Crimson King MapleAcer platanoides ‘Crimson King’
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Acer platanoides ‘Crimson King’
Outdoor Growing zone
The Crimson King Norway Maple is an upright deciduous tree with large lobed leaves, growing to around 40 feet tall and 30 feet wide. The leaves are very dark crimson-purple from the time they emerge in spring all through summer, and into the fall. The showy green-yellow flowers are a spring feature. This is an excellent tree for color contrast with other trees, and it is very easy to grow, even under the most difficult conditions. An extremely popular background tree and very valuable in urban gardens.
The Crimson King Norway Maple is hardy even in zone 3, and grows well in all the cooler zones. It grows in almost all soils, including heavy clays and soils that are periodically flooded. A tree that tolerates urban conditions well, it is generally free of pests or diseases. Lower branches can be removed as it grows, if needed, for movement underneath it.
Trees with red leaves hold an endless fascination for us, and none is more well-known and instantly recognizable than the Crimson King Norway Maple. Red leaves are always so striking and attractive, and they magically bring to life any group of green trees. No wonder this tree is so popular. At least as important as its color is how durable and tough this tree is. It grows almost anywhere, shrugging off the toughest city conditions, and tolerating poor soil, flooding, air pollution, and just about anything else that is thrown at it.
This is one of the very few red-leaf trees that keeps its red color through summer, turning a little greener it is true, but defiantly resisting the temptation to truly turn green, as so many other ‘red-leafed’ trees and shrubs do. Also, let’s not forget the brilliant spring display of yellow-green flowers that decorate it just as the new leaves are emerging, making a great show that we wish would last longer. Thoughtfully planted, this is one of the most reliable and durable trees, and a perfect choice for the most difficult spot. A king indeed, and a good choice anywhere in cooler and damper zones.
The Crimson King Norway Maple is an upright deciduous tree that grows about 12 inches a year to a height of around 40 feet, with a width of about 30 feet. The thick trunk has smooth gray bark, and lower branches can be removed when young to develop a trunk tall enough for any clearance you need. The crown will be broader when grown in the open, and more upright when grown among other trees. The leaves are large, at least 5 inches long and 6 to 7 inches wide, divided into 7 lobes, with three larger central ones, and 2 smaller ones on either side of the leaf-base. The edges of the leaf are split into irregular serrations. The leaves are a dark reddish-purple color as soon as they sprout in spring, and hold that color well through summer, with only a little greening. In fall they turn brown, bronze or yellow-brown, before falling, often among the last leaves to drop.
Just as the new leaves are beginning to grow, this tree flowers, with large clusters of greenish-yellow flowers tinted dark red. This unusual show is an attractive feature to notice. These flowers develop into typical maple ‘keys’ up to 3 inches across, but in much smaller numbers than with the weedy, wild, green-leaved Norway maple tree.
Allow for the final size of this tree when planting, and place it at least 20 feet from your home, fences or walls, and property lines. Look up as well as down when planting, and don’t put it beneath power lines, or over sewer or water pipes. It is perhaps not ideal for planting on a lawn, since the roots are shallow and after some years the grass will not grow well beneath it. It is best planted against a backdrop of green trees, or behind shrub beds, where the flowers, leaves and seeds won’t be a noticeable litter problem. Use it to fill the corner of your yard, or among other trees along your property line. Don’t overplant, as this tree can become gloomy and overpowering when too many are planted together.
The Crimson King Norway Maple grows best in cooler zones with regular rainfall, and it is very hardy, surviving even in zone 3. Zone 7 is about as warm as this plant can handle well in the east, but it will grow in zone 8 in the west, where the summers are cooler.
Full sun will give the best leaf color, but it can be planted in a shady spot if it will then grow up into the sunlight. This tree is incredibly tolerant of soil conditions, preferring well-drained soil, but able to grow in areas that are periodically flooded for short periods. It grows in both acid or alkaline soils, clay and sand, and in poor urban soils too. It’s reliability and high survival rate makes it a good choice for the most difficult sites.
Although there is the potential for some pest or leaf-disease problems, the Crimson King Norway Maple is generally problem-free, and easy to grow. Prune up early if you need a taller trunk, to avoid scars, and remove any crowded branches as the young crown develops. Some water during the first year is helpful, and after that little or no attention is needed – a very easy tree that anyone can grow successfully.
Although always called Norway Maple, and certainly found there, the tree that botanists call Acer platanoides can be found growing wild all across Europe, from Spain to Russia and Lithuania, but more commonly in colder countries. It was grown in European gardens from at least 1683. The English botanist Philip Miller sent seeds to America’s first botanical garden, run by father and son botanists John and William Bartram in Philadelphia, who began distributing trees in 1756. It became hugely popular and was widely planted as a street tree, as well as in parks and gardens.
Many varieties were developed, and one of the very first with red leaves is called ‘Schwedleri’, which was found in 1864 in the Polish gardens of a German noble. That tree has red spring leaves which turn green in summer. In 1937 growers at Tips Nursery in Belgium found, among seedlings of ‘Schwedleri’, a tree with very dark red leaves that stayed red all summer. Plants of this tree found their way to the nursery of Pierre Barbier in Orleans, France, and he joined Gulf Streams Nursery of Wachapreague, Virginia, in 194,7 to take out an early plant patent in America (PP# 735). Presumably it was Gulf Steams Nursery who named it ‘Crimson King’ when selling it, but that name is not mentioned in the patent.
For a reliable and attractive tree in the most difficult spots, nothing beats the Crimson King. That’s what many people think, so this tree is always a red-hot seller. Order now, because we know how quickly these plants will be gone from our farm.