Maple trees don't change color in the fall - Knowledgebase Question

McHenry, IL
Avatar for patti4321
Question by patti4321
November 18, 2005
I've owned my house for 20 years and my question is about my 2 huge maple trees don't change color in the fall. Im not sure of what type of maples they are, but some leaves have a tiny bit of yellow, but fell mostly green. The leaves fall at the same time as other trees in the area which do change color. I love the looks of the bright reds, oranges and yellows of the changing leaves and wonder if there is something that I can do. Is there some nutrient that the trees may need? I fertilize the lawn twice a year, that doesn't seem to affected the trees at all, neither good or bad. Also, some of the roots coming up to the surface are quite thick. Is it ok to cut these small sections sticking up through the dirt? They are as far at 10 from the trunks of the trees. Any help is appreciated. Thank you.

Answer from NGA
November 18, 2005
The fall color (and surface roots) you describe for your trees would be typical for the Silver maple (Acer saccharinum) or possibly a Norway maple (Acer platanoides). Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to improve the fall coloring of these particular maples. And, their surface roots should be left in place and undisturbed as they are needed by the tree for taking up nutrients and moisture.

Here are descriptions of these trees.

The maple trees with exciting fall color include the reds/oranges usually seen on red maples (Acer rubrum) and the oranges/reds/golds usually seen on sugar maples (Acer saccharum) and their named cultivars. One way to be assured of planting a tree with great color is to purchase the tree in the fall when it is in full color, or to plant a named cultivar that was selected especially for its reliable fall color. Your local professional nursery staff should be able to show you some of these.

Avatar for terrynichols13
A comment from terrynichols13
October 20, 2018
I've noticed that maples growing on poor soil or are diseased, turn color early. Maybe the fertilizer has the opposite affect.

Arlington Hts, IL (Zone 5b)
Avatar for Lauram847
A comment from Lauram847
October 21, 2018
Tree leaves 'turn' colors based on a variety of reasons: weather, stress, species to name a few. The reason you do not see the colors in Summer is due to chlorophyll. Chlorophyll gives leaves their green color thereby hiding the pretty Fall colors. In Summer this is possible because photosynthesis produces chlorophyll. In Fall cooler weather causes the process of photosynthesis to cease as the tree transitions into its dormant phase. Once Spring weather begins to warm the soil and the tree sap becomes active the photosynthesis process starts again. NGA is correct in advising to select a tree cultivar that has been developed with traits that you desire such as good Fall color, disease resistance, etc. As far as surface tree roots, do not prune them. Unless the roots in question would be girdling the trunk they should be kept in tact. Properly mulching under the tree will provide health and aesthetic benefits.

Staten island, NY
Avatar for kgcouture
A comment from kgcouture
October 22, 2018
Please post a picture of your tree so we can see the area around and how the grass looks. If your using pesticides it will definitely make a difference.

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