Silver Maple – Perhaps Another Shade Tree

Q: On several occasions we have heard you advise callers on your radio show not to get a silver maple tree but we have never heard you say why not. We planted a silver maple on the side/front of our house to help block the hot afternoon sun. The tree is only about five feet from our driveway and our neighbor’s property line is only about four feet on the other side. If this is not a good tree for this area, can you recommend a few fast growing trees that will offer some shade to the house? I stand ready with chain saw if need be.

A: Rev up the motor! The main reason I counsel against silver maple trees is that it has weak limbs and invasive roots. They seem to constantly shed twigs and branches, both large and small. More worrisome in your situation are the roots: I guarantee that in ten years, your driveway will be rippled and cracked from the tree roots swelling underneath it. Further, the tree is WAY too close to your neighbor’s landscape. A silver maple grows to an average width of forty feet and your neighbor might resent the shade your tree makes on his lawn. The roots of a silver maple travel very close to the soil surface. As the tree matures, the roots swell and interfere with lawn mowers.

If you had more room, a red maple would be a better choice, particularly one of the improved, named, varieties like ‘October Glory’, ‘Autumn Blaze’, ‘Red Sunset, etc. I also like ‘Heritage’ river birch and the ‘Allee’ lacebark elm. Whichever tree you chose, consider digging an eighteen inch deep trench alongside your driveway into which aluminum roof flashing can be inserted to thwart wayward roots.