9 Stunning Maple Trees That Will Thrive in Virginia

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Written By Shannon Campbell

Off-Grid Gardener & Food Forager

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Virginia gardeners live in a humid climate, falling between USDA zones 5a and 8a. However, their seasons are relatively moderate, with pleasant summers and cool winters.

This allows them to plant a generous array of tree species that will thrive throughout the year. And one type of tree that suits a temperate climate well is the maple tree.

The elegance of their branching growth habit, instantly recognizable leaves, and often stunning fall foliage allow the maple tree to stand out in almost any landscape.

There are plenty of maple trees in Virginia that will grow well on your property, though VA gardeners should carefully consider the varieties they choose to plant.

9 Maple Trees For Virginia Gardeners to Plant

1. Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)

Silver Maple
Image by Denisbin via Flickr

More than any of its other features, the silver maple is best known as a shade tree – in fact, it is one of the most popular shade trees in the US! With an impressive canopy, equally impressive growth rate (more than 24 inches per year), and a life expectancy of 130+ years it’s easy to see why.

But the silver maple has its drawbacks too, which any potential VA gardener should be aware of. In maturity, their branches and foliage take on a shaggy and unkempt look and are also prone to breakage during heavy winds and storms. Not to mention, their root system is dense and largely exposed. Owners of silver maple trees should expect a high degree of maintenance.

These trees perform best in light, wet soil, though they can tolerate some drought. Choose a location with full sun or failing that, partial shade.

Other Common Names: Water Maple, Soft Maple, Creek Maple, River Maple, White Maple

Growing Zones: 3-9

Average Size at Maturity: 50-100 feet tall, with a 35-50 foot spread

Flowering Season: Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

2. Striped Maple (Acer pensylvanicum)

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

Native to Pennsylvania, the striped maple also grows well in Virginia in woodlands and mountainous areas. Also named the snakebark maple, this tree is most distinctive for the white stripes that run vertically along its green bark, adding a unique element to the landscape. Its bright green leaves can grow as large as seven inches, and resemble the shape of a goose’s foot.

Unlike many of its elegant, soaring relatives, the striped maple is a shrubby understory tree that fits well in more compact garden spaces. As a result, they grow best in woodland spaces with plenty of shade from larger trees. Protect it from any full sun exposure, as it can stunt growth and result in scorched leaves, according to the NC State Gardening Extension.

Striped maple trees should be planted in moist, well-draining soil with a slightly acidic pH.

Other Common Names: Snakebark Maple, Moosewood, Whistlewood, Goosefoot Maple,

Growing Zones: 3-7

Average Size at Maturity: 20-30 feet tall, with a 12-20 foot spread

Flowering Season: Late Spring to Early Summer

3. Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

Sugar Maple
Image by kaykaybarrie via Flickr

Few maple trees will make such a mark on the Virginia landscape than the sugar maple. With its towering stature, dense crown, and blazing red and gold fall foliage, it’s guaranteed to turn heads.

However, it is the sap of the sugar maple that makes this tree most notable. For more than 300 years these trees have been the primary source of maple syrup in North America, and paired with their useful lumber it’s safe to say that this tree is a prize addition to your property. But be warned – it can take 30 to 40 years before a tree’s syrup can be tapped.

In the meantime, you can enjoy the ornamental qualities of the sugar maple and even use it as a minor shade tree. Plant them in rich, deep, well-draining soil with a slightly acidic pH in a location with plenty of sunlight.

Other Common Names: Rock Maple, Hard Maple

Growing Zones: 3-8

Average Size at Maturity: 50-70 feet tall, with a 30-45 foot spread

Flowering Season: Early Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

4. Box Elder Maple (Acer negundo)

Boxelder Maple Identification
Images by Lyrae Willis, Own Work, for Tree Vitalize

What the box elder maple lacks in showiness, it makes up for in sheer hardiness and adaptability. This maple is fairly plain in appearance, with a rugged, uneven growth habit and a penchant for self-seeding so profusely that it can become invasive in some areas. When this happens, make sure to dig out the seedlings as soon as they begin to sprout.

Despite this, it can be pruned into shape as a bonsai specimen or into a privacy screen or windbreak. This will require some level of maintenance as the box elder grows very quickly and its canopy typically spreads as wide as 40 feet or more. Like the silver maple, its branches are prone to breakage.

VA gardeners considering the box elder should look into its more aesthetic cultivars, such as the ‘Flamingo’ with its variegated pink-tinged leaves, or the ‘Auratum’ with its attractive green and gold foliage.

Other Common Names: Boxelder, Ash-Leaved Maple, Manitoba Maple

Growing Zones: 2-9

Average Size at Maturity: 35-60 feet tall, with a similar spread

Flowering Season: Spring

Available at: Nature Hills

5. Amur Maple (Acer ginnala)

Amur Maple
Image by daryl_mitchell via Flickr

While the amur maple is beautiful, with bright fall colors and creamy, fragrant white spring panicles, gardeners in Virginia should be careful when choosing the amur for their property.

Not only will it thrive in VA, but it has the potential to thrive too much – this maple tree is considered invasive in some parts of the states, particularly in the north, as its seeds can spread profusely.

Though it is technically not invasive to Virginia, interested gardeners should review local information on the species to better understand any risks to native shrubs and understory trees, according to the Morton Arboretum.

Due to their small stature, this maple can be used as a screen plant, specimen, patio plant, or container plant among other things. It is highly tolerant to wind and drought and grows in a wide range of soil types and pH levels.

