Many people love Japanese Maples, for their beautiful foliage and spectacular fall colors. That fact is that they can be tricky to grow, especially in hot and dry areas, so when we discovered that there is a close relative of these exotic trees living right here in America, we naturally got interested. When this tree turns out to be easy to grow, drought resistant once established, able to grow well even in deep shade, and with spectacular fall colors of red and orange on a small tree – we got really interested. If these features interest you too, then the Vine Maple is a tree you need to get to know.
The Vine Maple grows rapidly when young, at 12 to 18 inches a year, so it will only be a few years until it is a good-sized tree. It typically forms a multi-stem tree, but it can easily be trained to have a single trunk. It will reach 15 feet in no more than 10 years, and after that grows more slowly, eventually reaching perhaps 20 feet in height, and an equal width across, if never pruned. It grows well in all light-levels, from full sun to deep shade. In sunny and lightly-shaded locations it will be rounded but upright, in deeper shade it will be wider, more open, and with wide-spreading, arching branches.
This tree is an excellent way to landscape beneath tall deciduous trees, without the difficulties of growing Japanese maples, rhododendrons, and other plants for shade. It will grow in all kinds of soil, both damp and dry, and resist drought without drying up. It has gorgeous fall leaves in glowing shades or red and orange, which certainly rival any other tree. Yet it is easy to grow and adaptable. It even grows in the shade of evergreen trees, a location where very few plants can thrive.
The Vine Maple grows in all kinds of soil, from sandy soils and loams to heavy clays. It will grow in well-drained soil, but also in wetter soil. For the first season or two, keep it well-watered to maximize the growth rate, but once it is established it is resistant to all but severe drought conditions. This tree is very easy to grow, yet it looks like a rare, special specimen that must be difficult. It is far easier to grow than Japanese maples, yet it has many of their characteristics and looks similar.
This American native tree, Acer circinatum, grows naturally in woodlands from southern British Columbia down into northern California. Interestingly, its grows only in North America, yet its closest relatives are not the sugar maple or red maple, as we might expect, but the Japanese maples and Korean maple that grow on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. Its closest relative is the Autumn Moon Maple, another beautiful maple tree that we often stock at the Tree Center. It can be found growing under larger trees, both deciduous and evergreen, in the forest, making a shrub or small tree 20 feet tall, or sometimes more. The young stems are an attractive shiny green, maturing to a smooth gray-brown color. The branching pattern is graceful and elegant in winter.
The leaves of the vine maple are almost circular in shape, but divided into broad, finger-like lobes. They are 2 to 5 inches long. There are between 7 and 11 lobes on each leaf. They are similar to the attractive foliage of Japanese maples, but not so finely divided. This feature is helpful in preventing them drying out in summer, which sadly, if not carefully tended, Japanese maple leaves often do, making them unsightly after spring has passed. The foliage in spring in delicate and pale green, as it unfolds to greet the new season. It matures into a rich green, spread out like an open hand. Then it fall ,the leaves become brilliant reds and oranges, in shades that are as good as Japanese maples, and indeed match the sugar maple for brilliance and color. Fall color develops best on trees that have half a day of sun, and in deep shade the colors will be more golden.
This plant is a great alternative to the Japanese maple, able to take hotter sun, and also thrive in deeper shade. It is not demanding for soil or water. We have a good stock of this plant, but it is rarely offered, and so we anticipate a quick take-up by our regular clients. If you want to enjoy the brilliant fall colors of a wonderful small tree that is adapted to many different situations, then order now, while stocks last.