How to Plant a Maple Tree

Overview

The acer family of trees, better known as maple trees, contains thousands of species and cultivars (hybrids). The maple tree popularity with gardeners is in its versatility, easy-to-care-for lifestyle, and its fantastic fall and sometimes summer foliage. All maples will thrive, provided they have well-drained soil and enough sunlight. The shallow roots of maples can make gardening around them problematic, so plant larger varieties away from flower and garden beds. Choose the planting site for your maple based on its mature size rather than its size when you buy it.

Step 1

Plant maples in early to mid-fall or mid- to late spring to give the tree a chance to grow roots and settle into its planting site without the stress of growing and maintaining leaves.

Step 2

Choose a spot in full sun to partial shade with well-drained soil. The more sun your maple receives the brighter its fall color will be.

Step 3

Dig a hole twice as deep and three times as wide as the root ball. Pile the removed soil to one side. Break up large soil clumps and remove rocks, roots, sticks and other debris from the removed soil, and from the planting hole.

Step 4

Mound soil in the middle of the planting hole and place the tree on the mound with the roots hanging off to the side. Make the soil mound high enough so that the root collar (the junction between roots and trunk) is level with the surface.

Step 5

Remove your maple tree from its container or unwrap the burlap from balled and burlaped trees. Loosen the soil around the root ball and examine the roots. Prune off any broken roots, making cuts 2 to 3 inches into healthy tissue. Separate and spread the roots.

Step 6

Place your maple in its planting hole, gently spreading the roots so that they drape over the mound and spread out into the planting hole.

Step 7

Fill the hole with the removed soil, and gently firm the soil around the roots and base of the maple.

Step 8

Give your newly-planted maple 1 to 2 gallons of water. Pour the water slowly around the tree. If water begins to pool on the surface, stop watering and allow the soil to absorb the water before you resume.

Step 9

Spread 2 to 3 inches of mulch--wood chips or shredded bark work well--around your maple. The mulch should extend 2 to 3 feet from the trunk on all sides. Pull the mulch 3 to 4 inches away from the maple's trunk to avoid damaging the trunk.

Tips and Warnings

  • Maple trees planted too deeply will not thrive. Leaves will yellow or turn brown, and your tree will have premature leaf drop. You will see little or no new growth. Never plant maples under or within 20 feet of electric or telephone wires. As the trees mature they will grow into the wires and create a hazard. Utility companies will prune trees they deem hazardous with no consideration for the three's shape.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Sharp knife
  • Pruning shears
  • Mulch

References

  • Taylor's Master Guide to Gardening; Houghton Mifflin Company; 1994
  • The Garden Primer; Barbara Damrosch; 1988

Who Can Help

  • General information about maple tree species and how to care for them
  • University of Rhode Island; causes of maple tree decline and death
Keywords: Planting maple trees, Maple trees, How to plant maple trees