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Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’ (photo courtesy of Monrovia)
Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’ (photo courtesy of Monrovia)

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Zones A2, A3, 1-9, 14-17, 26, 28, 31-44
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Full, Partial
Regular Water

Acer rubrum

Red Maple, Scarlet Maple
Deciduous, Trees


Maples are a varied group. They may be large and midsize shade trees; smaller trees; and dainty, picturesque shrub-trees. Leaves range from simple ovals to deeply lobed and finely dissected shapes. One element common to all maples is the fruit (seed capsule), which resembles a hardware store wingnut.

Many maples have beautiful fall color. Look for one that colors well in your locale; visit nurseries while the foliage is changing hue.

The larger maples have extensive fibrous root systems that take water and nutrients from the topsoil. The great canopy of leaves calls for a steady, constant supply of water, not necessarily frequent watering but constantly available water throughout the root zone. Occasional deep watering and periodic feeding will help keep roots deep.

Medium to large maple species need little pruning. On smaller types, prune to accentuate the natural shape. To minimize sap bleed, make any cuts in summer or early fall in mild-winter areas, from summer to the end of January where temperatures remain below freezing.

Acer rubrum ‘Sun Valley’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Acer rubrum ‘Sun Valley’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

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Acer rubrum

This tree is native to low, wet areas of eastern North America. Fairly fast growth to 60 ft. tall and 40 ft. wide (or even larger). Faster growing than A. platanoides or A. pseudoplatanus. Red twigs, branchlets, and buds; quite showy flowers. Leaves have three to five lobes, shiny green above, pale beneath; brilliant scarlet fall color in frosty areas. Tolerates most soils. Not at its best in urban pollution. Some of the trees listed below, although sold as A. rubrum, are actually A. x freemanii—hybrids between it and A. saccharinum.

‘Armstrong’ (A. x freemanii). Very narrow (15 ft. wide) tree. Fall color (often poor) is orange to red.

‘Autumn Blaze’ (A. x freemanii). Dense oval, upright crown; excellent orange-red fall color.

‘Autumn Fantasy’ (A. x freemanii). Dense oval, with beautiful red fall color.

‘Karpick’. Narrow grower (20 ft. wide) with red twigs, yellow to red fall color.

‘New World’. Narrow (to 15 ft.), upright (to 30 ft.), with bright reddish orange fall color.

‘October Glory’. Tall, round-headed tree; last to turn color in fall.

‘Redpointe’. Grows quickly into a 45-ft.-tall, 30-ft.-wide pyramid with green leaves that turn bright red in autumn.

‘Red Sunset’. Upright, vigorous branching pattern.

‘Scarlet Sentinel’. Columnar form, to about 25 ft. wide. Fast growing.

‘Somerset’. Narrow oval with brilliant, long-lasting, red fall color. ‘Sun Valley’ is similar.

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