to reach 70' in most cases. With the exception of the hardwood forests I only see trees of that size in larger lots with homes built in the 50s/60s. They are faster growing, like many trees, when young and juvenile.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 3:30PM
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ilovemytrees(5b/6a Western, NY)

Thanks, everyone! We planted the 3 baby maples yesterday. It was gorgeous outside! Beautiful sun, but a tad too cold for my taste (50 degrees).

The maples are sure gangly in their youth! lol They were mildly bent at the tippy top, probably from the box they came in, but I carefully straightened them out. One of the trees had a tiny scratch in the past but had already healed over. It sort of looks like when I mildly scratched my golden raintree when I pruned it the first time. The scratch was small, and only on one side, and already had a soft bark over it.

We used native soil and cedar mulch. I gave up on the rocks. I read online that rocks prevented voles, but that's so not true based on my experience.

I'll post pictures later today of the tiny maples. It's amazing to me that something so small and gangly will go to be 70 ft tall one day.... Oh, and it's not that I don't think the sugar maples at 70 ft aren't beautiful, they are, but after hearing about the trees that collapsed on peoples roofs what was it least year, after all that rain? That has permanently spooked me. I just didn't want a tree taller than my 2 story house, for that reason...

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 6:24AM
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Just thought I would share a preview of my two sugar maple selections made from 100 or so seedlings I planted 4 years ago. This one I call "Lime Fire". What you are viewing is not fall color but early summer color that persists throughout the entire summer. When all the others leaves turned a solid green, this little girl remained a tangerine light lime color. This one has stood out in the plot for a few years for its unusual leaf color through out the summer. It was the only one in the bunch like this. Even more spectacular is the red and orange fall color that follows. I planted these seedlings from select cultivars I got from a friend years back. Most of the seedlings have been tossed last year or given away. This year I moved my 7 selections I made from the 100 to their permanent locations. Here is "Lime Fire"!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 2:05AM
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Here is one I call "Caspian". This little guy sprouted from the ground with leaves the size of sheet of paper by mid summer. To some it might look like a freak of nature but this 4 year old tree gets leaves larger than my sycamores. It has green leaves with crimson colored stems. I don't know what is going on with this tree but the leaves are on average 4-5 times larger than any other seedling I sprouted. The leaves in this picture still are not full size spread at the moment. Yes I planted this one in a protected area. I love big leaves!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 2:13AM
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beng(z6 western MD)

Treebird, thanks -- very interesting seedlings. Will be nice to see the big-leafer when it's fully expanded.

My sugar maples leaf-out fast -- one week buds are swelling, the next week almost fully leafed out. Branches w/flowers tend to leaf-out slower (they often flower just on certain branches), but there aren't any flowers on them this yr.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 7:42AM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

Neither of our Sugar Maples had any flowers this year, and very few last year. Hmmmm.


    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 11:20AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Treebird - I love both of those! Once they get some more size you might have to part with some budwood...

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 11:25AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Ark - weird thing - a lot of the sugar maples around me didn't do much flowering this spring, either.

Last year, a huge sugar maple across the street had a very large seed crop - and this year I didn't see a single flower. I'm thinking they bear alternately like many trees do.

Your trees are pretty young, aren't they? That may also be part of it.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 11:28AM
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My parents have been in the same home since 1960. Enjoyed their first maples and other trees for 20-25yrs, then replaced having a few others started 5-10yrs earlier. I suppose its a succession planting so none have grown so large and out of control. Small lot.
They seem to have enjoyed the change. Always have had a shady area during the hot summers. And always have sunny areas for gardening.
My farm has many a hundred yrs old but they have lots of room and we tap them for maple syrup. Gorgeous fall color.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 11:52AM
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Well I've not found Sugar maples as touchy or picky as others claim. The past 2 years we were in drought conditions here in Iowa. I moved to Iowa from Pennsylvania and really missed the sugar maples putting on a show in the fall. Someone suggested I didn't attempt to grow sugars here in Iowa because they wouldn't like the region they're growing in. Plain and simple they are easy to grow. I bought a John Pair because it is said to be drought tolerant but so far it's boring and slow growing. Still waiting to see some red fall color on it. I've seen some outstanding color on the Fall Fiesta but didn't feel like spending over $200 for a tree. I figured if a man can grow his own seed and and make selections from that, he's more likely to make selections that please his own eyes. So that's what I did.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 12:38PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Treebird, sugars are native to Iowa, so I'm not sure who told you that. Although I think Black Maple (Acer nigrum) is a bit more common out there in IA. Black maple doesn't color quite as reliably in fall, however, but many still look nice - they tend more yellowish than orange-red but still look good.

