April 2006
Red Sunset Red Maple
Reaching for the sky


Red Sunset Red Maple
Growth Chart
Detailed Facts
Tree Calendar
Julie's Trees

Facts at a Glance
Acer rubrum -
'Red Sunset'

Planted October 1999
Planting height: 11'
Planting trunk: 1.5"

2006 Update
7-yr height: 26'
7-yr trunk: 19"

Mature Height: 50 to 60'
Spread: 40 to 50'
Growth rate: Fast
Form: Oval, symmetrical
Flowers: Red
Fall color: Red
Hardiness zone: 4 - 8
Culture: Sun/partial shade

Best feature:
Fall color

Worst problem:
Surface roots

Do over? Yes

Do They Cry?

Some Day He'll Be Known as 'The Old Red Sunset'


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A Tree Grower's Diary
Red Sunset Red Maple


Photographs and text by Julie Walton Shaver

Spring flowers

Spring flowers

Key identifying features.. Look for a tree with tiny red flowers in early spring.

Common name.. Red Sunset Red Maple

Scientific name.. Acer rubrum - 'Red Sunset'

Mature height.. 50 to 60 feet

Mature spread.. 40 to 50 feet

Form.. Oval, symmetrical canopy becoming broad at maturity.

Fruit.. Samaras take flight later in spring, providing a feast for the birds and squirrels who love to eat them.

Flowers.. Tiny red flowers are the first sign of spring in the trees.

April 8, 2006


Foliage.. Deciduous; star-shaped leaves are sometimes tinged red when they first emerge in spring, changing to clear glossy green all summer, then to brilliant red in late fall. These stunning red leaves hang on for at least three weeks most years, making the Red Sunset one of the best trees for fall color. Leaves are opposite, simple, lobed. Many of the leaf stems are red, at least for the first few weeks.

June 2000

July 2005

Growth rate.. Fast; two feet or more a year. (See the growth chart for more pictures.)

Hardiness zones.. 4 through 8

Culture.. Requires full sun to partial shade. While the tree is drought tolerant once established, it prefers wet soil or at least to be kept moist for optimal growth. (Red maples are also known as swamp maples; they like their water!) This red maple variety is highly adaptable to many soil types.

Best time to prune.. In fall or early winter, when the tree is dormant, or, in summer once the leaves have reached full size.

Of special note.. This tree should be pruned to develop a strong central leader. Surface roots can be a problem. April 2006: I am noticing surface roots in the sideyard where this tree is planted that were not there before. I hadn't noticed them because it's the sideyard -- we don't use it very much.

Julie's Comments.. (June 2004) The Red Sunset red maple is a beautiful tree year-round. The tiny red flowers that emerge in early March are the first sign of spring. By then, I'm usually pining for spring to come. The little flowers decorate the tree for four weeks or so before the leaves begin to emerge, and when they do, some of them will be such a beautiful pale green that I just have to get out my camera and hang out on the roof so I can take their portraits. Later in spring, as new leaves are added, they often are rusty red for a few days before turning green. In late October, the tree begins slowly to prepare for winter by changing from deep green to brilliant red. The mix of colors at first seems brown, then watch out! That brilliant red takes over and everything within 10 feet of the tree takes on a reflected pink cast, which takes my breath away. In winter, the branch ends and twigs are burgundy red, making this tree especially beautiful on a snowy day. But as for me, I just look for the buds to burst in spring with those little red flowers, my symbol that hope springs eternal.


Planting date.. October 1999. Height: 11 feet. Trunk diameter: 1.5 inches. Poor thing underwent severe stress immediately after planting. The root ball had been gathered with fake burlap, which meant it had to come off. In the removal process, the roots fell apart and this made getting the tree into the planting hole a bit difficult. Two days later, we had a major windstorm during which I thought the tree was going down. (I was literally out there in the wind trying to hold up the tree!) Within a day, almost all the leaves had fallen off. I was actually relatively certain the tree was dead, or dying, but I was determined to give it a chance. We added stakes, and continued to give the baby tree a good soaking once a week. By late winter, I could tell the twigs were healthy. Soon after, little red flower buds started to appear. I was jumping for joy! The leaves were very small that year, indicating the tree was still under stress, but take a look at the portraits on the growth chart -- this tree is a happy camper now!

DO OVER?.. Yes, but not in a spot where surface roots would be a pain to mow around or play near.


See the Red Sunset Red Maple Journal
See the Red Sunset Red Maple Growth Chart
Read the latest Tree Grower's Diary blog entry

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