Maples for Florida

A small tree with red leaves against a blue sky

Red maple (Acer rubrum). John Ruter, University of Georgia,

Maples are often thought of as a northern tree, loved for their spectacular displays of changing leaves in the fall. Did you know that there are two species of maple trees that will actually grow well here in Florida? The native red maple (Acer rubrum) and Florida maple (Acer saccharum subsp. floridanum) can be grown in the Sunshine State.

Red Maple

Found through most of the state, the native red maple (Acer rubrum) grows in wet areas but can be grown in the landscape if given adequate irrigation. The vibrant red fall foliage is eye-catching and come spring, red maple puts on a show with beautiful red flowers and samaras (dried fruits).

Read more about the red maple on Gardening Solutions.

Florida Maple

As you would guess by its common name, Florida maple (Acer saccharum subsp. floridanum) grows well in Florida. This maple provides beautiful fall colors in muted yellows and oranges, and older trees have attractive ribbed gray bark.

There is some taxonomic disagreement between specialists which can lead to confusion for gardeners.

Yellow leaves of Florida maple in stark contrast to the thin dark trees

A Florida maple (Acer saccharum subsp. floridanum)

While the Florida maple is considered by some taxonomists as a subspecies of the sugar maple (Acer saccharum), which grows further north, others see it as a separate species.

This is a taxonomic question that has not really been resolved. In the past, the Florida maple could be listed as a distinct species (called either Acer barbatum or Acer floridanum), or as a subspecies of the more broadly distributed sugar maple and called Acer saccharum subsp. floridanum.

Currently, the taxonomic resources used by our specialists (the Atlas of Florida Plants, the USDA GRIN database, the USDA PLANTS database, and The Plant List), are all in agreement and useAcer saccharum subsp. floridanum for Florida maple. These resources treat A. barbatum and A. floridanum as synonyms.

Read more about Florida maple on Gardening Solutions.

Maples NOT for Florida

The non-native Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) will grow in some northern parts of Florida, but cannot be reliably grown throughout the state. It is important to remember to plant the right plant in the right place. Growing Japanese maple farther south can result in these trees experiencing leaf scorch.

Sugar maple is the most common maple in the eastern United States, however it is not recommended for growing in Florida. Sugar maple doesn’t perform well in heat or sandy, well-drained soils.

Another maple that does not do well in Florida is the silver maple (Acer saccharinum). Silver maple’s fast growth rate and attractive foliage make it very appealing to many gardeners. But it is not considered a good choice for Florida as it is susceptible to many insects and diseases that will shorten its life considerably.

As is often the case, gardening in Florida can offer some unique challenges, like finding a maple for your landscape. With a little guidance, and attention to detail, you can find the right tree for the right place.

UF/IFAS Publications

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