Your seedlings look great! Does the big leaved one have good fall color, too?

FYI as far as cultivars...John Pair is said to be very slow - the other 2 named Caddo cultivars, Autumn Splendor and Flashfire, are supposedly more vigorous.

As far as "standard" A. saccharum cultivars, if you did decide to try them...Fall Fiesta is from a Minnesota seed source and should do fine in Iowa - in fact it even does well in the South (Arktrees has one), yet is also VERY cold hardy (zone 3).

Commemoration, Legacy, and Oregon Trail (Actual cultivar name of Oregon Trail is 'Hiawatha') sugar maples should also do well - the first two are of Illinois origin, and the last one of Kansas origin.

There have been studies done that basically said that sugar maples a provenance from the western part of the native range (even if more northerly, like Minnesota) even do better in the EAST under urban conditions, being more tolerant of heat, drought, etc. than the eastern provenance trees do.

It's the trees of New England provenance that seem truly picky. In fact, some have suggested that, to help combat climate change, urban pollution, etc actually planting some western-provenance seedlings in the New England sugar maple forests, just to have a "backup" and add some genetic diversity.

This post was edited by hairmetal4ever on Fri, May 16, 14 at 14:36

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 1:58PM
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terrene(5b MA)

I read that Acer saccharum only goes to seed every 2-5 years. I have a big one in the front yard (approx 60 years old) and only remember one seed year in at least the past 5 years. The squirrels went nuts that summer! They were up there chewing and collecting seed for weeks. Also had tons of seedlings the next spring.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 11:25PM
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The giant leaved cultivar I call "Caspian" produced really nice reddish purple foliage last fall. The years before that "Caspian" was more on the orange side. It's been a difficult one to grow. Because of its gigantic leaves, the new growth tends to weep. It needed lots of support at first. It doesn't like the wind. Luckily with 42 acres out here it wasn't difficult to find a permanent home for it where it's a little more sheltered. It is definitely a mutant maple with a dumbo the elephant complex. Wish I had a seedling that produced more of a red/ hot pink combo color. I may do a scion swap with you hairmetal for some interesting cultivars you might have. write me to let me know what you have. Thanks for the info on the cultivar origins by the way.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 1:19AM
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famartin(z5 NE NV)

In a heavily suburban or urban area, I can't in good conscience recommend Sugar Maple. I've just seen too many decline. They HATE urban conditions.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 2:03PM
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Here's a picture of a discounted fall fiesta sugar maple I just picked up for $48. It was 75% off original price. The leaves are very small and growth appears to be retarded. The man at Earl May said it sat out all winter in the pot. I'm hoping it pulls through. I couldn't pass it up for the price. Any tips for survival?

    Bookmark   September 30, 2014 at 1:12AM
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Work the roots when you de-pot that thing! It's going to be nasty-lots and lots of winding, circling going on. Other than that, no special cared whatsoever required for this or any other maple.

I like sugar maples just fine. They're our state tree. The thing is, as forests have become more mature, the shade has tended to be too much for beech, yellow birch, and the other northern hardwoods that would normally be present in a sugar maple stand. That's too bad IMO, as I really like to see more of those species present. But my point is, at least where I live, I would never spend a dime on a sugar maple, simply because young stock is so numerous out in just about any woods around here. Yes, digging stuff out of the woods has its own special set of challenges, but can be done, and done well. At least in this case, that's what I would have done. Plus, nothing wrong with ultra-local genetics.


