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How to Grow Maple Trees in Virginia

Japanese maple image by Horticulture from

The maple is a prominent tree in the Virginia forest. Tall and majestic, the maple tree is also a favorite landscape tree in the state. With their broad, dense canopies, maple trees provide cooling shade in the summer, reducing air conditioning costs and giving cool relief on hot summer days. Maples come in many shapes, sizes and colors and make beautiful specimen plants. Because the genus is so diverse, there are maples for every part of Virginia—from the snow-covered mountains to the mild coasts. Easy to care for, they are fast-growing and will start providing shade and structure to your garden in just a few years.

Choose a sunny location for your maple with enough space for the tree to spread to its full potential.

Dig a hole as deep as the tree’s root ball and 1 1/2 times as wide. Most Virginia soils do not need amendment, but if your soil is particularly dense or sandy, mix in one-third compost to improve drainage and retain moisture.

Remove the tree from its container and place the root ball in the hole. If the plant is balled and burlapped, cut the twine from the base of the trunk to prevent girdling as the tree grows.

Replace the soil in the hole to the top of the root ball. Tamp the soil gently to eliminate air pockets.

Water slowly and deeply, mixing in a liquid planter starter according to label instructions. This encourages strong root development.

Mulch a 2-inch-deep circle around the tree extending 6 inches beyond the planting hole. In the cooler western regions, this helps protect roots during the first winter. In the warmer eastern regions, it keeps the roots cool and moist in summer.

Water throughout the first season, especially during dry spells. Water deeply so root growth will be directed into the ground and not along the surface.


Virginians can plant maple trees in either spring or fall, but consider planting in fall if you live east of the Blue Ridge. This will ensure an established root system before the tree has to face its first hot summer.

Sugar maple, the maple syrup maple, will thrive best in southwest Virginia where winters are coldest.

There is no need to stake a newly planted tree. The movement of the trees in the wind encourages strong trunk and root development.


Maple trees are very thirsty. Don’t plant them where their roots can invade and clog up drainage pipes.

Maples are shallow-rooted. Give them space to grow so their roots don’t disturb driveways, sidewalks or foundations. For a tree with less invasive roots, consider “October Glory” or “Red Sunset,” both varieties of red maple that thrive throughout the state.

Avoid the ever-present silver maple, which is fast-growing, but short-lived. Its roots are very invasive and its brittle branches break off in storms.

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