When it comes to premier shade trees, Sugar Maples are hard to beat for southern Minnesota landscapes. Beautiful rounded crowns, extremely strong wood, native adaptability to most southern Minnesota soils, and a fabulous fall color mix of yellow, orange and red make Sugar Maples extremely valuable and desirable shade trees.
While Sugar Maples can’t match the very rapid growth rates of popular hybrid maple varieties, a small 1″ diameter Sugar Maple will grow into a handsome and well shaped tree of six to eight inches in diameter and a height of 30 feet in as little as six to ten years with moderate fertilization and watering. Keys to obtaining these results are starting with a tree that has a properly structured root system, proper planting technique and choosing soil that is moderately drained and medium density. Avoid light sandy gravely soils and poorly drained wet soils.
Fall Fiesta Sugar Maple and Green Mountain Sugar Maple are two varieties that have demonstrated outstanding performance in our area. Fall Fiesta Sugar Maple is a relative new comer, having been developed and released by Minnesota’s nursery leader, Bailey Nurseries, about ten years ago. Green Mountain Sugar Maple has been in use for many decades, and has proved it’s toughness and reliability in Minnesota’s climate.
Green Mountain Sugar Maple has excellent heat tolerance, can perform well on slightly drier sites, and has thick dark green leaves that resist leaf tatter from heavy winds, and avoid leaf scorch. Green Mountain Sugar Maple colors a bit later in the fall than most other Sugar Maple varieties, sporting a nice mix of orange and reds. For sites highly exposed to the elements, Green Mountain Sugar Maple can be an excellent choice with an upright oval shape. Height is 50-75 feet with a width of 35′-40′.
Fall Fiesta Sugar Maple also has thick, glossy green leaves that hold up well throughout the growing season, as it matures, it develops a bit more rounded shape. I’m not sure why, but I have noticed that the fall leaf color of Fall Fiesta Sugar Maple is positively glowing. Yellows and golds blend into oranges and reds in a way that makes the color especially intense and a visual feast. Height 50′-75′ with a width of 50′.
Be sure to protect the bark of young sugar maples in fall and winter with white plastic tree wraps to a height of 4 feet. These white wraps can be removed each spring and are usually re-usable for 4 to 5 winters, protecting against mice, rabbits, deer rubbing their antlers and the damaging effects of winter sun. Try to keep wrapping the trunks each winter until they exceed six to eight inches in diameter.