Maple trees are typically associated with the cooler climates of the Northeastern states and New England.
Maple conjures up ideas of fields on fire with autumnal shades of red, orange, and yellow. Maples are so enmeshed in the culture of North America that the Sugar Maple is the state tree of New York, and is even featured on the Canadian flag.
It may come as a surprise to many that maples can grow in the South, far away from the cooler climes often associated with them.
6 Maple Trees To Grow in Georgia
1. Southern Sugar Maple (Acer barbatum) – Can Produce Syrup
The Southern Sugar Maple is a smaller relative of the Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum). Whilst it may not lack the brilliant fall colors of the Sugar Maple, it’s still a valuable landscape tree.
It features a wide-spreading canopy, making it ideal as a shade tree. The bark is silver and gray and becomes ridged and furrowed with age.
April sees the production of small yellow/green/brown flowers that emerge in hanging clusters. Fall sees the leaves turn orange, yellow, and reddish-brown. The Southern Sugar Maple prefers moist, acidic soil and tolerates the heat and humidity of GA.
Other Common Names: Florida Maple, Hammock Maple, Caddo Maple, Rock Maple
Growing Zones: 8b-9
Average Size at Maturity: 20-40 ft tall and 20-35 ft wide
Flowering Season: April
2. Striped Maple (Acer pensylvanicum) – Can Produce Syrup
The Striped Maple is a smaller-sized maple in relation to its northern cousins. It’s a shrubby understory tree and features a short trunk with a greenish bark with a white stripe that fades as the tree grows.
Yellowish/green drooping flowers are produced around April/May. The autumn months sees the leaves turn shades of lemon yellow which contrasts beautifully with the green and white striped bark.
In Georgia, the Striped Maple can mainly be found in woodlands. Plant in a shaded area with rich, moist, acidic soil. It’ll also tolerate heavy clay soil.
Other Common Names: Moosewood, Moose Maple, Goose Foot Maple, Snakebark Maple, Whistlewood
Growing Zones: 3-7
Average Size at Maturity: 15-25 ft tall and 15-20 ft wide
Flowering Season: May
3. Red Maple (Acer rubrum) – Can Produce Syrup
The Red Maple is the most widely distributed maple tree which can be found growing close to estuaries from Florida up to Maine. In GA, it can be found growing along swamps and wetlands.
Fall sees the foliage turn shades of yellowish/green or striking shades of red, which give the tree its common name. The Red Maple will grow best in full sun or partial shade, in moist, acidic soil.
Cultivated Red Maples rarely reach as high as their wild counterparts, which can soar up to 100ft. Red Maples grown in GA are well adapted to the state’s heat and humid conditions.
During the months of March to April, male red maples produce reddish/pink flowers whilst females produce winged seedpods (samaras) later in the spring. Maples aren’t typically grown for their flowers, so if you’re looking for a flowering tree, then consider planting something else.
Other Common Names: Swamp Maple, Water Maple, Soft Maple
Growing Zones: 3-9
Average Size at Maturity: 40-60 ft tall and 30-40 ft wide
Flowering Season: Late winter/early spring
4. Laceleaf Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) – Can Produce Syrup
The Laceleaf Japanese Maple is one of the most popular maples for GA home growers, thanks to the unforgettable statement it makes in any landscape. It features a broad to rounded growth habit and layered branching.
The leaves change from bright green to hues of cream and pink throughout the seasons. Fall can see shades of golden yellow, red/purple, and bronze before being shed. There are plenty of places in GA where you can admire the spectacular show Japanese Maple trees provide.
Subtle red flowers emerge above the leaves in mid-spring before the leaves emerge. The Laceleaf Maple grows best in moist, acidic soil in either full sun or partial shade, but is an adaptable tree.
The roots are shallow, meaning that frequent watering is required in the early stages of development until the tree becomes established.
Other Common Names: Smooth Japanese Maple, Palmate Maple
Growing Zones: 5-8
Average Size at Maturity: 10-25 ft tall and 10-25 ft wide
Flowering Season: Mid-spring before the leaves appear
5. Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) – Can Produce Syrup
The Sugar Maple is a common sight in the GA landscape where it is often planted as a slow-growing shade tree in urban areas, thanks to its ability to tolerate pollution.
It’s a large tree with a dense and rounded crown, favored for its multi-colored autumnal shows. The bark is smooth in youth, becoming shaggier with age. The trunk is straight and adorned with wide-spreading branches.
The boiled and concentrated sap of the Sugar maple is the commercial source of maple syrup, although you may tap any Maple tree for sugar. The Sugar Maple will grow in rich, moist, well drained soils in full sun or partial shade.
It’s not salt tolerant and doesn’t do well in excessive heat and may suffer leaf scorch in drought conditions. The Sugar Maple will grow in zones 3-9, so be sure to check the hardiness map of Georgia to see whether it’ll grow in your area.
Other Common Names: Northern Sugar Maple
Growing Zones: 3-9
Average Size at Maturity: 80-115 ft tall and 30-60 ft wide
Flowering Season: April
6. Black Maple (Acer nigrum) – Can Produce Syrup
The Black Maple is a large tree popular in GA as its deep green foliage turns deep purple in the fall. It features a deep, rounded crown, a dark furrowed bark and offers eye catching fall color. The leaves appear wilted and have 3-5 lobes, with a tapered central lobe.
The lower leaf surfaces have dense and soft hairs. They are dark green above and yellow green below and the hairs are brownish. The flowers are drooping, and appear on tassel-like slender hairy stalks, and appear in pairs.
The Black Maple can be found in moist bottomlands and fertile floodplains. The crown will often have an opening in the canopy.
Other Common Names: Black Sugar Maple
Growing Zones: 4-8
Average Size at Maturity: 60-75 ft tall and 40-50 ft wide
Flowering Season: April – May, with the leaves
Many species of maple trees flourish in the heat and humidity of the south. Most maples prefer full sun to partial shade and, moist, fertile, well draining soil for optimal growth.
Be sure to check your specific conditions before planting to ensure your best chances of success.
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Thomas worked for a number of years as the head of plant propagation for a horticultural contractor taking care of many different species of ornamental trees & shrubs. He learned how to propagate certain endangered endemic species and has a love of permaculture, sustainability and conscious living. When Thomas isn’t hiking in nature he can be found playing music, reading a book, or eating fruit under a tree.