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Extension > Garden > Yard and Garden > Trees and Shrubs > Silver maple

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Silver maple (Acer saccharinum)

Rebecca Koetter and Kathy Zuzek

Plant description

Mature height: 75 to 100'
Mature width: 75 to 100'
Growth rate: Fast
Plant form: Oval, round
Deciduous or evergreen: Deciduous
Native range: New Brunswick south to Florida and west to South Dakota and Oklahoma
Native to Minnesota: Yes
Invasive in Minnesota: No


Light: Full sun to partial shade
Soil texture: Sandy loam to clay soils
Soil pH: Prefers pH of 5.5 to 6.5; tolerates slightly alkaline
Soil moisture: Prefers moist to wet soils and well-drained to poorly-drained soils; tolerates dry soils
Hardiness zone: 3 to 9
Pests and stresses: Visit What's wrong with my plant? – Maple for a list of the most common maple pests and stresses in Minnesota.
Other: Tolerant of drought, heat, flooding, and compacted soils. Sensitive to deicing salts.

Silver maple in the landscape

Silver maple is a widely adapted and easily grown native tree. In the wild, it is found throughout most of Minnesota on river floodplains and in other low, moist or wet areas. As a landscape plant, it establishes very easily after transplanting, is soil adaptable, grows quickly, and tolerates many urban stresses including drought, heat, flooding, and soil compaction. Because of its adaptability, silver maple is a common shade tree in urban areas. Unfortunately, this species also has several liabilities as a landscape plant: weak wood that easily breaks during wind and ice storms, sensitivity to high pH soils and deicing salts, and prolific seed production and germination that creates a weeding issue in gardens. The root systems of silver maples also grow vigorously and superficially and can penetrate drain tile and sewer lines, raise or buckle sidewalks, and make mowing difficult. Use of silver maple in horticultural landscapes should be restricted to areas away from structures where a native species is needed for a naturalizing effect, where a shade tree with a rapid growth rate is needed, or where other shade tree species will not thrive due to dry, wet, or compacted soils. Maples are thin-barked species and are susceptible to frost cracks and sunscald; young trees should be protected with tree guards. Regular pruning is needed as young silver maple trees grow to encourage good plant structure that will minimize storm damage.

Silver maple is one of the first trees to bloom in spring. Shortly after snowmelt in March or April, clusters of wind-pollinated flowers appear that are very noticeable because they appear weeks before leaves emerge. Flower clusters are either male or female and are found on different branches of the same tree or on separate trees. Seeds are paired winged nutlets called samaras. They mature very quickly, and as leaves are expanding in May or early June, samaras can be seen twirling to the ground. Silver maple gets its name from the silvery underside of its lobed, 3-4", green leaves that are produced opposite of each other along branches. In fall, leaves turn golden or yellow.

Some cultivars grown in Minnesota:

USDA Forest Service Agric. Handb. 654

Native range of silver maple in North America

Minnesota DNR

Native range of silver maple in Minnesota

T. DeGomez, Univ. of AZ,

Mature silver maple

P. Wray, ISU,

Silver maple leaf

K. Zuzek, UMN Extension

Silver maple samaras

  Cultivar traits:
Cultivar Mature form Seed production
Silver Cloud™ Upright oval with strong central leader -
'Silver Queen' Upright oval Reduced


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