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5 Maple Trees You Can Grow Successfully in Kentucky

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 Acer rubrum Leaves in Spring and Fall
Images by Lyrae Willis, Own Work, and via Nature Hills – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

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 Maple Arubrum Samaras and Flowers
Images of Red Maple flowers and samaras by Lyrae Willis, Own Work – for Tree Vitalize

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

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

2. Sugar Maple – Acer saccharum

Sugar Maple Acer saccharum
Images via Fast Growing Trees – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

The Sugar Maple is a large maple tree that is also native to Kentucky.

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

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

3. Silver Maple – Acer saccharinum

Silver Maple Acer saccharinum trees with different colored leaves
Images via Fast Growing Trees and by Renee Mcgurk, CC BY 2.0 – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

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

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

4. Striped Maple – Acer pensylvanicum

Striped Maple Identification images - Lyrae Willis
Images by Lyrae Willis, Own Work – for Tree Vitalize

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

Japanese Maples Acer palmatum varieties
Images via Fast Growing Trees – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

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

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

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 VarietyKey FeaturesUSDA Growing ZonesAverage Size at MaturityFlowering / 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 spring4 – 8(9)75 – 100 ft (up to 120 ft) tall, 30 – 50 ft spreadReddish-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 fall3 – 760 – 115 ft (up to 150 ft) tall, 40 – 50 ft spreadYellow 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 color3 – 950 – 80 ft (up to 100 ft) tall, 35 – 50 ft spreadFlowers 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 leaves3 – 715 – 20 ft (up to 33 ft) tall, 15 – 20 ft spreadGreenish-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-invasive5 – 8 (some 6 – 9)15 – 25 ft (up to 55 ft) tall, 10 – 20 ft spreadReddish-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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