Choosing a maple for shade

Asimina76(7)October 7, 2013

I'm considering a maple for a shade tree, probably a variety of acer Rubrum. Many cultivars are bred to be small, whereas I actually want a large tree for significant shade. In addition to wanting a larger variety, I'd like to avoid the notorious shallow root systems of red maples (I've heard that some cultivars minimize this issue).

What suggestions do you guys have? I am considering other trees too, but maples grow faster than the others I want (I want an American Beech really, but I'm not sure I want to wait for it to provide shade). I'm open to any ideas you might have, so don't hesitate to suggest something other than a red maple if you feel it is warranted.

Thanks for your suggestions/advice!

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Larger versus smaller are such generic terms as to be almost meaningless....what do YOU mean by them?? Except for some columnar forms of red maples that stay relatively narrow, all are considered to be large trees as far as height goes. And they all tend to grow relatively fast as well so providing shade usually comes sooner rather than later.

All maples tend to have the bulk of their root system located just beneath the soil surface. Most big leaved maples (reds, Norway, silver, sugar and their hybrids) also tend to have a very dense root system which precludes the ability to easily plant/grow underneath. And in time, any of these trees can produce roots which emerge above the soil line, especially with erosion or lawn compaction. It's just the nature of the beast (tree root systems will not differ in character by cultivar - only by genus, and to a lesser extent, species. And of course growing conditions.)

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 4:38PM
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Thanks for the reply Gardengal.

Regarding size: I just want to make sure that any recommendations are not for cultivars selected for small stature.

Regarding roots: What you have said about maple roots is the same as my understanding. I had heard 'rumors' that some breeding selection had been done that created maples that didn't have as many shallow roots - I guess I can regard that as refuted.

I have wild red maples, including a really large one. I thought that if I was going to plant one in my front yard, I might as well research an especially nice-looking cultivar. Do you have a suggestion for an especially striking Acer rubrum cultivar?

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 5:37PM
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Both 'October Glory' and 'Red Sunset' are known for having stunning fall color. Tend to be two of the most widely planted trees in the country due to their range and adaptability to a wide variety of site and soil conditions.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 3:11PM
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The best by far? Autumn Blaze. In my area of Va. its growth, branch angles and fall color are far superior to the other cultivars, including Oct. Glory and Red sunset. I wish I had planted hundreds of Autumn Blazes! Have about 30 so far, beautiful at 6, 4, 2 yrs after planting. You will not be disappointed (if you plant as many as you can find room for.)

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 8:19PM
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I have a similar situation and am in the process of hopefully having the courage and money (??) to take at least one of the Norway maples in my front yard down. BUT if I do, what tree could I plant for beauty and shade that does NOT interfere so much with my garden beds not far away? Ugh! Thanks, all, for helping.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 12:53PM
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I have a similar situation and am in the process of hopefully having the courage and money (??) to take at least one of the Norway maples in my front yard down. BUT if I do, what tree could I plant for beauty and shade that does NOT interfere so much with my garden beds not far away? Ugh!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 12:55PM
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20 years we planted a Red Sunset, ( now its 25'-30' tall X 35') and an Autumn Flame, ( now 40' tall x 30'). Both the trees were 1"-1.5" caliper at planting. About 12 years ago we replaced a wind damaged Bradford in our front yard with a 2.5" caliper October Glory which is now around 25' tall by 20'. 8 years ago we planted two 2" caliper Autumn Blaze maples (Acer "Jeffers Red") these two trees are now approximately the same size as our October Glory.
Of the three true red maples you won't go wrong with any of the cultivars as a shade tree, though the Red Sunset seems to be the tree in our yard that is the most open and spreading while the Autumn Flame and Oct Glory are more round headed. Likewise you will find that the hybrid cross, Autumn Blaze (red x silver), grow quickly and do produce excellent bright red fall color.
If quick shade is the primary concern then the Autumn Blaze would be my choice. If a little longer to get established isn't an issue then I recommend the Red Sunset, (My wife and I have our cedar swing under ours and most evenings spring, summer and fall that's where you'll find us). The only other thing I do suggest is after the initial care, don't skimp on water. Most folks religiously take care of their trees that first year to get them established then after that they leave mother nature to do the watering. All of our trees get watered on regular schedule all summer. Acer Rubrum, A.K.A, the swamp maple, likes water. I have had countless people comment on how nice our trees look even in the middle of a 90+ heat wave and all I tell them is water, water, water, each tree 2" a week. Good luck with whichever you choose, I'm jealous wish we had more room to plant more!

    Bookmark   October 26, 2013 at 12:48AM
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Autumn Blaze maples are definitely good trees, I would however be cautious choosing that maple that is becoming one of the most over planted trees in America. It does grow amazingly quick and gets a good consistent red fall color, but I would be concerned that an exotic insect or disease is going to rage havoc on our ornamental maples especially the silver and red hybrids. That being said I did plant one in my mothers yard a decade ago and it is growing wonderfully.

There are tons of great trees out there (Bald cypress, Kentucky Coffeetree, new hybrid elms) that may fit your needs.

Here is a link that might be useful: What size tree to plant to get fastest growth (includes an Autumn Blaze maple growth over a decade)

    Bookmark   October 31, 2013 at 10:31PM
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Thank you all for your suggestions and knowledge. I am re-considering-maybe NOT replacing it for shade purposes and rethinking the whole idea. Maybe just put up ornamentals to frame the house but forget the shade, though it does scare me to think it might look like an exposed mushroom without the two Norways, OR just be too blasted by the morning sun coming up over the harbor. Having those roots die off and the tree out, though, I hope would change my gardening options. Trying to solve the way the house looks AND finding a pretty tree with good shade but NOT big roots near the surface, that is an enjoyable size before I get too much older and whose roots don't drive my gardening efforts crazy, well, it may be a hard nut to crack. Maybe some ornamental pears? Any other suggestions, aesthetic OR pragmatic are most welcome. The tree on the left in the photo is worse than the one on the right though they BOTH screw up gardening and they both have terrible tar spot fungus. Still on the quest.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2013 at 8:31AM
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ttonk(OH 6A)

Please post your pic on the tree forum. They'll suggest many options for replacing those.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2013 at 12:10PM
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