    Bookmark   September 30, 2014 at 10:05AM
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I agree Tom, digging up your own trees from the timber is the least expensive way to go. I just dug a nice black maple from the timber. I moved to Iowa from PA where sugar maples were everywhere and some were breathtaking. That's the goal of having grafted clones. I have plenty of rootstock but asking for for a few sticks of scion from certain cultivars must be too much to ask or equivalent to having teeth pulled for some people. I like to consider myself a plant explorer and have made quite few interesting discoveries. Great explorers don't confine themselves to just urban settings or subdivision plantings. But we subject ourselves to ticks, poison ivy, cuts, bruises, exhaustion, and lets not forget those cleavers and burrs that have to be torn off your clothes. We make the great discoveries for subdivision people who pick their trees out for an exorbitant prices so the nurseries can deliver and plant them for people who don't want to get dirt under their nails.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2014 at 11:35AM
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Here is on of my favorite fall coloring sugars from my project. It has better color than the Fall Fiestas at the local Nursery. It colors up before anything else and still has its leaves unlike most of my other sugars. There's a lot of red and pink tones. This has been consistent so far for the last three years. My camera does little justice for what this tree looks like in person. It's much more neon and brighter. Love this tree.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2014 at 7:13AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Fall Fiesta Sugar Maple is by far the superior Sugar Maple on the market in my opinion.

Its incredibly consistent in regards to fall color and habit. Potentially across a large swath of the US.
It also colors up later than most but most importantly its more resistant to freezes than most other sugars I've witnessed. Has thick scorch/tatter resistant leaves and shows excellent drought tolerance. Curious to see what the southern folks have to say about this cultivar.

Tom, I'm a bit surprised by your comment about sugars. I too live in an area dominated by sugars but the variability is all over the place for color, timing, freeze resistance, habit etc. Selecting a cultivar makes sense to me. My Fall Fiesta is one of my favorite trees in my yard and if you can imagine I have quite a few deciduous tree species floating around.

Here is one at a park taken from the horrible iphone 4 camera earlier this week! To put that in perspective most oaks are at or past peak! That mostly dirty fall color is what you see in the background. I'll post one of mine later.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2014 at 8:29AM
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If you've had voles, they will surely hit these up too. Those white tree tubes likely the best way to keep them from chewing trunks while safe under the snow.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2014 at 11:52AM
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Yes, if a certain shade of fall color is an absolute requirement, than that cultivar bearing fall foliage of that hue is the way to go.

One note about fall color: The very young specimen may not indicate its true potential. It seems that just as very young, newly-planted stock sometimes exhibits one or another mineral nutrient deficiency, only to rebound later in life, to green perfection, so too young stock may not showcase its true fall color for some years, only to reveal itself after roots have fully developed. What I'm saying is, don't necessarily judge the fall color of a very young plant, but wait for a few years to evaluate. It may change, and for the better.

Whaas, it might be just that much of a difference between where you live and where I do.........I couldn't throw a stick out into most woods around here without hitting a sugar maple seedling/sapling. At least, on any higher, well-drained area. And for the most part, these are all going to be trees with great fall coloration, leastways, those which survive to maturity.


    Bookmark   October 27, 2014 at 9:02AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

I don't have a Fall Fiesta myself, but from what other posters have said, it performs very well in the South, having good heat tolerance, and still coloring up very well, but is also very hardy (zone 3B maybe, def. 4A) since it originated in MN. Very versatile.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2014 at 9:22AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Also it is true that most seedling sugar maples will have very good fall color, although the individual trees can have anything from almost pure yellow, to a deep orange red, and, in most cases, variations on each tree itself.

The best looking ones around me this year have a deep almost-pinkish orange-red outside, with a more yellow-orange on the interior leaves that develops a few weeks after the outer deep pink-orange color shows up.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2014 at 9:23AM
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