Red Maple Tree and Culture

Overview

Red maples are medium to large deciduous trees that provide vivid color to your home garden for most of the year. Identify features and cultural requirements for successful growth. Familiarize yourself with potential problems, like disease, that may affect the vigor of your tree. Plant red maple trees in your landscape only if you live in the appropriate hardiness zone.

Ornamental Description

Red maple trees (Acer rubrum) are prized for their color from spring through winter; green leaves and showy red flowers appear during spring, and flowers bloom again during the winter season. Bright red fruit measuring 1 to 3 inches in length attracts wildlife-like birds to the garden. Fall foliage turns to fiery colors including red, orange and yellow, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension. With a fast growth rate, red maples grow to a height of 60 to 75 feet and a width of 25 to 35 feet.

Culture

Cultural requirements of the red maple tree include exposure to partial sun to partial shade. Red maples will grow in full sun, but when in poor conditions like drought, excessive sun contributes to tree scorch, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension. Red maples are tolerant to a wide array of soil types but prefer wet sites with well-drained soil. Tolerances include clay, sand and loam soil types as well as acid pH levels. However, alkaline soil may cause chlorosis, in which the tree loses chlorophyll and cannot successfully go through photosynthesis for the production of energy converted from sunlight. Plant in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8, according to the University of Illinois Extension HortAnswers.

Cultivars

Cultivars of the red maple tree provide reliable color, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension. Northwood is a red maple that displays red-orange leaves in the fall; northwood is extremely cold hardy. Red sunset is extremely cold hardy and produces red leaves in the fall. Autumn flame displays red autumn foliage, as well, but the color change occurs before most cultivars, according to the University of Illinois Extension HortAnswers.

Pruning and Use

The wood of red maple trees is strong, but for a sturdy tree, pruning is necessary. Though wood is strong, the bark is weak. In addition, branches become heavy and droop, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension. Prune with the intention of creating a strong crotch to prevent breaks; if in a residential or urban area, branches must be pruned back to permit people and cars to pass beneath. Red maples are well suited for use as a shade tree or a specimen plant, according to the University of Illinois Extension HortAnswers.

Considerations

Vigorous plants are more likely than stressed plants to withstand diseases, pests and problems regarding culture. Red maples are not known for drought tolerance; keeping trees in areas without sufficient water makes them more vulnerable to problems. Excessively wet conditions may also cause problems, like the proliferation of fungi, if soil is not draining effectively. Red maple trees are often attacked by the fungal infection anthracnose; treat with a fungicide for control. Cottony scales are insects that infest red maples; you will know a scale infection by the cotton-like formations that scales form beneath branches. Treat with horticultural oil spray, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension.

Keywords: red maple culture, red maple tree, red maple leaves

About this Author

Tarah Damask's writing career, beginning in 2003, includes experience as a fashion writer/editor for Neiman Marcus, short fiction publications in "North Texas Review," a self-published novel, band biographies, charter school curriculum, and articles for eHow. She has a love for words and is an avid observer. Damask holds a Master of Arts in English and creative writing from the University of North Texas.