What Are The Best Maple Trees For Shade?

Maple trees are some of the most popular trees in the United States. Commonly favored for their magnificent fall colors, these trees can also provide shade for many years. With so many types of maple trees, it can be overwhelming trying to find the best one. We've done the research and can tell you which types of maple are great for shade.

Excellent shade-providing maple trees are as follows:

  • Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)
  • Autumn Blaze Maple (Acer x freemanii)
  • Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
  • Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)
  • Sycamore Maple (Acer pseudoplatanus)
  • Norway Maple (Acer platanoides)

Now that you know some great shade trees, let's see what makes them amazing choices. Keep reading to learn what makes the prettiest maple tree, if red maples are good, and more.

Lonely tree in autumn colors in a plowed field, What Are The Best Maple Trees For Shade?


Shade Tree Attributes

Shade trees are trees that stop light from reaching the surrounding area. A tree can naturally form in several different shapes. However, there are a few appearances that do make for a better shade tree. Some good formations include columnar, weeping, pyramidal, globe, and vase. A tree that has a spreading canopy is also good at providing shade.

Before deciding on a shade tree, you also need to consider its mature height and spread. This will help you ensure that you plant your tree in the correct location. It can also help you determine if it will be able to provide shade at all. A small tree with a small canopy will have more trouble providing shade than a medium-sized tree with the same size canopy.

Maple Trees for Shade

Maple trees are often used to provide a great pop of color in the fall months. Many of these trees can also be excellent sources of shade as well. These plants have a long lifespan. They typically grow for 80 to 100 years. So, it's important to look for a tree that will be sturdy and somewhat easy to care for.

While the color maples provide should be considered, it shouldn't be a deciding factor for picking a shade tree. Instead, focus on mature height, spread, and whether it's susceptible to disease.

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Bright red maple tree.

The Red Maple makes an excellent shade tree. With ideal conditions, this plant can reach upwards of 120 feet tall. However, they are more commonly found in the 40 to 70 feet range. On top of their height, these trees have a spread of 30 to 50 feet. As it grows, the Red Maple will have a pyramid-like shape, which is common to see in shade trees.

This type of tree is fairly low maintenance and requires little pruning. However, it can be susceptible to certain diseases if grown in alkaline soils. It can also crack sidewalks because of its shallow root system.

Some notable cultivars that are excellent for shade include Acer rubrum 'Armstrong,' Acer rubrum 'October Glory,' and Acer rubrum 'Red Sunset.'

Sycamore Maple (Acer pseudoplatanus)

Sycamore Maple (Acer pseudoplatanus) on meadow

The Sycamore Maple is a good shade tree. However, it does lack some common ornamental traits that other trees have. The Sycamore maple can reach heights up to 115 feet. However, it is more common to find them in the 40- to 60-foot range. You can expect this tree to have a spread of 40 to 60 feet.

Compared to other maple trees, the Sycamore Maple lacks vibrant fall colors. However, it has a rounded and spreading crown that provides excellent shade. It is also tolerant of air pollution, wind, and salt. This plant is considered to be invasive by multiple countries and the USDA.

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

sugar maple in autumn sunset

The Sugar Maple is one of the most well-known maple trees. It is used as a source of maple syrup and has beautiful autumn colors. You can expect this maple to grow to heights between 80 and 115 feet. Although in urban settings, heights between 60 and 75 feet are more common. You can expect to see a spread between 30 and 60 feet.

As the Sugar Maple grows, it will develop a dense, oval-shaped crown. The denseness of the crown makes it harder for sunlight to pass through. The leaves will turn to different yellows, oranges, and red in the autumn months. 

Considering a sugar maple? Check out "Do Sugar Maple Trees Have Invasive Roots?" to learn more!

Autumn Blaze Maple (Acer x freemanii)

The Autumn Blaze Maple or Freeman Maple is a hybrid of red and silver maple trees. This particular tree can reach heights between 45 and 70 feet. It has a spread between 35 and 50 feet.

At maturity, this tree will have a dense and oval-shaped crown. It also has incredibly showy colors come fall time. The Autumn Blaze is one of the faster-growing trees. So, it will provide shade faster than others.

Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)

One of the most common trees in the United States, the silver maple can reach heights between 49 and 82 feet. Under ideal conditions, this tree may reach up to 115 feet. You can expect the Silver Maple to have a spread between 40 and 60 feet.

This tree grows incredibly fast. A 10-year-old Silver Maple will be approximately 25 feet tall. As it grows, this tree will develop a rounded and spreading crown. Unfortunately, its quick growth does make its wood weak.

Norway Maple (Acer platanoides)

Spitz-Ahornbaum, Acer platanoides Emerald Queen

The Norway Maple was brought to North America in the 1700s as a shade tree. It can develop a trunk that is as thick as 5 feet. At maturity, this tree will reach heights between 65 and 100 feet. However, in urban settings, heights between 40 and 50 feet are more common. You can expect the Norway Maple to have a spread between 30 and 50 feet.

As it grows, the Norway Maple will develop a rounded and dense canopy. Unfortunately, this tree isn't the best tree to have nearby. It has shallow roots, which can damage sidewalks and property. It is also considered an invasive species in multiple states.

Most Popular Maples For Shade

The Red Maple and the Sugar Maple are the most popular to plant when it comes to providing shade. Their stunning colors and quick growth rates make them excellent choices for many gardeners. The Sycamore Maple and Norway Maple have also been prominent choices. However, their invasive nature makes them a less ideal choice.

What Japanese maple is best for shade?

Red, orange and brown leaves adorn this Japanese Maple at Westonbirt , the National Arboretum. The tree sits in a park surrounded by coppery acers, beech and pine trees.

Japanese maples tend to be sensitive to sunlight. Many of these types of plants prefer to live in a more shaded area. However, if you want to use a Japanese maple to provide shade, a few options may work for you.

The Coral Bark Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum 'Sango-Kaku') is a small to medium-sized tree. Throughout the year, it has yellow, green, orange, and red leaves. During the fall months, it has yellow and orange leaves. At maturity, this maple will reach heights between 20 and 25 feet. It has a spread between 15 and 20 feet.

The Laceleaf Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum 'Seiryu') is considered a medium deciduous shrub. This plant will reach between 10 and 15 feet high and spread between 8 and 12 feet. This tree is low maintenance and provides interesting colors in the fall months.

Check out "Do Japanese Maple Trees Lose Their Leaves?" for more information on Japanese maple trees!

What is the prettiest maple tree?

Maple trees are popular because of the spectacular colors they provide through the autumn seasons. Many even have interesting coloring for the entire year. Flowers and fruits can develop on these types of trees, although it isn't what makes them so popular.

When it comes to beautiful maple trees, there are a few different options. A striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum), also known as Snakebark maple, is a large shrub or small tree. At a young age, their bark has vertical white stripes that are interesting to look at.

Japanese maples have both stunning leaves and come in interesting shapes. These trees tend to be smaller and less tolerant of direct sunlight. Finally, the Autumn Blaze Maple is also stunning to see because of its vibrant leaves.

Are Crimson King Maples good trees?

Crimson King tree with a purple foliage in the park

The Crimson King Maple is a cultivar of the Norway Maple. The Acer platanoides 'Crimson King' can reach heights between 35 and 45 feet. It has a spread of 25 to 30 feet. As it develops, a Crimson King will have an oval-shaped crown that is dense.

This cultivar of Norway Maple is considered popular. It has an interesting purple-green leaf color throughout the summer months. It will also produce beautiful flowers in the spring. The Crimson Maple has a shallow root system like the Norway Maple. However, the Crimson Maple is considered less invasive.

Is a red maple a good tree to plant?

Much like other plants, there are pros and cons to planting a red maple tree. These trees are fast-growing. So, you can achieve a mature-looking garden more quickly. They also have beautiful coloring. However, these trees can be susceptible to borers and aphids. Red maples can also be damaged fairly easily by high winds.

In Closing

Lonely tree in autumn colors in a plowed field, What Are The Best Maple Trees For Shade?

Maple trees are both beautiful and functional plants. Many types of maples have dense and spreading crowns that provide the ideal protection from the sun. 

Looking for more? Check out: Do Maple Trees Flower Every Year?

Let us know in the comment section below what maple trees you have around your home!

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