What Soil Is Best For Maple Trees?

Are you ready to plant your first maple tree? Perhaps you have a maple tree, and it's just not growing as expected. Different plants and trees require different types of soil and growing conditions. We came across the same problem and set out to discover what soil is best for maple trees. Discover our findings below. 

After conducting thorough research, we found that maple trees grow best when planted deep in moist, well-drained soil. Depending on the type of maple, your tree may even need wet soil. 

Many factors affect the health of maple trees. Keep reading to learn more, including proper soil acidity, conditions that will help your tree grow, and if your maple needs fertilizer.

Planting a maple tree with hole and shovel, What Soil Is Best For Maple Trees?

What Kind of Soil Does a Maple Tree Need?

According to Blain's Farm and Fleet, maple trees need to be buried deep in moist soil. Some types of maple trees even thrive in very wet soil, such as that found in flood plains. In addition to moisture, maples also need plenty of sunlight. They grow best when planted in locations with full-sun exposure or partial shade. Don't be afraid of over-watering, and aim for fine to medium textured soil. 

It's possible to grow maple trees in drier environments; however, you will need to make sure they have plenty of water. They do not adapt well to rocky or sandy soil or areas with high salt content. Most maples need slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH level between 5 and 7. Although there are over 125 different types of maple trees worldwide, most thrive in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 9. However, a few species can live in the below-freezing temperatures of zone 3. 

Maple red leaf in autumn

How Do I Make My Soil Acidic for Maple Trees?

Measure soil with digital device

If you live in an area with neutral or alkaline soil, you may still be able to plant a maple tree. The first step is to find out the pH level in your growing area. The scale ranges from 0 - 14, with zero being the most acidic. Level 7 is considered neutral, and anything above that is considered alkaline. 

Testing your soil is simple. You can purchase a meter that detects light sensitivity, soil pH, and moisture all within the same device.

You can get your own by following this link to Amazon.

Once you know the pH level of your soil, it's time to decide if it requires an adjustment. To lower the pH level, making dirt more acidic, add 1 - 2 inches of peat moss to your soil. You can also use a water and white vinegar combination. For every gallon of water, mix in one cup of white vinegar.

You can find peat moss on Amazon by following this link.

If you find that your soil is too acidic, meaning it has a lower pH number, you can raise the levels by adding lime to your planting area. Products vary from one manufacturer to the next, so read the instructions carefully before mixing with your soil. Whether your soil is too acidic or not acidic enough, you should continue to test the ground every month to help maintain a proper pH balance. 

Is Miracle Grow Good for Maple Trees?

A package of miracle-gro tree & shrub fertilizer spikes

Not all maple trees need fertilizer. If you fertilize a healthy maple tree, you risk damaging the roots. If you notice the leaves growing slower than normal or beginning to fade in the summer, your tree may have a nitrogen deficiency problem. Other signs of nitrogen deficiency include the following:

  • Noticeably smaller leaves
  • Noticeably fewer leaves 
  • Tree losing leaves before the fall

While these are signs that your tree may need a little extra nitrogen, make sure you purchase the right MiracleGro product for your plant. Trees, grass, and flowers do not use the same fertilizers. If you use a grass fertilizer on your maple tree, the excessive amounts of nitrogen will harm the soil, causing the tree to have a weak structure. Therefore, it's important to choose a fertilizer made specifically for trees. 

If you find that your maple needs to be fertilized, the best time to do so is after all the leaves have fallen from the tree. Applying spikes to the ground is the best method of fertilization. This keeps all the nutrients from settling into the top of the soil, allowing them to be dispersed 4 - 6 inches under the ground. 

You can buy fertilizer for your maple tree by following this link to Amazon.

What Kind of Potting Soil Does a Japanese Maple Need?

Bonsai of a dwarf Japanese red maple in green rectangular ceramic pot

Planting a Japanese maple tree is a bit different from planting other types of maples. The most important factor in keeping your Japanese maple healthy is placing it in the proper soil. Above all, your potting soil should be well-drained. When planting a Japanese maple in a container, do not use potting soil that includes any of the following:

  • Fertilizer 
  • Water-Holding Crystals
  • Bagged Compost 
  • Bagged Topsoil

Japanese maples that are planted in pots do not need a lot of extra room. They tend to grow better when fitted snugly into their pots. Therefore, containers should only be approximately twice the diameter of the rootball. Make sure your pot has at least one drainage hole. 

When choosing your potting soil, it's best to do a mixture of half potting soil and half bark, vermiculite, or perlite. You should also add mulch to help retain moisture.

Follow this link to Amazon to find potting soil that is made especially for acid-loving plants such as maple trees.

What Helps Maple Trees Grow?

In addition to proper soil pH levels, maple trees need plenty of water. If you live in a dry region, it's a good idea to have a sprinkler system set up to water your trees. Keep a watch on the leaves. If they look limp or begin to curl, it's time for some extra water. Maple trees need approximately 11 gallons of water per week. 

Maple trees also like areas with full sun or partial shade, avoiding areas with little to no sun exposure. Plant your tree at least three feet into the ground. Since the roots are large, you should plant them at least 4 feet away from sidewalks and other structures. 

To help your tree maintain its strength, you should prune away dead and weak branches. However, maples can be tricky to prune because the sap bleeds from within. The ideal time for pruning is in the late spring or early summer once it has grown its leaves. However, premature pruning can cause too much sap loss, which can be detrimental to your tree. 


Maple trees produce beautifully vibrant leaves during the fall. USDA hardiness zones 5 - 9 are ideal for most types.  While they grow in acidic soil, you can adjust the pH levels in your yard, helping your maple trees thrive. Water is critical to their health, and you should watch for signs of nitrogen deficiencies before fertilizing. 

Now that you know the types of soil maple trees can tolerate, find out how long your maple tree will live by reading this post on our blog. Once your tree is ready, do you plan to collect its sap? If so, read this blog post to find out if the sap goes bad after a certain period of time and how to store it. 


  1. Hello
    Many thanks for these amazing information. I wonder if I remove a tree but its fibrous roots are still existing, will they prevent the growth of my rose?

    Also, will planting a Japanese maple (Emperor 1) in clay soil, damage its root and prevent a good growth?


  2. We just transplanted 10 maple trees from a maple bush to an open area to form a row on both sides of a long laneway .The trees in the bush are all extremely high and we picked the smaller maples and placed them in holes that have sandy soil. We added oats to the bottom 1/2 A bag in each and 1/2 a bag of peatmoss as well help retain moisture The trees were planted and support driven in to help support them as area is very windy.The trees were then watered and covered with the sandy soil that was taken from the hole.Unfortunately within a day,or two the leaves on the trees started turning very pale yellow with green veins and started to wilt.The watering has been continuous on a daily basis,since they went in.There is still a bit of of green showing on some leaves ,but we are afraid they are dying . Have not had a chance to mulch yet,but planning on it.Is there hope for these poor trees?PLEASE HELP.

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