The red maple has many features to recommend it for landscaping use. Its wide canopy and thick foliage make it an excellent shade tree. Its brilliant red and yellow fall foliage, from which it gets its name, make it an attractive specimen tree, as do its bright red flowers in the spring. Red maples are also important sources of food for wildlife. Their fruit, called "samaras," ripens in the late spring, before many other kinds of food become available. These trees do well in hardiness zones 3 through 9.
Red maple trees can grow from 40 feet to 70 feet at maturity, depending on the cultivar. Red maples in the southern parts of the United States do not tend to grow as tall as those in the north. In the wild some red maples can reach up to 120 feet in height.
Specific Cultivar Heights
October Brilliance and Northwood are the shortest cultivars, at 40 feet. Armstrongs, Schlesingeris and Columnars are the tallest, at 70 feet. Red Sunsets and October Glories are almost as tall, reaching up to 60 feet.
The canopy size of the red maple varies widely by cultivar. Though they are the tallest of red maples, Armstrongs and Columnars have the narrowest canopies, only stretching 15 feet. October Glories and Red Sunsets have the widest canopies, up to 50 feet across, making them almost as broad as they are tall.
The roots of red maple trees are large and often push themselves a significant distance out of the ground. This can cause problems if you are planning on mowing around the base of the tree. The lawnmower blades can easily damage the protruding roots, damaging the tree. These roots can also displace or break concrete. Do not plant red maples where you plan to put in paving later. Sometimes the roots at the surface will grow all the way around the trunk, throttling the tree. Cut away any circling roots.
Red maples can develop multiple trunks as well as large upright branches. The crotch between the main trunk and the subsidiary trunks or upright branches can be weak, however, due to imbedded bark. This can cause it to split if too much weight is applied to it. This splitting can damage or kill the tree. Keep an eye on the larger upright branches and secondary trunks. Remove any that grow larger than half the diameter of the main trunk.