In many regions of the United States, maple trees abound. Whether grown for its mature shade or planted for its stunning fall color, it is easy to see why many homeowners choose to plant maple trees in their yards and larger green spaces. These qualities figure prominently on a maple's CV and must be counted among the advantages to planting maples. But not all maples are created equal, and, if you don't choose wisely, you may also experience maple tree drawbacks. As with any planting, there are many positives and negatives which one should consider before growing any type of maple tree. Choosing the right variety of trees will help to better ensure beautiful, trouble-free garden space for years to come. Read on for a consideration of maple tree planting pros and cons.

Maple Tree Planting Pros

(Teo's viewpoint) If you want a fast-growing tree that offers a brilliant fall display, you might want to think about maples. Maple trees (Acer spp.) are deciduous trees. That means that their lovely green leaves offer shade in the summer, then a fiery display of yellows, oranges and scarlet in autumn. Many homeowners plant maples to enjoy their exceptional autumn color. But this is hardly the only reason for choosing maple species. Here are the various advantages to planting maple trees in the landscape: They come in a wide variety. Besides their magnificent color, another of the maple tree planting pros is the vast range of sizes and shapes available. Some are narrow as a column, others spread wide or stay small, like the popular Japanese maple (Acer palmatum). Some, like the sugar maple (Acer saccharum), rise to over 100 feet (30 meters) tall. They provide ornamental value and fun fruit. Other maple tree benefits are similarly ornamental. Many species of maple have delicate, lacy leaves, while others delight with showy red flowers that appear in late winter. Many have interesting bark too. The "fruit" of a maple is the winged samara, called "whirlybirds" by kids. And those of all ages love to watch samaras - compressed bony nutlets joined together into an elongated, helicopter-style wing - twirl to the ground. Maple trees grow relatively quick. Many maple trees grow fast, so it doesn't take long for them to establish in the landscape and you can enjoy their attributes quicker. For example, the popular red maple (Acer rubrum) can grow up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) a year. Maples are easy to grow. They thrive in a wide range of climates, growing happily in U.S. plant hardiness zones 3 or 4 through 9. While they prefer moist, slightly acidic soils and partial shade, they accept a wide range of conditions. Don't forget maple syrup! There are additional benefits of some types of maple - namely maple syrup. Sugar maple is Canada's national tree, and it is famous for the maple sugar produced from its sap.

Cons of Planting Maple Trees

(Tonya's viewpoint) The allure of maple trees is undeniable. Though mature maple trees offer a plethora of positive traits, there are some problems with maple trees which must be taken into consideration. The cons of planting maple trees range from disease to the possibility of invasiveness. Many maples are regional. First and foremost, only certain types of maple trees thrive within certain growing regions. Before planting, always ensure that your garden falls within the appropriate USDA growing zone. Trees which have been planted in less than ideal conditions may be more prone to succumb to disease. They are susceptible to damage. Maple tree drawbacks, such as disease, are often related directly to the ease at which the trees are damaged. Characteristics of softwood types of maple tree make them more likely to be damaged by severe weather or other factors. These injuries then put the tree at greater risk for fungal diseases, as well as issues with wood rot. While many of these fungal diseases will not cause severe damage to the trees, it may lead to leaf spot and premature dropping of leaves in the fall. Problems may occur from their roots. Further problems of maple trees result from very shallow root systems. Root system problems may manifest in the form of cracking sidewalks or driveways near the established tree. Roots beneath the soil's surface may cause damage to lawn mowers, as well as inhibit the growth of grass or other plants beneath the tree. Some of these trees are invasive. Bare soil from beneath these trees also lends itself to some maples' ability to reproduce. And those samaras everyone loved as a child, grownups may not appreciate them so much when they land all over the lawn and garden sprouting up weed trees. Norway maple, specifically, may have the tendency to invade and outcompete native plant species.

Do the Benefits Outweigh the Problems with Maple Trees

No tree is perfect in all situations, and the maple has both advantages and disadvantages. Many maple issues can be solved by careful species and site selection. Through proper preparation and planning, homeowners are able to find trees which fit their landscape needs. While maple trees have both positive and negative attributes, there is no doubt that they are a valuable addition to the landscape ecosystem.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.