Water Your Maples!

Watering Your Maples
(here in the South, U.S.A.)

The following is an excerpt of a recent article written by Andrew J. Baril of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, C. Beaty Hanna Horticulture and Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

Please note: we make this available to help emphasize the need for more water for your maples here in the South of the U.S.A. Emphasis is ours throughout.

January is the time to plant. When planting trees, you must consider the size and species of the mature tree. Trees grow into three size classes: Large canopy, midstory, and understory. Planting large canopy trees next to the power lines or the sidewalk is doomed for failure. These trees will soon out grow [sic] their space and will cause problems. Understory trees should be planted in these locations. As for the issue of species consideration, each tree has its “likes and dislikes” of where to live. Pines can handle droughty locations better than most hardwoods. Pine should be planted at the top of mountain ridges and on the south/west facing slopes. Hardwoods should be planted on cool north/east facing slopes and in the bottoms.

Every September, I receive scores of calls from homeowners who planted a beautiful red or sugar maple in their yard 10-15 years ago only to watch it die. Normally, it was planted out in the open, in full sunlight as the tag instructed. In the South, maple trees are understory trees. They may reach the large canopy size, but only in the creek bottoms. In the North, where many of the nursery trees are grown, maples are large canopy trees. Up there, they reach the size of our oaks; however, during my eight years in upstate New York, we reached 90 degrees in only two of the summers. Also, another fact of maples is that they are shallow rooted. They like living in the bottoms where the water levels are high. If a homeowner adds soil around the roots, to ease mowing, they will suffocate the tree. I share this information with you, because none of us like to see our handiwork go to waste.