Fall color is a definite highlight of the year, and everyone loves trees in red and orange perhaps more than any other colors. The Red Maple really lives up to its name, and is a flaming beacon among the softer fall colors of other trees. However, if you grow just a common Red Maple, your tree may not always be so colorful. This is because each tree is an individual, and it colors differently.
If you want reliable color, it is best to grow a named tree, reproduced from an original parent tree that was selected for its outstanding color. The Red Sunset Red Maple is just such a tree. It was chosen from thousands of seedlings for its outstanding deep reds and oranges, more spectacular and reliable than any other variety of this tree. Not only that, this is a tree that gives reliable color even in hot areas, where other trees don’t color well.
Growing Red Sunset Red Maple Trees
The Red Sunset Red Maple is a large shade tree that will grow 45 feet tall, and even a few feet more. It has a spread of 30 to 40 feet, with a full, rounded crown. In summer the leaves are a very attractive glossy green, and this is an ideal specimen tree for a lawn, or for planting in prominent parts of your property.
It also makes a great screen along the boundary or road edge, and a row of these trees in full color is a spectacular sight not easily forgotten. It colors up to 2 weeks earlier than wild Red Maples do, and it holds the colored leaves well, before they finally drop to the ground.
It is very fast growing, increasing by as much as 3 feet every year, but unlike some other trees, the wood is strong, and this tree will not break in strong winds or storms. It develops a pyramidal to oval crown, giving good shade for family gathering beneath its spreading branches, or to create a dense screen. Trees can even be pruned regularly to create an unusual and striking hedge. As well, this is a popular tree for creating bonsai, and the leaves become smaller when grown that way, but retain their spectacular coloring.
Planting Location and Sun Exposure
Plant your Red Sunset Red Maple in an open place, allowing plenty of room away from buildings and walls for it to spread – do not plant closer than 20 feet from your home. It will grow well in almost any kind of soil, and in almost any kind of soil conditions, although soil that is rich and damp will produce the largest trees.
Choose a sunny or lightly shaded location to plant your tree. You can find wild Red Maples growing all the way from Canada to northern Florida, and west into Texas and Minnesota. They are usually found growing in damp areas and along streams, but they are also found on dry sites, and grow in a wide range of soils.
The tree has leaves that are easily distinguished from other Maples, as they only have three lobes, with often two smaller ones lower down the leaf. This is quite different to the Sugar Maple, which has five distinct lobes. The leaves of the Red Sunset Red Maple are 2-3 inches long and wide, and grow opposite each other on the twigs. They are a rich green, with a glossy surface – that is until they turn glowing shades or reds and oranges as the cooler nights of fall begin. Older trees will produce small, red flowers clusters in late winter and early spring, before the leaves appear, and these produce seeds that are popular with birds and squirrels.
The need for moisture can be a limitation in growing Red Maples, but the Red Sunset Red Maple is much more drought resistant than other varieties. This makes it a great choice if you live in hotter, drier parts of the country. Water it during dry spells for the first few years, and after that it will grow well even during long periods of drought. It has no significant pests or diseases, and will grow vigorously and beautifully with almost no care from you at all.
History and Origins of the Red Sunset Red Maple
The Red Sunset Red Maple has a long and noble history. It was developed in the 1940s by the tree breeder and nurseryman J. Frank Schmidt, Jr. His nursery, J. Frank Schmidt & Sons, located in Boring, Oregon, introduced the tree for sale in 1966. The name Red Sunset, which is trademarked, was inspired by the popular song “Red Sails in the Sunset”. So outstanding was this tree, that right up until today it is the ‘gold standard’ for quality and color among all red maple varieties. Our trees are produced in a direct line from Frank’s original red maple selection, so avoid trees that are merely called ‘red maple’. They will be unreliable and definitely not this outstanding variety.