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Red maple

Large maple tree with red fall foliage growing in urban yard
Mature red maple in fall

(Acer rubrum) establishes easily and grows quickly. It is highly valued as a landscape tree for its flowers and fall foliage that light up spring and autumn landscapes.

Red maple trees are used as boulevard trees, shade trees, or accent and specimen plants.

The dense canopies of red maples provide shade during late spring, summer and fall.

Red maple is plentiful and common throughout its native range that includes Minnesota.

It thrives across a wide variety of climatic conditions and soil types. 

Branch of red maple with spiky red female flowers
Female spring flowers develop into seed after pollination
Branch of red maple with airy red male flowers
Male pollen-producing flowers in spring

Description

  • Deciduous tree

  • Height: 40 to 100 feet

  • Width: 15 to 75 feet

  • Medium to fast growth rate

  • Various forms - oval, rounded, upright, columnar

Red or magenta flowers appear before leaves emerge. Male and female flowers usually occur separately on individual branches within one tree canopy or on separate trees.

The fruit is a winged nutlet called a samara that can be seen twirling to the ground in May and June. Seeds can sometimes become a weed issue in garden beds.

Autumn leaves turn brilliant red, orange and yellow.

Growing red maple

Branch of red maple tree with green, three-lobed leaves
Summer foliage of red maple
  • Hardiness zone: 3 to 9

  • Full sun to partial shade

  • Soil adaptable - grows in sandy to clay soils

    • Average to wet

    • Well-drained to poorly-drained

    • Tolerates compacted soils

    • pH 4.5 to 6.5

Have your soil tested by the U of M Soil Testing Lab.

Yellow-green leaves with dark green leaf veins
Yellowing leaves with green veins are a symptom of manganese deficiency caused by high pH soils

Common problems

At soil pH above 6.5, manganese deficiencies occur that cause chlorotic (yellowish) leaves, stunted growth, and may kill the tree.

Thin-barked trunks of young trees need winter protection with tree guards to prevent frost cracks and sunscald.

Maples are sensitive to salt.

Visit What's wrong with my plant? – Maple for a list of the most common pests and stresses in Minnesota.

Cultivated varieties of red maple for Minnesota

Cultivated varieties have been selected for fall color, plant form and size, and pest and stress tolerances.

  • Autumn Radiance® - Zone 4, 50 feet tall by 40 feet wide, orange-red foliage in early fall, rounded oval shape     

  • 'Autumn Spire' - Zone 3, 50 feet tall by 25 feet wide, red foliage in fall, broadly columnar shape

  • 'Brandywine' - Zone 4, 50 feet tall by 40 feet wide, red to red-purple foliage in fall, oval shape, seedless

  • Burgundy Belle® - Zone 4, 45 feet tall by 45 feet wide, red to burgundy foliage in fall, oval or rounded shape, heat and drought tolerant

  • Northfire® - Zone 3, 50 feet tall by 40 feet wide, red foliage in early fall, oval shape

  • 'Northwood' - Zone 3, 50 feet tall by 35 feet wide, orange-red foliage in fall, rounded oval shape

  • 'Red Rocket' - Zone 4, 40 feet tall by 15 feet wide, red foliage in fall, upright shape

  • Red Sunset® - Zone 4, 50 feet tall by 40 feet wide, long-lasting red foliage in fall, upright shape

  • Scarlet Jewel™- Zone 3, 70 feet tall by 30 feet wide, crimson foliage in early fall, upright shape, resists frost cracking

Kathy Zuzek former Extension educator; Rebecca Koetter; and Julie Weisenhorn, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2018

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