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The gift of red maples

New variety promises bright red beauty

If you ask to see a red maple at your local garden center, you could be shown a variety of types of maple trees, including Japanese maples. There are lots of maples that can produce red fall color, which is possibly where the name red maple comes from.

Using only the common plant name can sometimes be confusing because plants can have more than one common name, and different plants can have the same common name. Common names can also vary greatly within a state and from region to region.

Acer rubrum is the maple that most horticulturists and botanists refer to as a red maple. The emerging leaves can have a red tinge and it can have red fall color, but not always. The mature red maple in my front yard has beautiful yellow fall color. Why is this? If maples are grown from seed, their fall color can vary anywhere from greenish yellow to bright red. To plant a red maple that will have consistent red fall color, you have to select a cultivar such as “Autumn Blaze” or “October Glory.” These cultivars are vegetatively propagated to ensure the characteristics that they were selected for are maintained.

There is a new red maple becoming available called Redpointe, and it is a beauty! This particular red maple can grow 45 feet tall and only 30 feet wide, which is slightly smaller than what is typical for the species. This smaller size makes it perfect for urban locations or as a street tree. It also has a more upright habit.

Redpointe Maple is known for its color—a reliable bright red—but it is also a vigorous grower and performs well even in high pH soils. While red maples have been quite popular for a long time because of their beauty and adaptability, it’s always nice to have a new one to try. Planting a beautiful canopy tree like a red maple is like giving a gift to our future generations.

SHELLY NOLD is a horticulturist and owner of The Plant Kingdom. Send stories and ideas to her at The Plant Kingdom, 4101 Westport Road, Louisville, KY 40207.

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