Red maple (Acer rubrum)
Mature height: 40 to 100'
Mature width: 15 to 75'
Growth rate: Medium to fast
Plant form: Oval, rounded, upright, columnar, irregular
Deciduous or evergreen: Deciduous
Native range: Maine south to Florida and west to Minnesota and Texas.
Native to Minnesota: Yes
Invasive in Minnesota: No
Light: Full sun to partial shade
Soil texture: Sandy to clay soils
Soil pH: 4.5 to 6.5
Soil moisture: Average to wet soils and well-drained to poorly-drained soils
Hardiness zone: 3 to 9
Pests and stresses: Visit What's wrong with my plant? – Maple for a list of the most common maple pests and stresses in Minnesota.
Other: Tolerates poor drainage and compacted soils, susceptible to manganese chlorosis in high pH soils, sensitive to salt.
Red maple or soft maple is plentiful and common throughout its native range in the eastern United States and thrives across a wide variety of climatic conditions and soil types. In the wild, it can be found growing from dry ridges and slopes with a drying southwest exposure to swamps and bogs. Red maple transplants and establishes easily, grows quickly, and is highly valued as a landscape tree for its flowers and foliage that light up spring and autumn landscapes.
Its biggest limitation is an intolerance to soil pH above 6.5. At higher soil pH levels, manganese deficiencies occur in red maple trees that result in chlorotic foliage, stunted growth, and without correction, tree death.
Wood strength, branch attachment, and potential for damage during wind and ice storms are intermediate between the strong-wooded sugar maple and the weak-wooded silver maple. As young red maples grow, their thin-barked trunks need to be protected during winter with tree guards to prevent frost cracks and sunscald.
Red maple trees provide many seasons of interest in landscapes and are used as boulevard trees, shade trees, or accent and specimen plants. In April or May, clusters of red or magenta flowers appear well before leaves emerge and light up spring landscapes with a red haze.
Male or female flowers usually appear separately on individual branches within one tree canopy or on separate trees. 3-5 lobed leaves appear next and are produced opposite of each other along branches.
The fruit is a winged nutlet called a samara that matures in a matter of weeks and can be seen twirling to the ground in May and June. Seeds germinate easily and quickly and can sometimes become a weed issue in garden beds. The dense canopies of red maples provide shade and enclosure during late spring, summer, and fall. The main season of interest is autumn when foliage turns brilliant red, orange, and yellow.
Cultivars have been selected for fall color, plant form and size, and pest and stress tolerances.
Some cultivars grown in Minnesota:
|Cultivar||Fall color||Mature form||Pest & stress tolerance||Size
(h x w)
|Autumn Radiance®||Orange-red, red, early fall color useful for northern climates||Oval, rounded||Zone 4 hardiness||50' x 40'|
|'Autumn Spire'||Red||Broadly columnar||Zone 3 hardiness||50' x 25'|
|'Brandywine'||Red, red-purple||Oval||Zone 4 hardiness, leafhopper resistance, seedless||50' x 40'|
|Burgundy Belle®||Red, burgundy||Oval, rounded||Heat, drought, zone 4 hardiness||45' x 45'|
|Northfire®||Red, early fall color useful for northern climates||Oval||Zone 3 hardiness||50' x 40'|
|'Northwood'||Orange-red||Rounded, oval||Zone 3 hardiness||50' x 35'|
|'Red Rocket'||Red||Upright||Zone 4 hardiness||40' x 15'|
|Red Sunset®||Red, long season of fall color||Upright||Zone 4 hardiness||50' x 40'|
|Scarlet Jewel™||Crimson, early fall color useful for northern climates||Upright||Zone 3 hardiness, resists frost cracking||70' x 30'|