Virginia Tech® home

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)



Authors as Published

Alex X. Niemiera, Professor, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech (first published May 2009, last reviewed March 2024)


Foliage: Deciduous broadleaf

Height: 100 feet

Spread: 80 feet

Shape: Oval to round

Sugar maple is a medium/large shade tree with a no less than spectacular fall foliage display. There are many cultivars; cultivar characteristics include growth rate, form, and fall foliage color.

Plant Needs:

Zone: 3 to 8

Moisture: Moist to dry

pH Range: 3.7 to 6.5

Light: Partial shade to full sun

Soil Type: Sandy, loam, or clay loam


Suggested uses for this plant include shade or specimen tree.

Planting Notes:

Does best when planted in location where it will have ample room to spread.


Requires little care when planted in proper location (well-drained, fertile, moist soil away from polluted city conditions).


Leaf scorch (in excessive droughts) and Verticillium wilt can be a problem.

Susceptibility to gas and smoke damage makes sugar maple less suitable for city conditions than Norway and red maples.


Consult local garden centers, historic or public gardens and arboreta regarding cultivars and related species that grow well in your area.

Cultivars of Acer saccharum:

BonfireTM is a fast-growing cultivar with bright orange/red fall foliage.

`Globosum' -- a dwarf, globe-shaped form (10 by 10 feet after 20 years) `Columnare'-- an upright columnar form

Green Mountain® -- tolerates heat and is scorch resistant. ‘Legacy’ is a fast-growing cultivar with a variable fall foliage color.


The fire-red to yellow color of the sugar maple fall foliage is no less than spectacular. This species tends to have a solid symmetrical canopy which imparts a formal look.

The sap of this tree can be boiled down to produce maple syrup and sugar.

Mature sugar maples show a wide variation in form, but tend to have a broad, rounded head.

This material was developed by Carol Ness as part of the Interactive Design and Development Project funded by the Kellogg Foundation.

Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

Virginia Cooperative Extension is a partnership of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments. Its programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, sex (including pregnancy), gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, military status, or any other basis protected by law

Publication Date

March 7, 2024

Available As

Other resources in:

Other resources by: