Now is the perfect time of year for planting trees! We have many customers interested in planting shade trees, due in a large part to finding replacements for Ash trees as we continue to deal with the ramifications of the Emerald Ash Borer. Red maples make an excellent option here in central Ohio, and there are many varieties to choose from, which can be confusing and leads to our answering lots of questions concerning the differences in them. While they are all relatively similar, different varieties have been selected and cultivated by growers for their form and function in the landscape.
The Red Maple (Acer rubrum) is native to this area and the most dominant tree of the eastern United States. The main reason is they are so highly adaptable to different climate and soil situations, doing well in cool, swampy environments to very hot, dry areas and everything in between! They tolerate our climate and clay soils here exceedingly well, which can be cold and very wet in the early spring and hot with rock-hard soils in summer and early fall. They also tend to grow extremely quickly, which makes them highly desirable for creating shade in the landscape, as well as making an ideal replacement for an Ash Tree as it will very quickly fill in as a substitute. Most Red Maples are large, attaining heights of 40-70’ depending on variety, making them ideal shade trees. They also do well as “street trees” performing well in restrictive situations such as the lawn strip between the street and sidewalk, as the roots tend to grow down rather than superficial like some other maples and shade trees.
‘Red Sunset’ is one of the most popular varieties and makes an excellent choice. It has a vibrant red fall color, which is a highly desirable characteristic of the species, as well as being extremely hardy and having an excellent growth rate, often 12-18” a year. ’October Glory’ is another popular variety known for its deep red fall color. While not as fast growing as ‘Red Sunset’ it does grow quickly and both will eventually get as tall as 60-75’. The variety ‘Burgundy Belle’ is becoming popular for its formal upright-oval crown and tolerance of harsh conditions. It has a brilliant orange-red fall color with gorgeous dark green foliage in the summer. ‘Somerset’ and ‘Sun Valley’ are both gaining popularity for being considered seedless as well as having a compact, formal growth habit (approximately 40’ tall, 20-30’ width).
Another group of Red Maples that are becoming very popular are the Freeman Maples (Acer x freemanii), resulting from a cross of Red Maple and Silver Maple (Acer Saccharinum) and having the best qualitiesfrom both. They are notable for their excellent red fall colors and exceptional growth rate, often 2’ or more of new growth per year, while maintaining a downward growing root system and strong branching. The most popular is ‘ Autumn Blaze’, which has a brilliant red fall color and is known for growing very quickly. Like most Freeman Maples it can attain a height of 50’ and spread of 40’, maintaining a gorgeous upright –oval habit. Another popular variety is ‘Sienna Glenn’, which is extremely hardy and produces very few, if any, seeds. ‘Armstrong’ is a variety cultivated for its upright columnar growth habit, making it an excellent choice for constricted areas in the landscape as well as bordering properties.
-Provided by Oakland New Albany