Can I grow a sugar maple tree in Denver?
I am originally from Ontario, Canada, and loved the sugar maple tree. I live in Littleton, near the foothills, and would like to know if I could grow a sugar maple here.
Jefferson County Colorado
The best answer is "maybe." Sugar maples, like many other maples, prefer well-drained, acidic to neutral pH soils. Our soils in the Denver area are mostly alkaline, high lime clays that may drain poorly.
Before considering a sugar maple, we suggest you have a soil test done. Contact the Colorado State University Soils Lab at http://www.soiltestinglab.colostate.edu/, and click on Horticultural Applications for Gardeners. The routine test (pH, salinity, fertility, texture, and lime) costs $31.
If your soil pH is over 7.5 and the lime is high, another tree may be better. There are some sugar maple selections made from Caddo County, Oklahoma (the farthest west occurrence of sugar maple) that are touted to have more tolerance to alkaline soil. Some nurseries may carry 'Caddo', 'John Pair', and 'Autumn Splendor' sugar maples; these would probably be a better choice than other varieties/selections.
Or consider the native bigtooth maple (Acer grandidentatum), similar to sugar maple. It too has slightly better tolerance of alkaline, high lime soils.