Information on Red Sunset Maple Trees


What would autumn be without the blazing red foliage colors of maple trees? Red Sunset® maple is a prized selection, known for its profound orange-red fall foliage as well as its reddish samara seeds that are decorative and tasty to birds and squirrels. Excellent in moist soils, this maple is fast-growing, making it a worthwhile shade tree.


Properly identified as cultivated variety (or cultivar) 'Franksred', Red Sunset® is a registered trademark name. Many plant nurseries or literature sources mistakenly list Red Sunset® as the botanical cultivar name.


The red maple is native to much of eastern North America, from the cold winter woodlands of southeastern Canada to the American Gulf Coast region's sandy soils. This cultivar, 'Franksred', was first introduced by J. Frank Schmidt Nursery in Boring, Oregon in 1966 and is today more commonly known by the name Red Sunset®.


This deciduous tree with a rounded, oval shape has many ornamental features. Reaching mature heights of 40 to 50 feet and spread of nearly 35 feet, the youngest branches of Red Sunset® maple are glossy red. In early spring before the leaves emerge, tufted clumps of tiny dark red flowers appear. The satiny leaves are medium green and deeply lobed, a characteristic of all maples. By early autumn, the seeds, known as samaras or "helicopters," have ripened to red. The seeds are displayed in pairs, each with a long wing-like keel. Tones of brilliant orange-red fill the tree before its leaves drop for the winter.


Grow this maple in USDA Zones 3 through 9. Western North American gardeners who use the Sunset Climate Zone to make their decisions should note that Red Sunset® is best in Zones A2, A3, 1 through 9 and 14 through 17. Tolerant of winter cold and summer heat, plants may brown their leaf edges in regions with long, hot summers and sandy soils. This maple tree tolerates occasional flooding and in alkaline soils is susceptible to chlorosis, or leaf yellowing caused by a nutritional deficiency. Highly alkaline soil (pH above 8.0) can diminish its foliage display, especially in fall, and overall plant health.


Plant a Red Sunset® maple wherever shade is needed quickly. Perfect as a parkland or street tree planting, make sure to plant it at least 20 feet away from a concrete or asphalt path, road or foundation so there is ample space for both the branches and root system. This tree's tolerance for wet soils makes it a good choice for low spots on a property where rainfall collects or is naturally soggy. It is lovely along the shoreline of streams or lakes, especially in autumn.

Keywords: Acer rubrum, Franksred, trademark name

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for "The Public Garden," "Docent Educator," non-profit newsletters and for horticultural databases, becoming a full-time writer in 2008. He holds a Master of Science in public horticulture from the University of Delaware and studied horticulture and biology in Australia at Murdoch University and the University of Melbourne.