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Organic Answers Column - June 22, 2022

Maples For Texas – Some are Better than Others


Red maples (Acer rubrum) put on a colorful show nation-wide in the fall. Problem is they don't like alkaline soil – and that's what many of us have here in Texas. Let's review the maples that will grow and perform well without deep loamy soil and also some of the maples that definitely need to be avoided.


Caddo maple

Trident maple


In the recommended maple category we have some good options - bigtooth, Caddo, Trident, shantung, paperbark, Mexican mountain and Japanese.


Bigtooth maple is the true Texas native. It's my favorite now. Caddo is an Oklahoma native. It is slower growing and has less impressive fall color than bigtooth. Trident maple, an Asian import, is relatively fast growing but has weaker fall color. Shantung maple is also from China but performs pretty well – a lot like a large growing Japanese maple. It is moderately fast growing and has golden fall color with hints of red.


Bigtooth maple


Paperbark maple is a beautiful medium-sized maple to try. Buds in spring look like pussy willow and it also has deep red fall color. The exfoliating red bark is a special added feature.


Paperbark maple

Japanese maple 'Orangeola' 


Japanese maples are a large and diverse group with many terrific choices. My favorites include the large-growing green species or seedling plants (Acer palmatum) that are the mother plants for many of the hybrids. I have several of these. They are tough, can take more full sun than other Japanese maples but can be hard to find in the nurseries. I have recently stated growing the pine bark Japanese maples. Great spring and fall color and unusually distinctive rough bark. Two I'm currently growing are 'Ara kawa' and 'Hubble's Super Cork'.


Japanese maple 'Crimson Queen'


'Crimson Queen' is a tough, colorful, lacey-leafed choice. I've grown it in the ground and in pots for years. 'Orangeola' has also done well in a large pot. The only Japanese maple I've had trouble growing is 'Coral Bark' – beautiful, but tricky for me anyway. All of the Japanese maples in my gardens are covered in the Japanese maple entry in the Library of


Mexican mountain maple comes to us compliments of Dr. David Creech at Steven F. Austin University. A few have been planted here in North Texas including in my landscape, and they are doing well. They might be a good choice when available in the trade.


Silver maple unfortunately continues to be sold – a bad choice. They come with lots of built in problems, the main being a short life span. It is fast growing but has brittle wood and has a general weakness that makes it susceptible to several insect and disease issues.


Silver maple


Other commonly used maples to avoid are the thin-bark hybrids such as October Glory and Autumn Blaze. They are manmade failures in my opinion - susceptible to insect pests and diseases, as well as chlorosis in higher pH soils. Their thin bark is highly susceptible to sunscald and these trees are very short lived here in the alkaline soils. Maybe they work better somewhere else in the country but I doubt it. I learned the hard way years ago after designing several of them into commercial projects. The few that are still alive look lousy.






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