Autumn Blaze maple trees boast both beautiful fall foliage and a shapely form. The branching pattern is dense and ascending, and they sport a rounded to oval crown. Maturity comes quickly: They can grow as fast as 3 feet per year under the right conditions. They come into their own in fall, as their fall color is a brilliant orange-red.
- Botanical Name: Acer x freemanii (Jeffersred) Autumn Blaze
- Common Name: Autumn Blaze maple tree
- Plant Type: Deciduous tree
- Mature Size: 50 feet tall by 40 feet wide
- Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
- Soil Type: Moist, well-drained, and of average fertility
- Soil pH: Acidic
- Bloom Time: Not grown as a flowering tree
- Flower Color: Not grown as a flowering tree
- Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
- Native Area: Parents native to North America
How to Grow Autumn Blaze Maple Trees
These plants need little care. You must keep the soil around their roots moist while they are still young. But, after that, they will need watering only during long periods without rainfall. Nor do they require pruning, generally. If you have a specific reason to prune them, do so in late spring or early summer. Likewise, fertilizing is not really a necessity if you plant them in ground that is already moderately fertile.
In the North, give them full sun. In the South, giving them a bit of shade can be helpful.
Planting them in a soil that drains well is important.
Baby the trees while they are still young to help them become established: Keep the soil evenly moist through their root zones in their first few years.
Fertilizing should be avoided altogether for the first year after you have planted Autumn Blaze. But if you would like to give an older plant a boost, fertilize in early spring or in the fall with a fertilizer high in nitrogen (as indicated by the first number in the NPK sequence on the fertilizer bag).
Other Types of Red Maple Trees
Autumn Blaze maple tree is a hybrid of the red maple (Acer rubrum) and the silver maple (Acer saccharinum). It belongs to the soapberry family, along with another popular landscaping specimen, the horse chestnut tree (Aesculus). There are many other popular cultivars, hybrids, and brands of A. rubrum:
- Red Sunset, October Glory, and Autumn Flame all have a mature size similar to that of Autumn Blaze.
- Armstrong can grow to be taller than Autumn Blaze (up to 70 feet) and yet has a narrower spread (15 to 20 feet); this gives it a distinctly columnar shape.
- Marmo also has a columnar shape, but a less pronounced one. It too can grow to be 70 feet tall; it attains a width of 35 to 40 feet.
- Columnare advertises its columnar shape right in its name. Its height range is 40 to 80 feet; its spread is 15 to 30 feet.
Uses for Autumn Blaze, Benefits, Drawback
Autumn Blaze maples can function in the landscape as fast-growing shade trees and as specimens highly valued for their fall foliage. With back-to-back "Urban Tree of the Year" awards in 2003 and 2004, you know they are pollution-tolerant (an important fact if you will be growing them along a street in a busy neighborhood). As with other trees deemed suitable for urban areas, they can adapt to a wide range of soil conditions and are both insect-resistant and disease-resistant.
These are outstanding fall foliage specimens. While their strength and their tolerance for pollution are useful qualities, it is their fast-growing nature and beauty in fall that ensures them a place among the best landscape trees, along with Red Sunset and October Glory, which also have their champions. To help yourself choose the right type for you, take a look at examples growing locally (in parks, botanical gardens, arboretums, etc.) and/or check with your county extension, because one type may perform better in one part of the country than another will.
The only drawback that Autumn Blaze maple has is that it is shallow-rooted. This means that, over time, the roots may stick up out of your lawn.
Such roots are not very pleasant to look at, and they are also hazardous. You can trip over them or accidentally hit them with your lawnmower blade. The solution is to cover the exposed roots with a small amount of soil (but the devil is in the details).
Why This Hybrid Is Superior to Wild Maple Trees
If you want to grow a red maple tree, grow this hybrid cultivar rather than the wild version, Acer rubrum. For one thing, homeowners often become impatient with newly-planted red maples, which do not look like much for several years. The cross with silver maple seems to have given a boost to this hybrid, making it grow faster without compromising the natural strength of red maple branches (a strength lacked by silver maples). This fast grower will not make you wait so long for that much-anticipated shade that you need for your yard.
Moreover, cultivars often promise uniformity in their characteristics. This is great for homeowners, who want a tree that will attain a certain height, keep a certain shape, and produce leaves of a certain color. Take the feature of mature height, for example. It may be important to you that your tree reaches a specific height and not grow any taller than that, perhaps because you have a small yard and do not want your property overwhelmed by a gigantic tree. The height of wild maples (and even some cultivars) varies wildly; it is not something that you can count on very firmly. By contrast, Autumn Blaze maple trees are consistent about reaching their mature height of about 50 feet, with little variation.
Other Choices With Colorful Fall Leaves
Sumac is one of the shortest fall-foliage standouts. It is classified as a shrub, although staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) can grow to be tall (18 to 35 feet) and rather tree-like. Sumac shrub tends also to be one of the first plants in autumn to assume its fall foliage.
By contrast, oak (Quercus) and beech (Fagus) tend to be two of the tardiest in putting on their fall colors. Sweetgum tree (Liquidambar), likewise, often makes you wait until November before it becomes colorful. If you do not want the job of having to clean up the gumballs of a sweetgum, select a non-fruiting cultivar. Along the same lines, most people prefer to grow the male Ginkgo biloba, because the fruiting female can be very messy.
Dogwood and shagbark hickory (Carya) are two of the more versatile specimens. Both "flowering" dogwoods (Cornus florida) and "Japanese" dogwoods (Cornus kousa) are better known for their spring flowers than their fall foliage, although they would be well worth growing for the latter, alone. Meanwhile, hickory provides not only a golden fall foliage but also its namesake nuts.