The Best Maple Trees For Your Minnesota Yard

Maple trees are far and away the most popular shade tree in Minnesota and specifically the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. The fall colors on a maple are unrivaled compared to other trees as well as the incredible amount of shade they provide. Getting a maple tree that can grow large and tall, along with your family and home, is a very popular decision for many families. We can empathize with homeowners going to a greenhouse to pick out a baby maple tree but being intimidated by all the choices. That’s why we wrote up the best (and worst) maple trees for your Minnesota yard. 

There were a few things we kept in mind when selecting the best varieties. The size of the fully grown tree matters, too small is out of the question. We wanted good fall colors (otherwise why use a maple). Lastly, we wanted trees that would be hardy enough to survive the harsh Minnesota winters. 


The Best Varieties of Maple Trees for Your Yard

We will cut right to the chase. We recommend going with a Sugar Maple ‘Acer Saccharum’ or a Red Maple ‘Acer Rubrum’, these two types have the most impressive fall colors and growth form. Our first requirement was looking options that grow at least 30’ wide and 40’ tall to get a nice shade tree form in a maple. All of the options below will be around 40’ wide and 50’ tall which is perfect for shade. Narrower trees will not look as nice as stand-alone trees in the lawn. Narrow trees also will not provide the filtered shade and desirable form of a traditional shaped shade tree. 


  • Sugar maple have the golden/orange to red fall leaf colors; there are many great cultivar options, here are a few of them:
    • ‘Fall Fiesta’ Maple
    • ‘Unity’ Maple
    • ‘Northern Flare’ Maple
    • ‘Autumn Fest’ Maple
    • ‘Green Mountain’ Maple



  • Red maples have the striking red fall leaf color; there are many great cultivar options, here are a just few of them:
    • ‘Red sunset’ Maple
    • ‘Autumn Radiance’ Maple
    • ‘Northwood’ Maple



Maples Trees We Advise Against Using In A Minnesota Yard


  • Silver maples and hybrid with Silver maples. Hybrids with silver maples like ‘autumn blaze’ don’t have as nice of a fall color display as the pure sugar and red maple varieties in our opinion. We don’t recommend planting standard silver maples at all as shade tree in the lawn for a number of reasons. The primary reason is that they do not have any notable fall color. They also have shallow roots which raise the soil around the trunk which leads to the roots being exposed in the lawn which makes for a messy look. Finally, silver maples have weak branches angles that are prone to breaking and require a lot of clean-up and tree trimming to maintain an acceptable form.


  • Amur maples (Acer Ginnala) are not nice shade trees for a lawn space as they are small/midsized trees with low canopies. They also have messy branching structures that require a lot of trimming to keep clean looking. The seeds can be invasive making for lots of volunteer trees which is also an issue. 


  • Norway maples (Acer Platanoides) are nice looking trees with good form/shape. However, they do not have the impressive fall colors that the red and sugar maple exhibit. They are known to have extremely dense leafing canopies which makes growing grass below Norway maples difficult due to the heavy shade. Most Norway maples have green leaves throughout the growing season, however some, like the ‘Crimson maple,’ maintain burgundy color leaves all throughout the season which makes for a unique look.


  • Japanese Maples (Acer Palmatum) prefer warm climates and almost all of them are not hardy in our zone 4 Minnesota climate. There are many options hardy for zone 5, which some people attempt to use in Minnesota with winter protection and covering. We believe this is a mistake and doomed to fail in the long run. The only zone 4 option we are currently aware of is the ‘Japanese velvet King’ maple, which grows to 4’x4’ making it a shrub not a shade tree. Also, most Japanese maples are small trees that don’t make for desirable shade tree in the lawn spaces.


  • Korean Maples are another smaller type of maple tree for a Minnesota yard. There are several Korean maple and Korean/Japanese maple hybrid options that are hardy in our MN zone 4 climate. However, as stated before, none of them are large enough to be considered traditional sized shade trees. Some have interesting branch structures and unique leaves similar to the Japanese maples, which make them interesting ornamental trees. The ‘Korean North Wind’ Maple is a good option if you are looking for an ornamental sized Korean/Japanese hybrid maple which grows to roughly 15’-20’ tall x 15’ wide.