"From young age to old age, it is simply a gorgeous plant," says Michael Dosmann, Putnam Fellow at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University.
The paperbark maple is not fussy, though it prefers to grow in moist, well-drained soil. A solid performer in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 through 7, it will also grow in the Northwest and can survive in Zone 4 if planted in a protected area. The paperbark maple thrives as an understory tree in a lightly shaded border, an environment that mimics its woodland origins. It grows well, though not quite as vigorously, in a sunny central location such as a front lawn, where it can be used as a centerpiece to anchor a landscape that needs focus.
For bold contrast, plant a paperbark maple near a stand of firs or pines. Its round structure and reddish color is the perfect accent to conical evergreens. To highlight the paperbark maple's wood and provide shelter for wildlife, consider planting yellow-twigged shrub dogwoods (Cornus stolonifera 'Flaviramea'). Underplant with a groundcover such as silvermound artemisia (Artemisia schmidtian), blue fescue (Festuca glauca), or coral flower (Heuchera micrantha 'Pewter Moon') to create a living mulch that complements the tree's bark. Wherever you place it, a paperbark maple will ensure a striking, colorful landscape year-round.