May 2005
Royal Red Maple
Planted this bare root stick in 1999, thinking it would never amount to much.


Royal Red Maple
Growth Chart
Detailed Facts
Julie's Trees

Facts at a Glance
Acer platanoides -
Royal Red

Planted May 1999
Planting height: 5'
Planting trunk: 1"

2004 Update
5-yr height: 12'
5-yr trunk: 3.5"

2006 Update
7-yr height: 14'
7-yr trunk: 5.75"
7-yr spread: 4'

Mature Height: 35 to 40'
Spread: 25'
Growth rate: Slow
Form: Oval, broad
Flowers: Spring, red
Fall color: Bronze
Hardiness zone: 4 - 7
Culture: Sun

Best feature:
Red leaves

Worst problem:
Red leaves fade to brown

Do over? Yes

Royal 'Bronze' Maple Tests My Patience


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A Tree Grower's Diary
Royal Red Maple


Photographs and text by Julie Walton Shaver

May 2004: Red leaves

Key identifying features.. Deep maroon, leathery leaves in spring and early summer; pinch a leaf -- milky juice will be visible when the petiole is removed from the stem; the inside of the stem is white. That's how you know it's a Norway maple cultivar.

Common name.. Royal Red Maple

Scientific name.. Acer platanoides - 'Royal Red.'

Mature height.. 35 to 40 feet

Mature spread.. 25 feet

Form.. Oval when young, becoming rounded and broad at maturity with a straight trunk and an excellent branching habit. This is a nice accent shade tree, the burgundy leaves providing special interest in an otherwise all-green summer.

Fruit.. Deep burgundy samaras add to the spring beauty of the tree.

Flowers.. Spring flowers are red, but inconspicuous.

Foliage.. Deciduous; deep maroon leathery leaves spring through summer, tinged green on the underside. The color deepens to brown by September; fall color of light brown is not of any special interest. Leaves are simple, alternate, 5-lobed and up to five-inches wide. As with all Norway maples, milky juice is visible when the petiole is removed from the stem. The inside of the stem is white.

Samara birth, May 2006

Growth rate.. Slow, very slow. See the growth chart for pictures.

Hardiness zones.. 4 through 7

Culture.. Requires full sun to partial shade and a rich, organic soil. Will not grow in sandy or clay soils.

Best time to prune.. Late fall through late winter, but I often find myself pruning the lowest branches in late spring (for clearance). So far, this has not caused any serious problems.

Of special note.. When this tree was first planted, it took a long time for leaves to emerge, leafing out a full month after the other trees in the area. I thought it was dead. When the leaves finally did break out that year, the tree was attacked by aphids and all the leaves shriveled up and died. I treated what tiny bud pieces were left with a soap wash and cayenne pepper, and repeated this several times that year. I really thought the tree was dead or dying. How could it possibly live with no leaves for a whole year? But, I am a patient soul who refuses to give up to a fault. I left the tree in place and lo-and-behold, the following spring -- GLORIOUS LEAVES!

Underside of leaves in late summer

Julie's Comments.. (May 2006) This red-leafed Norway maple is grafted onto the root stock of sugar maple. Norway maples are notorious for problems with root-girdling (roots encircling the trunk, eventually cutting off the nutrient supply). While this tree is very similar to Crimson King Norway maple, the Royal Red cultivar is rumored to be hardier, and with brighter colors, probably because of its relationship to the hard-wooded sugar maple.

Year 1

Planting date.. May 1999. I ordered this tree bare-root from the Miller Nurseries catalog. It arrived in the mail in a long-flat package, looking literally like a five-foot long, one-inch thick stick with some old dead hair on one end. I found it hard to believe I was holding a living thing! I immediately filled a large trash can with water and let the "tree" soak for a day, then dug a hole on a rain-drenched afternoon and positioned the twig, hair side down, in the ground, with the grafting site above grade. Stakes were a necessity since the tree never would have stood by itself. Honestly, I didn't think it would ever produce leaves, but a few months later, leaves did in fact emerge. The tree is planted about a foot away from the decaying root system of a river birch that used to live in this spot, but had to be cut down after an ice storm bent it over so far that it broke in half. But that beautiful river birch is still giving life, in the sense that those decaying roots are providing rich nutrients for this Royal red maple. This tree is very slow-growing, but it has received an enormous amount of tender loving care in my yard, never having been allowed to be bothered by the dog or the kids and always receiving a little extra water from the garden hose in the driest summer months. Five years after planting that little twig, (2004) the tree was 12 feet tall with the trunk measuring 3.5 inches around.

DO OVER?.. Yes, as long as I wasn't in a hurry for a shade tree.


See Julie's Royal Red Maple Journal
See the Royal Red Maple growth chart
Read the latest Tree Grower's Diary blog entry

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