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How to Make Maple Seed Messes Easier to Manage

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Wondering how to clean up maple seeds?

Those maple seed helicopters are no fun to clean up. But, maples are gorgeous trees worth growing. And, no, spraying your trees won’t help you clean up those maple seed messes.  So, what can you do to make cleaning up those pods easier?

First, where do you need to clean up those maple seeds?

Learn how to clean up maple seeds & love these beautiful trees!If your maple seeds have fallen on a patio or deck, you may be able to simply rake or sweep them. But, if your maple is dropping seeds in a pond, you may need to get out a pond vacuum. And if they’re dropping on a driveway or other concrete surface, you may be able to slurp up your maple seed messes with a shop vacuum.

However, if your tree is dropping seeds in a gravel path, that’s going to be extra challenging. This is because those little helicopters will wedge themselves into the gravel and become nearly impossible to take out. Except, it might work if you’re willing to hand pluck every single little pod.

But who wants to clean up maple seeds that way?

Let’s assume you need to clean them out of a garden bed…

When maple seeds fall in your garden beds or your mulch, you have a few options:

In the first place, you could just let them stay put. That’s because most of them will fail to germinate. And those will become organic material to feed your soil.

But some will sprout. So, you’ll need to be prepared to hand pull those later. Or, better yet, dig them up to transplant somewhere in your garden!

How to stop maple samara messes before they’re hard to clean up…

Another option would be to preemptively clean up maple seeds by catching them. This requires knowing when your maple will shed its helicopters. And timing will vary, so watch your trees.

To avoid maple seed messes before they’re a big problem try this:

Just before shedding time, drape an old sheet under the trees. This will help you catch the flying ‘copters before they embed themselves into your garden.  Or you could use a tarp, but a sheet will allow moisture and light to reach your garden better. Moreover, it may be much easier to work with.

Also, be sure to weigh down your sheets so they don’t blow away. Finally, as soon as possible, gather up the sheet so plants underneath don’t suffer. In fact, you may want to gather up the samara-filled sheets more than once during the seeding season to empty them out. That way you aren’t as likely to have some of those samaras (maple helicopters) blow off the sheets and into your garden anyway.

Finally, dispose of those seeds somewhere besides your compost heap, unless you want them to germinate into trees to transplant later.

Need help with other maple gardening challenges?

Before you try pruning your maple, check out this article for tips to transform it into a specimen.

And, when you prune your maple, does it bleed? Learn more about this pruning phenomenon in this article.

Finally, if you need more help learning to care for maples and other trees, join our online gardening classes and sign up for our in-person events now. When you join our programs, we’ll help you learn lots of ways to make your garden gorgeous, productive, healthy, and easier to care for as well!

11 comments on “How to Make Maple Seed Messes Easier to Manage

  1. mark major on

    I was told that the tree could be sprayed at the correct time to “trick” it into not seeding. The tree is too big to move. (it was there first) The pool is a small in the groud Figerglass and I am told that Maple trees and pools don’t mix. It’s a 30×70 ft area i need to cover. Thanks for your service

  2. Katy on

    Speaking from a certified arborist point of view (not a spray applicator), I’m not sure that there is a spray that you’d use to reduce seed production, or that that would even be the best practice for your tree. If you indeed follow garden mentor’s suggestions about contacting a consulting arborist for a professional opinion, ask them about pruning options too. If your tree is in good condition, you may be able to reduce some foliage by window pruning or thinning to reduce the amount of seed bearing branches.

    Also, the last few years here in the northwest have been unusually high seed producing years for our Big Leaf maples … we’ve been hoping that the deer are going to help mow those down here on Bainbridge.

    Good luck!

  3. rhaglund on

    Katy…I’m not advocating this, but I’m wondering if the “spray” Mark was told about might be a growth inhibitor. I don’t know how this would work on seed production or when spraying would have to happen or what long term effects might be, but after sleeping on it, that’s my one guess. (And, I still don’t think its a good idea!)

  4. Katy on

    Yes, well, growth inhibitors only work for two to three years (so I’ve heard) and need to be repeated. Pruning every year (if a reasonable option) would probably be just as effective, eliminate the need for spraying or injecting a chemical while avoiding trying to fight the battle with genetics (you won’t win). Mark?

  5. rhaglund on

    Katy…do you know why the growth inhibitors only work for 3 years? Do the plants outsmart them or just get so inhibited that they stop growing altogether? I’m not interested in using inhibitors but just curious.

  6. Donna Ngai on

    My neighbor’s tree is filling my yard, my pool, my deck, my rock garden , my side garden & my front porch with thousands of dry, brown polynoses, or Samaras. Would trimming the tree annually keep it in better condition?

  7. Kim on

    Would it hurt the tree if we were to take about 10 to 15 feet off the top of the tree? It shades the pool too much now.

  8. Garden Mentors on

    Kim, we never advocate topping a tree. You may be able to remove some interior branches to let in more sunlight. However, you may want to bring in a certified arborist or other certified gardening expert near you before you do any pruning. Remember: once you cut something off a tree, you can’t put it back on! Good luck!

  9. Jo Ann Morello on

    As a 74 year old senior it is backbreaking by hand bent over picking up literally thousands of helicopters over the season from my 30 year old Norway Maple. The city prohibits taking it down even though it is is my backyard.

    Is anyone able to recommend a hand held vacuum that I could use to deal with this chronic issue for the whole summer? I purchased a Black & Decker blower/mulcher but it is clunky, very heavy and poor design for catcher bag which requires wrestling with a sliding bar to empty the refuse. Any suggestions are very much appreciated.

  10. Garden Mentors on

    Jo Ann, Thanks for writing in. Sorry to hear you’re struggling with your maple seeds and the tools you purchased to deal with them. Site unseen, it’s difficult to suggest specific tools for a specific situation. Since you’ve already tried one tool that isn’t right for you, it might be worth visiting your local hardware store to try out various tools on site before you purchase something else. Again, not knowing what the area is that you’re cleaning up, you might look at a small shopvac. Sometimes they can slurp up messes like these fairly easily. But that depends on your access, terrain, and more. Good luck!

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