#ProPlantTips: The Maple Tree Root System

#ProPlantTips: The Maple Tree Root System

Pro Plants tips

At first glance, the astonishing crimson red leaves of tall Maple trees take our breath far enough away that we instantly decide then and there that a few would look absolutely incredible planted in the landscape. 


We can tell you that that much is true. They will be the show stoppers of the fall season and continue shining green in summer and spring. But what people fail to notice is that some maple trees have extensive system of roots!


This can literally put a bump in the road..but with these #ProPlantTips, you’ll be an expert on all things maple tree root systems in no time.


Do All Maples Have Invasive Roots?

No way! They have an abundant variety in their roots including some trees with compact roots and others with spreading. 


A few will have very strong roots like a Silver Maple, while others possess weaker systems, such as a Norway Maple Leaf. And some maples will dig deep into the ground with their taproots with others thriving near the surface, such as a Japanese Maple.


It’s all dependent on the tree itself! Therefore, it’s important, when planting maple trees, to conduct a little research beforehand about the type of root system it will have. 


Not only will this help the tree receive its proper care, but knowing the roots will also help you avoid cracks or fractures in a walkway, building, or porches. 


For extra information on tree root damages on pipes, foundations and more, read this blog!


Surface or Shallow Rooting Maples

Ever wonder what people randomonly trip over when running from something in a dramatic movie? Well, more often than not, surface roots are the culprits of all the tripping. And to be fair, no one would have probably seen the roots in time to avoid anyway. 


Many maples can have surface roots especially when they are planted in heavy clay soils that do not drain well. 

Best practice is to remember how important it is to be sure you plant your maple trees at the proper depth while making sure you never plant them too deep or shallow! We wouldn’t want the newly paved driveway to develop a large crack in it. Though they do make for a nice ‘step’ when on a hiking trail. 


As mentioned above, Silver Maples not only have strong roots, but they also tend to grow near the surface with instances of them peaking their way above the soil. It grows and matures fast into a grand tree with a root system to match it. 


Norway Maples and Red Maples are also known for having a few roots surface here and there. However, they are far less aggressive than their other tree friends, so they can be placed closer to streets, buildings and more. 


Sugar Maples also like to spread their roots near the surface when in low, wet soil areas. However, these trees have the ability most other maples lack: digging deep with their roots when in well-drained soil conditions. 


But no worries quite yet! The purpose of all plant roots are to grow where they can find the proper food and water where that may be. Therefore, there is not a 100% guarantee that all your maple trees will have roots that push their way through the surface. 


What Can I Do Now That I Have Surface Roots?

The first instinct when we awkwardly trip over these roots or have to constantly mow around them is to try and cut them down to ground level. Well here is your sign to don’t do it. This will only allow an easy entryway for diseases and harmful insects to infect your maple. 


Cutting the surface roots will also only kill tiny ‘feeder roots’ all within the tree. These help absorb water and other nutrients; therefore, getting rid of them will only hurt the growth rate of the canopy. It could even lead to the death of the whole tree!


Instead, use mulch as a cover up to your tree’s surface roots. This will not only be beneficial to the natural life, but will also provide a clean and professional look to your landscape. 


Having an outline of where the surface roots lay will be handy when trying to mow the yard. Out of sight, out of mind! 


However, don’t pile the mulch too high or the roots will not be able to breathe properly. Our best approximation is normally 2-4 inches of wood chips. 


Another option for dealing with surface roots is to plant around them! Add in arborist wood chips around the base of the maple tree and over the roots. Then, install a few shade loving perennials or a few drought tolerant groundcovers for some visual interest beneath your tree. 


You could even flow on the natural side of things and use moss as a groundcover!


Once you master down the various tactics there are to make the maple’s surface rooting look more inviting, there will be less fret about how it may be taking away from the lovely red leaves each fall.

So don’t the roots scare you off from placing a Maple Tree in a landscape!

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