How to Grow Acer negundo Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Box Elder

Acer negundo is commonly known as the Box Elder. This common name comes from its use in making boxes and crates.

Other names it goes by include Box Elder Maple, Ash-leaved Maple, Ashleaf Maple, Red River Maple, Fresno De Guajuco.

It is classified as a tree in the Sapindaceae (Maple) family, and is native to Central and North America

Box elder
Boxelder (Acer negundo) photograph by Andrey Zharkikh.

It is considered a fast-growing, medium-sized, deciduous tree. It averages 30 to 50 feet (9 to 15 m) in height and has an average spread similar to that of its height.

Acer negundo
Acer negundo by BotanischerVerein Sachsen-Anhalt, CC.

Although it is a maple and produces the familiar maple fruits, it differs from most maples through having odd-pinnate compound leaves.

There are both male and female Acer negundo plants. The male trees do not produce flowers.

Acer negundo 'Variegata'
Acer negundo 'Variegata' by Babij, CC.

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Box Elder

Acer negundo requires full sun to grow and does best in USDA Zones 2 to 10; hardy to zone H6 in the UK.

It is a low maintenance tree that has an insignificant flowers that are greenish-yellow.

The tree leaves turn yellow in the fall.

It is recommended as a shade tree and is ideal for faraway difficult corners of the landscape garden, where other ornamental trees will not grow, or in colder northern climates.

Unfortunately, Acer negundo has a short life and can be easily broken in storms.

Be aware that this tree is a host for Box Elder bugs, which do not harm the tree but can be a significant nuisance if the tree is located close to a home.

It is also susceptible to Anthracnose, powdery mildew and canker disease problems.

On the plus side, the Box Elder Maple tree can tolerate drought, clay soil, air pollution and being in proximity of black walnut trees.


Acer negundo Growing and Care Guide

  • Scientific Name: Acer negundo
  • Common Name: Box Eelder, Ashleaf Maple.
  • Growing Zone: USDA plant hardiness: 2 to 10. UK RHS H6 - Hardy throughout Europe.
  • Life Cycle / Plant Type: Deciduous Tree.

Plant Details

  • Plant Height: 30 to 50 feet (9 to 15 m).
  • Plant Spread:25 to 43 feet (8 to 13 m).
  • Time of Bloom: Early and mid-Spring.
  • Flower Details: Yellow-green. Clusters. Dioecious - Male and Female flowers on different trees. Female flowers are deemed messy.
  • Leaf Foliage: Light and Medium Green. Odd-pinnate, compound. Thrre leaflets.
  • Fruit: Samaras, autumn.
  • Growth Form: Columnar and Upright with a Rounded Crown.

Ideal Growing Conditions

  • Best Light Conditions: Full sunlight for best results, will grow in partially shady conditions but not full shade.
  • Rate of Growth: Quick, vigurous. Takes about 10 to 20 years to gain full height.
  • Suitable Soil Types: Chalk, Clay, Loamy, Neutral.
  • Soil Moisture: Moist and Wet soils.

Caring Conditions

  • Care: Low maintemace tree, may require the odd light pruning to keep tidy and remove decayed tissues. Remove any saplings that appear close to housing or in the proximetry of other established trees.
  • Level of Maintenance: Low.
  • Propagation: From Seed or by grafting.
  • How to Prune: Requires little to no pruning. In some cases hard pruning can be disruptive.
  • Tolerates: Grows well in polluted areas, tolerant of drought, clays, and juglone based competition from Black Walnut.
  • Pests: Aphids, borers, and horse chestnut scale are sometimes a problem.
  • Diseases: Usually disease free but Verticillium Wilt can be problematic.

Further Information

  • Can Attract: Boxelder bugs, birds, small mammals.
  • Tolerant of: Drought, Clay Soil, Air Pollution.
  • Best Garden Use: Often used to add shade to a landscape in cold areas where other shade trees may be difficult to grow. Grows well beside water features. In the control of erosion, Pollard, Woodland garden, Courtyards.
  • Genus Detail: Acer
  • Further Reading and References: Here and Here

  • Family: Sapindaceae
  • Closely Related Family members: Sycamore brilliantissimum, Red maple, and Silver maple; Horse chestnut; and Balloon Vine
  • Miscellaneous: North American native, Naturalizing, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms. Weak branches can collapse under heavy snows or severe storms. Wood is often used for the creation of boxes. Due to the similarity of leaves, these trees are sometimes referred to as Ash-leaved Maples. Hosts boxelder bugs, which can damage housing.

Flowering Box Elder
Box Elder in Flower, Image by Tatters; CC.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Acer negundo. You may also enjoy the following growing guides: How to grow Acer griseum and Acer palmatum Atropurpureum.