This is the first half of a two-part series on red maple cultivars.
Red maple is one of the most popular trees used for cultivation. Its rapid growth, aesthetic qualities, adaptability, and ease of transplanting make it an ideal choice for planting. The following describes some of the most frequently selected cultivars of red maple, including ‘Armstrong’, ‘Autumn Blaze’, ‘Autumn Flame’, ‘Autumn Radiance’, ‘Autumn Spire’, ‘Bowhall’, ‘Brandywine’, ‘Burgundy Bell’, ‘Columnare’, ‘Florida Flame’, and ‘Gerling’.
‘Armstrong’: ‘Armstrong’ red maple reaches a height of 50 to 60 feet, with a 15 to 25 foot spread. It grows quickly, and has an upright columnar to fastigate growth habit. It features attractive silver-grey bark, and modest fall foliage that varies between red, yellow, and orange. ‘Armstrong’ red maple is one of the first trees to display color in fall.
‘Autumn Blaze’: ‘Autumn Blaze’ red maple has a rounded oval shape with leaves that resemble silver maple. It reaches a height of 50 to 70 feet, with a spread of 30 to 40 feet. It is notable for its rapid growth rate, dense branching, and lush green leaves that turn a fiery red in fall. Along with ‘Armstrong’ red maple, ‘Autumn Blaze’ is one of the first trees to display color in fall.
‘Autumn Flame’: ‘Autumn Flame’ red maple reaches a height of 40 to 60 feet. It is a vigorous grower, with small glaucous green leaves. Greenish-yellow flowers appear on it in early spring. Its leaves turn an exceptionally brilliant scarlet color in fall.
‘Autumn Radiance’: ‘Autumn Radiance’ red maple reaches around 50 feet in height, with a 40 foot spread. It grows at a slower rate than many other red maple cultivars. ‘Autumn Radiance’ is recognized by its high canopy and dense oval crown. It produces vibrant red flowers along its branches in early spring, followed by red samaras late in the season. In summer, its branches are flush with green leaves that turn bright red in fall.
‘Autumn Spire’: ‘Autumn Spire’ red maple reaches a height of 50 feet, with a spread of 15 to 25 feet. It has an upright columnar growth habit, and a broad crown. In spring, it is loaded with red flowers, which give way to thousands of red samaras. In summer, it features lush green foliage that turns a resplendent scarlet color in fall. ‘Autumn Spire’ is considered one of the hardiest cultivars of red maple.
‘Bowhall’: ‘Bowhall’ red maple reaches a height of 45 feet, with a spread of 15 feet. Its leaves are borne on upright stems, which causes it to develop an upright to conical form. Red flowers emerge on the branches of ‘Bowhall’ in early spring. During summer, leaves are dark green with a gray underside. In fall, leaves turn bright shades of yellow, orange, and red.
‘Brandywine’: ‘Brandywine’ red maple is a cross between ‘October Glory’ and ‘Autumn Flame’. It reaches a height of 25 feet, with a spread of 12 feet. It has a symmetrical, oval form, with vibrant green summer foliage. Its bark is light grey and smooth when young, darkening as the tree matures. Autumn coloration begins in mid-fall, with leaves gradually transitioning from a brilliant red to red-purple color.
‘Burgundy Bell’: ‘Burgundy Bell’ red maple grows at a medium rate, reaching a height of 45 feet, with a 15 foot spread. It is rounded in shape, with a compact uniform canopy. Small reddish blossoms precede its leaves in spring, followed by clusters of red samaras. Summer foliage is a medium, dark green. In late September, foliage turns red or orange before darkening to a deep magenta or burgundy color.
‘Columnare’: ‘Columnare’ is one of the tallest red maple cultivars. It can reach up to 65 feet in height, with a 10 foot spread. It has a narrow columnar to pyramidal form, and dark green leaves that turn shades of orange and deep red in fall.
‘Florida Flame’: ‘Florida Flame’ red maple is one of the cultivars most preferred in the southern range. It is recognized for its hardiness, particularly its resistance to leaf spot. ‘Florida Flame’ grows quickly, reaching a height of 50 to 60 feet, with a spread of over 30 feet. It has an upright to oval form. Its foliage is an array of color; new growth is red, turning bright green when mature. In fall, foliage becomes a deep flame red.
‘Gerling’: ‘Gerling’ red maple is a compact, slow growing cultivar, reaching a height of 35 feet, with a 25 to 35 foot spread. It grows tallest in the northern part of its range. ‘Gerling’ has a dense rounded crown, and a pyramidal shape. It is susceptible to mechanical injuries due to its thin bark. It produces attractive red flowers and samaras in early spring. Its most notable characteristic is its striking fall foliage, which varies between red, orange, and yellow.
Photograph courtesy of Famartin.