Growing maple trees in Kentucky is easy, thanks to the Kentucky hardiness zones that are in the perfect range of temperate climates for growing these gorgeous trees.
If you look online, popular sites tend to say two maples are native to Kentucky. However, multiple maples are actually native to KY. The Red Maple and Sugar Maple are simply the most common maple trees found there.
Let’s look at some gorgeous maple trees that you can successfully grow in Kentucky. Their gorgeous leaves, beautiful shade, and spectacular fall colors will not disappoint!
5 Maple Trees That Will Grow and Thrive in Kentucky
1. Red Maple – Acer rubrum
Red Maple is a gorgeous tree native to eastern North America. It is the most common tree in Kentucky’s forests, accounting for 12.2% of all trees.
I think these trees are one of the most beautiful maples. I love their gorgeous three-lobed leaves that turn a vibrant red in the fall, small red flowers that emerge in early spring before anything else, and often red samaras (winged seeds) that mature in summer. It is no surprise where Red Maple gets its name from.
Red Maples grow naturally in various habitats, from swamps to dry upland forests in various soil types, but prefer moist, acidic soils. They can be grown in full sun to partial shade.
Since they are already such a highly tolerant and widespread KY native, this popular landscape tree should thrive no matter where you live.
You can also learn how to identify Red Maple.
Other Common Names: Swamp Maple, Water Maple, Soft Maple
USDA Growing Zones: 4 – 8(9)
Average Size at Maturity: 75 – 100 ft (to 120) ft tall, 30 – 50 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Small reddish-pink flowers emerge before the leaves in March or sometimes February; samaras mature between April and June
2. Sugar Maple – Acer saccharum
These trees are famous for the tasty maple syrup made from their sap. But they need cold winters for sugar production (USDA Zones 3 – 5), so they produce less in KY’s temperate climate.
However, Sugar Maples are also widely used in landscaping and make spectacular shade trees, particularly in rural or suburban areas, since they don’t tolerate road salts or urban conditions.
They do, however, tolerate both full sun and full shade and almost any soil type except pure sand and permanently wet soils. Their deep roots will also allow them to thrive during those occasional summer droughts.
In the fall, their gorgeous five-lobed maple leaves turn vibrant shades of yellow, orange, and orange-red, often with all three colors appearing simultaneously.
For more information, check out how to identify the Sugar Maple.
Other Common Names: Sugar Tree, Rock Maple, Sweet Maple, Curly Maple, Bird’s Eye Maple
USDA Growing Zones: 3 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 60 – 115 ft (to 150 ft) tall, 40 – 50 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Inconspicuous yellow flowers emerge with leaves from April to May; samaras (winged seeds) mature in September
3. Silver Maple – Acer saccharinum
The Silver Maple is another beautiful maple native to eastern North America and also found throughout KY, where it grows in woodlands, floodplains, and riparian areas.
These fast-growing trees prefer deep, moist, acidic soil in full sun or partial shade but are highly adaptable to various soil types, moisture, and urban pollution.
Silver Maples were once widely planted as urban street trees until their shallow, aggressive roots damaged sidewalks and buildings. Their fast growth also makes the wood brittle and prone to storm damage. While they have fallen out of favor for street use, they still make gorgeous specimen or shade trees wherever they have room to grow.
Their classical maple-like leaves have silver-white undersides that flash attractively when fluttering in the wind on their long leaf stalks. In the fall, they turn lovely shades of orange and yellow.
You can also learn how to identify Silver Maple.
Other Common Names: Creek Maple, Silverleaf Maple, Soft Maple, Water Maple, Swamp Maple, White Maple
USDA Growing Zones: 3 – 9
Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 80 ft (to 100 ft) tall, 35 – 50 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Inconspicuous flowers emerge before the leaves from March to April; samaras (winged seeds) mature around June
4. Striped Maple – Acer pensylvanicum
The Striped Maple is probably the least well-known of Kentucky’s native maples, but it is a lovely tree that deserves more attention. It is native to the southeastern edge of KY along the Appalachian Mountains.
What I love most about this beautiful small tree or multi-stemmed shrub is its unique green and white striped young bark.
The leaves have three forward-pointing lobes that resemble a goose foot. In the fall, they turn a lovely bright yellow. In winter, you still have their lovely bark to look at.
Striped Maples prefer partial shade and moist, well-drained soil, but they will also grow in full shade. They are understorey trees that lay in wait for a gap to open in the canopy so they can mature. It should never be planted in full sun, where its soft, delicate leaves may scorch.
For more information, check out how to identify Striped Maple.
Other Common Names: Moose Maple, Moosewood, Goosefoot Maple, Snakebark Maple, Whistlewood
USDA Growing Zones: 3 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 15 – 20 ft (to 33 ft) tall, 15 – 20 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Inconspicuous greenish-yellow flowers bloom after leaf emergence from April to May; samaras (winged seeds) mature in September or October
5. Japanese Maples – Acer palmatum
The Japanese Maple is native to Asia and has been cultivated in Japan for centuries, with thousands of fascinating cultivars.
Some have unusual summer leaf colors, including red, purple, burgundy, black-red, bronze, and white or yellow variegated forms. They also vary in how deeply cut the lobes are and how many lobes, lobules, or large teeth they have or in the color of their bark.
These trees are well adapted to temperate climates and will thrive in Kentucky. Some may struggle during particularly bad winters, but choosing those hardy to USDA Zone 5 will guarantee they will thrive, even in a bad year.
Summers in KY are mild enough for Japanese Maples, but variegated varieties, in particular, perform best in partial shade since full sun can wash out the colors.
Since many are very compact, they make great trees for small gardens.
No Japanese Maples are known to be invasive.
Other Common Names: Palmate Maple, Smooth Japanese Maple
USDA Growing Zones: 5 – 8 for most cultivars, 6 – 9 for some varieties
Average Size at Maturity: 15 – 25 ft (to 55 ft) tall, 10 – 20 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Small reddish-purple flowers bloom in spring from May to June; samaras (winged seeds) mature from September to November
Table Comparing Maple trees in Kentucky
Here is a detailed table comparing Maple Trees you can grow in Kentucky and showcasing their unique features, USDA growing zones, average sizes at maturity, and flowering details:
|Maple Tree Variety||Key Features||USDA Growing Zones||Average Size at Maturity||Flowering / Fruiting Season|
|Red Maple (Acer rubrum)||Most common tree in Kentucky forests, three-lobed leaves turning vibrant red in fall, small red flowers in early spring||4 – 8(9)||75 – 100 ft (up to 120 ft) tall, 30 – 50 ft spread||Reddish-pink flowers in early spring; samaras mature April-June|
|Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)||Large tree, famous for maple syrup production, adaptable to full sun/shade, leaves turn yellow, orange, orange-red in fall||3 – 7||60 – 115 ft (up to 150 ft) tall, 40 – 50 ft spread||Yellow flowers in spring; samaras in September|
|Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)||Fast-growing, prefers deep, moist, acidic soil, adaptable, leaves with silver-white undersides, orange and yellow fall color||3 – 9||50 – 80 ft (up to 100 ft) tall, 35 – 50 ft spread||Flowers before leaves in spring; samaras mature in June|
|Striped Maple (Acer pensylvanicum)||Green and white striped bark, goose foot-shaped leaves, prefers partial shade and moist soil, bright yellow fall leaves||3 – 7||15 – 20 ft (up to 33 ft) tall, 15 – 20 ft spread||Greenish-yellow flowers in spring; samaras in Sep-Oct|
|Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)||Native to Asia, various cultivars with unique leaf colors and shapes, compact size for small gardens, non-invasive||5 – 8 (some 6 – 9)||15 – 25 ft (up to 55 ft) tall, 10 – 20 ft spread||Reddish-purple flowers in spring; samaras Sep-Nov|
Maple Trees That Will Grow Successfully in Kentucky
As you have seen, several maples are native to Kentucky, and because of the mild, temperate climate with relatively mild winters and mild summers, most maples will thrive there with little to no maintenance required since they are already adapted to the conditions.
A word of caution: Please avoid planting the Norway Maple and the Sycamore Maple. They are both sometimes recommended for Kentucky, but these trees are both incredibly invasive species, and we would not want them displacing the gorgeous native trees of KY.
There are many native maples and other non-invasive maples to choose from, so you should have no trouble finding a more suitable maple for your yard.
I hope you have enjoyed learning about some of the gorgeous maple trees you can grow in KY. Happy tree planting!
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Lyrae grew up in the forests of BC, Canada, where she got a BSc. in Environmental Sciences.
Her whole life, she has loved studying plants, from the tiniest flowers to the most massive trees.
She is currently researching native plants of North America and spends her time traveling, hiking, documenting, and writing.
When not researching, she is homeschooling her brilliant autistic son, who travels with her and benefits from a unique hands-on education about the environment around him.