Besides its beauty and rapid growth, the silver maple is excellent as a shade tree and is often found in parks, gardens and along sidewalks for that purpose. It has an extensive root system and should be planted in an area where its roots can spread out without interfering with septic tanks, underground plumbing or utility lines. It prefers deep, rich, moist soil with an acid pH. A tough tree, the silver maple can stand some flooding and some drought.
The red, gold and silver flowers open in earliest spring before the leaves. The fruit, called samaras, have twisted, wide-spread wings. At 3 inches long, the silver maple’s samaras are the largest of any North American maple. The leaves not only have beautiful, silvery undersides in the growing season but turn red and mustard yellow in the fall. They are 3 to 6 inches long, deeply lobed and deeply cut and have hairs along the veins. When the tree is young, the bark is smooth. As it gets older furrows and scales appear, as do shoots and suckers. Though the most common silver maple has a vase-shaped habit, one type of silver maple has graceful, weeping branches.
The silver maple prefers full sun to part shade, though at maturity it may be one of the tallest trees in the neighborhood. It thrives in hardiness zones 3 to 9.