Plant Maples for Fall Color

Plant Maples for Fall Color

I’ve made no secret about it but maples are without a doubt my favorite shade tree. Maples offer shade in the summer, feed wildlife with their samaras, and are a feast for the eyes in the fall. Reds, yellows, and oranges tend to be the predominate colors and they set the fall landscape on fire! All the gold colored maple leaves appearing in the woods behind our yard create a glowing landscape for us to enjoy.
This year the maple color has been outstanding. The increased summer rains have given the trees a little extra tenacity for the end of the growing season. The leaves have held on much longer and believe it or not some maples are still green or variations of green as in the picture to the left. The colors on this red maple (Acer rubrum) remind me of a reversed pattern from a ‘Stoplight’ heucherella.
This other red maple is showing a very deep red coloring which I’m very pleased with since this is one of several trees the deer damaged last fall. It’s returned strong as have all the other deer damaged trees except for the dogwood. Sadly we are still mourning the passing of the ‘Appalachian Spring’ dogwood, but that’s a story for another time.
Not all is grand in maple land. The first tree we planted in our landscape was a maple and it has developed some kind of damage to the trunk, most likely a canker. Cankers can be caused by wounds from lawnmowers and power equipment colliding with the poor maple.  Fungi can also be a cause for canker damage. In the case of the fungi the tree may be a goner but in the case of physical damage the tree may yet recover, it’s just a matter of time until we know for sure. I doubt it was me running into it with a mower. I mean, I’ve had some mower incidents but they never involved a tree! Really, the nandina was just a shrub!
A quick not on tree planting: don’t amend the hole! Year ago people recommended amending the soil in the hole when planting a tree. The problem with this is that the really good soil gets concentrated around the base of the tree. The roots have no motivation to reach out to get nutrients in the surrounding soils and stay concentrated around the improved soil area. If you want to amend the soil, amend the areas outside of the drip line of the tree. This will lead to a healthier tree which will be more drought tolerant with a better root system!
All in all maples are fairly maintenance free trees. A leaf raking in the fall might be necessary unless you prefer the mower mulching method.  Aside from the fantastic fall colors they make great shade trees and for the kids (or maybe the kid in you) great climbing trees. When was the last time you climbed a good tree?


Dave has written since 2007. He gardens on an acre and a half where he raises his 4 children. He enjoys growing vegetables, herbs, and propagating plants. Dave has a side business growing and selling heirloom vegetables and herb plants through Blue Shed Gardens and works as a real estate agent in Spring Hill, TN.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Love the maples. They have been spectacular this year. You brought me around to high mowing but I am sure I won't change the fact that I always amend soil in planting holes. I know the new wisdom is not to but I can't help it. The plant or tree is already at a disadvantage when it's roots are spread and pulled apart and planted that I think extra compost helps it get itself going. Kind of like antibiotics I guess:)

  2. I love the maples that grow beautifully in the street over from ours and so wish this yard had a few. Their fall color is outstanding, but trying to garden under them is not easy. Good advice about tree planting! It's especially true with the kind of clay soil I have! It only creates a big bowl. gail

  3. They are such fabulous trees no matter the season. But they really shine come fall. 🙂

  4. Red maples, sugar maples, and Japanese maples are huge favorites here too, Dave!!! And yes, that's both great advice and the most current on amending the planting hole. What I've read is that you can spread compost, etc. on top of the soil after you've planted the tree to give it a boost, which doesn't pose the danger of restricting the roots to the hole itself. Thanks for another great post!!!

  5. Nice endorsement of the maple. Good reminder about planting trees as well. Watched a PBS show this weekend and they were telling the homeowner to amend the soil in the hole. AUGGHHH VW did a great detailed post on planting trees earlier this year. Will have to go back and see if I can find a link for it.

  6. I agree, Maples are beautiful trees. We have a 20 year old red maple growing in our yard and I love the shade it brings to our home on those hot summer days–I just don't like raking up thee leaves in the fall, but it's a small price to pay for such a beautiful tree.

  7. Thanks for this post Dave! I love maple trees! I grew up in the Russian Far East where Amur maples came from. Amur is the name of the river.

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