Other Common Names: Siberian Maple

Growing Zones: 3-8

Average Size at Maturity: 15-18 feet tall, with a similar spread

Flowering Season: Mid-Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

6. Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Red Maples
Image by Philip McErlean via Flickr

No list of North American maple trees would be complete without mention of the red maple, one of the most widespread deciduous trees in the country. Virginians will be familiar with these medium-sized maples, mostly due to their leaves which start off as green in spring and summer before turning into a rich, brilliant red in fall. Even their small spring flowers are red!

It is easily one of the best options for maple trees for VA gardeners, thanks to its beauty and uses as a shade tree due to its 50-foot canopy. Not to mention it is neat, fast-growing tree, requiring reasonably low maintenance, and little need for fertilizer or pruning.

Choose a site for your red maple with sandy, loamy, well-draining soil with an acidic pH and plenty of sun exposure. Avoid alkaline soil, which can dull the red maples’ brilliant fall color.

Other Common Names: Scarlet Maple, Trident Red Maple, Soft Maple, Carolina Red Maple, Drummond Red Maple, Swamp Maple, Water Maple, Curled Maple

Growing Zones: 3-9

Average Size at Maturity: 40-70 feet tall, with a 30-50 foot spread

Flowering Season: Early Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

7. Norway Maple (Acer platanoides)

Norway Maple
Image by F. D Richards via Flickr

Introduced to the United States in the mid-1700s, the Norway maple has presented a series of conflicting obstacles and benefits for US gardeners.

For example, it is a beautiful tree with a rounded growth habit, textured black bark, yellow spring flowers, and an attractive golden fall color. It is also useful as a shade tree and overall a hardy and adaptable species.

However, the Norway maple is considered invasive to native trees in Virginia, which is something that must be considered when planting these trees. Its dense foliage can also prevent sunlight from reaching smaller trees, shrubs, and plants below them.

They grow quickly and with ease, allowing gardeners to establish privacy screens in no time and can grow in virtually any soil regardless of quality. But while the Norway maple will thrive prolifically in Virginia, gardeners should proceed with caution.

Other Common Names: Harlequin Maple

Growing Zones: 3-7

Average Size at Maturity: 40-50 feet tall, with a 30-45 foot spread

Flowering Season: Early Spring

Available at: Nature Hills

8. Sycamore Maple (Acer pseudoplatanus)

Sycamore Maple
Image by Matt Lavin via Flickr

Native to eastern Asia, the deciduous sycamore maple has been cultivated in the US since the 18th century. It earns its name from its likeness to the sycamore tree, with similar bright leaves that take on a slightly more oval shape.

It has scaly, textured bark, a rounded, even, wide-spreading crown, and yellow-green flowers that add some interest in spring.

These maples are best used as street trees and shade trees, and due to their fast growth in the first few years, they should be given plenty of space for their roots and branches to expand.

Sycamore maples also attract wildlife, offering shelter to birds and smaller mammals such as squirrels and rabbits.

The lifespan of the sycamore maple can vary widely, from just 10 years to more than 150. For more longevity, plant these trees in a sheltered location away from wind exposure or snowfall, in a spot with rich, fertile, well-draining soil.

Other Common Names: Planetree Maple, Sycamore, False Plane-Tree, Mock-Plane, Celtic Maple, Great Maple, Mount Maple, Scottish Maple

Growing Zones: 4-7

Average Size at Maturity: 40-60 feet tall, with a 35-60 foot spread

Flowering Season: Spring

Available at: Nature Hills

9. Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)

Japanese Maple
Image by Rebecca Wilson via Flickr

The fact is that there are hundreds of Japanese maples, many of which will suit the temperate conditions of Virginia state, so interested gardeners have plenty to choose from.

Japanese maples are best known for their graceful, compact growth habits and vivid, richly-colored palmate leaves. Even their small flower clusters add extra appeal in spring, although if a showy display of flowers is what you are after, you might want to check out our article on flowering trees for Virginia here.

Choosing the right ornamental Japanese maple for your property will depend on its size, leaf shape, and foliage. For example, the ‘Red Dragon’ maple is a weeping dwarf maple that is perfect for smaller spaces, whereas the ‘Emperor’ is taller and single-stemmed with an upright form and plum and burgundy leaves.

Japanese maples are best planted in fall or spring, in a location that is sheltered from wind and frost. They prefer rich, moist, well-draining soil with a slightly acidic pH. Most Japanese maple varieties are thankfully free of major pest and disease problems, but some varieties may be more susceptible than others.

Other Common Names: Smooth Japanese Maple, Palmate Maple

Growing Zones: 5-9

Average Size at Maturity: 2-25 feet tall, with a similar spread

Flowering Season: Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

Beautiful Maples For Any VA Property

Choosing the right maple tree for your VA landscape isn’t straightforward, but you have options to choose from. Do be wary of maple species that may be invasive on your Virginia property, or may require higher levels of maintenance than you can afford.

Otherwise, the right choice of maple tree will have a resounding effect on your backyard as a focal point, backdrop, or even informal screen. And if you are looking for sturdy evergreens to offset your deciduous maple, take a look at these evergreen trees for shade and privacy in Virginia.

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Shannon Campbell

Off-Grid Gardener & Food Forager

Shannon has always loved looking after trees and plants since as long as she can remember. She grew up gardening with her family in their off-grid home and looking after her neighbor's plant nursery. As a child she also participated in native tree replanting, and as an adult has volunteered in reforestation programs in northern Vietnam. Today, she puts her horticultural efforts into tending her vegetable and herb gardens, and learning about homesteading and permaculture. When she’s not reading, writing, and gardening, she’ll be out fishing and foraging for edible flora and fungi in the countryside around her home.

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