Tree Profiles: Red Maple Cultivars, Part 2
This is the second 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 ‘Northwood’, ‘October Brilliance’, ‘October Glory’, ‘Redpointe’, ‘Red Sunset’, ‘Scarlet Sentinel’, ‘Schlesingeri’, ‘Shade King’, ‘Sun Valley’, and ‘V.J. Drake’.
‘Northwood’: ‘Northwood’ is a hardy cultivar of red maple. It is a medium grower that reaches a height of 40 to 60 feet, with a 25 to 40 foot spread. Its branches form a rounded to oval crown. Red flowers appear in dense clusters between late March and early April. These are followed by a profusion of red samaras. Leaves emerge shortly thereafter, turning from red to dark green as they mature. Leaves have three triangular lobes, with toothed margins and pointed tips. In fall, they become brilliant shades of orange and red.
‘October Brilliance’: ‘October Brilliance’ is a fast growing cultivar of red maple. It reaches up to 40 feet in height, with a 30 foot spread. It is slow to leaf in spring, but forms a densely rounded upright crown. ‘October Brilliance’ has smooth, light bark that becomes deeply ridged with age. Attractive red flowers precede new foliage, appearing in early spring. Foliage emerges bright red in late spring, before turning dark green in summer. Leaves become a brilliant yellow, burgundy or fiery red in fall.
‘October Glory’: ‘October Glory’ is one of the most popular red maple cultivars. It grows at a medium to fast rate, reaching a height of 40 to 50 feet, with a spread of around 35 feet. ‘October Glory’ has a rounded oval crown. Clusters of tiny, conspicuous red blooms appear in early spring, yielding an abundance of red samaras late in the season. In summer, ‘October Glory’ is flush with lustrous dark green leaves. Leaves turn a brilliant orange to red color in fall.
‘Redpointe’: ‘Redpointe’ is a hardy cultivar of red maple. It is superior in alkaline soil due to its resistance to leaf chlorosis, and numerous fungal diseases. It is a vigorous grower, reaching a height of 35 to 45 feet, with a 15 to 20 foot spread. ‘Redpointe’ has an upright pyramidal form, as well as a straight and dominant central leader that ensures the formation of strong branch attachments. Leaves are deep green in summer, before turning a brilliant shade of red in fall.
‘Red Sunset’: ‘Red Sunset’ is considered one of the best red maple cultivars. It is extremely hardy in all but the northernmost reaches of the United States. It excels in heat due to its drought tolerance. ‘Red Sunset’ grows at a medium to fast rate, reaching a height of 45 to 50 feet, with a 35 to 40 foot spread. It has an upright pyramidal to oval growth habit. ‘Red Sunset’ has strong, thick wood, and excellent branch structure. Throughout late winter and early spring, ‘Red Sunset’ produces clusters of small, red flowers, which yield an abundance of red samaras. In summer, ‘Red Sunset’ features medium to dark green leaves. Leaves develop a vibrant orange-red fall color.
‘Scarlet Sentinel’: ‘Scarlet Sentinel’ is a silver and red maple hybrid. It is a fast grower, reaching a height of about 40 feet, with a 20 foot spread. It has a narrowly upright, and columnar growth habit. Its bark is gray and furrowed. Greenish yellow flowers form along the branches in April. Leaves are larger and more serrated than other red maple cultivars. They remain dark green during summer, before turning an outstanding scarlet color in fall.
‘Schlesingeri’: ‘Schlesingeri’ red maple, also called swamp or scarlet maple, is a medium growing cultivar that reaches a height of 60 feet, with a 50 foot spread. It has a large upright and rounded form. Its furrowed silver bark gives it a distinct appearance. Clusters of red flowers appear along the branches in early spring, followed by red samaras. ‘Schelesingeri’ is flush with dark green foliage that emerges red in spring. In fall, leaves turn a rich, deep reddish-purple color that persists for a long time. ‘Schlesingeri’ is one of the first trees to experience coloration in fall.
‘Shade King’: ‘Shade King’ red maple is a fast growing cultivar that reaches 55 to 65 feet in height. It has an upright oval form, and smooth, light gray bark that becomes deeply ridged with age. Red flowers appear in early spring. Slightly serrated foliage emerges a vibrant red, before transitioning to dark green in summer. Leaves turn a brilliant orange or fiery red in fall.
‘Sun Valley’: ‘Sun Valley’ red maple is a hybrid of ‘Red Sunset’ and ‘Autumn Flame’. It is adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions. ‘Sun Valley’ is a smaller cultivar, reaching a height of 20 to 35 feet, with a 15 to 25 foot spread. It exhibits a symmetrical ovate growth habit, and has smooth, light grey bark that darkens with age. An abundance of red flowers bloom on its branches in early spring. Medium green leaves turn a brilliant red in late fall.
‘V.J. Drake’: ‘V.J. Drake’ is a fast growing upright tree that reaches 40 to 60 feet in height, with a 30 to 40 foot spread. It has smooth, light gray bark that becomes deeply ridged with age. Clusters of red flowers appear on its branches in early spring. Leaves are uniquely colored, turning from dark green to shades of blue-violet, followed by an exceptional red and yellow fall color.
Photograph courtesy of Famartin.