How to Grow and Care for Autumn Blaze Maple Trees

Autumn blaze maple tree with bright orange lobed leaves

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

The Autumn Blaze maple tree boasts beautiful fall foliage and has a shapely form, making it a focal specimen when landscaping a large area. This tree is a hybrid of the red maple and the silver maple, both native to North America. With densely balanced and ascending branches and an oval crown, the Autumn Blaze maple tree matures quickly and can grow as much as two feet per year under the right conditions. This variety of shade tree is pollution-tolerant (an important factor if you plan to grow one along a busy street) and suitable for urban areas. It can also adapt to a wide range of soil conditions, including those that are nutrient-poor. Come fall, the green leaves of the Autumn Blaze maple tree turn a coveted brilliant orange-red, hence its name.

Common Name Autumn blaze maple tree, Freeman maple
Botanical Name Acer x freemanii 'Autumn Blaze'
Family Sapindaceae
Plant Type Tree
Mature Size 40-55 feet tall, 30-40 feet wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Well-drained
Soil pH Acidic
Hardiness Zones 3-8 (USDA)
Native Area North America

Autumn Blaze Maple Tree Care

Like many large landscape trees, the Autumn Blaze maple tree needs little care. The most critical care aspect is maintaining moist soil around its roots while the tree is young and establishing itself. This tree only needs pruning every other year, in late spring or early summer. And fertilizing is not necessary if you already have rich topsoil. If not, amending it once with an organic compost, just before planting, is all that is needed.

Autumn blaze maple tree with thin trunk and bright orange leaves on branches

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Autumn blaze maple tree trunk with bright orange leaves closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Autumn blaze maple tree branch with bright orange lobed leaves closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Autumn blaze maple tree with wide branches full of orange leaves

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Light

Because the Autumn Blaze maple tree is often one of the biggest in the landscape, it is rarely shaded by other varietals. That said, this tree is not super picky when it comes to sunlight. It appreciates areas of full sun, but can thrive just as well in partial shade, especially when planted in warmer climates. For prolific autumn color, however, plant your tree in a space that gets plenty of light.

Soil

The Autumn Blaze maple tree likes soil that drains well, and will adapt to sandy and heavy clay soils as long as they're well-drained. This tree can tolerate nutrient-poor soil, but, the more moist and fertile the planting medium, the better the tree will thrive. This variety of maple prefers to grow in acidic conditions, which may require adding organic matter, like peat moss, upon planting.

Water

A young Autumn Blaze maple tree needs lots of water to help it establish itself. Five to seven gallons a week should be enough to keep the soil evenly moist throughout the root zone during the first year. Once established, this drought-tolerant tree will likely do fine with about 1- to 1/2-inch of rainfall a week. If you notice the leaves turning brown, or falling from the tree prematurely, supplement the water until environmental conditions improve.

Temperature and Humidity

The Autumn Blaze maple tree can withstand a wide range of temperatures—from freezing temperatures to high heat and humidity levels. Because of its flexibility, this tree can be grown in both northern and southern latitudes of the United States.

Fertilizer

Refrain from fertilizing your Autumn Blaze maple tree during its first year of growth. After that, maples trees generally don't need fertilizing. Still, you can give an older tree a boost by sprinkling a slow-release, nitrogen-rich fertilizer around its base once a year. Use a product with a 16-4-8 or a 12-4-8 ratio, and refer to the amount noted on the package. 

Types of Maple Trees

Maple trees are among the most popular landscape trees due to their splendid fall foliage. Still, take care when selecting the tree that's right for you, as not all maples have red leaves in the fall, and some species are considered invasive. Some of the popular cultivars and hybrids—all of which produce spectacular fall color—include:

  • The Big Leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum), or Oregon maple, is a long-lived species native to the Pacific Northwest. It boasts gigantic leaves which turn yellow or orange in the fall.
  • The Armstrong maple's branches grow upright, instead of out, making it one of the taller varieties of landscape trees (it can reach up to 70 feet). The tree's narrower spread gives it a distinctly columnar shape, and it bears gold-orange foliage come fall.
  • The Marmo maple is a hybrid cross of red and silver maple. This variety quickly establishes itself, growing 2 feet a year in its early stages. This spectacular shade tree turns a brilliant shade of red in the fall.

Pruning

Autumn Blaze maples require bi-annual pruning—in the late spring or summer—so that the sunlight can reach the interior portion of the tree, To do so, remove dead and weak limbs susceptible to winter breakage. Also, trim the lower trunk of any new growth, in an effort to shape the tree into a classic look. Regular pruning helps the tree maintain its shape, while preventing potential disasters due to breakage during a wind or ice storm. Give your maple a good look every fall, as well, to prune out any damage sustained over the growing season.

Propagating Autumn Blaze Maples

Growing a new Autumn Blaze maple tree from a cutting is an inexpensive way to add more of this commonly seedless species to your landscape. Plus, this fast-growing variety will make a shade-centric showcase piece in just a few years.

Here's how to propagate Autumn Blaze maple from cuttings:

  1. Gather gloves, garden shears, rooting hormone powder, potting soil, a clear plastic bag, and a pot.
  2. Put on your gloves and prepare a pot with potting soil. Water the soil and allow it to drain.
  3. Cut a 4-inch section off the tip of your maple tree's branch (look for a branch with new growth).
  4. Remove the leaves for the bottom half of the cutting, and then strip away the bark.
  5. Roll the cutting in the hormone powder, and then place it 2 inches deep into the potting soil.
  6. Cover the pot and the cutting with a plastic bag.
  7. Once the cutting takes root, remove the plastic and relocate the pot to a sunny window.
  8. Acclimate your sapling by taking it outside during the day and bringing it indoors at night for ten days. After that, you can plant it in its permanent outdoor location.

Overwintering

The Autumn Blaze maple tree needs a little special care before it heads into dormancy season. In the late fall, make sure to prune any dead branches and trim back those that are overgrown. Next, add a thin layer of mulch to the base of the tree, taking care not to pile it around the trunk. Do not fertilize or overwater your tree at this time, as you want to discourage new above-ground growth in preparation for the long winter.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Brown spots on its foliage are a telltale sign that something's wrong with your Autumn Blaze maple tree. This usually indicates leaf spot, a fungal infection that presents itself first on the lower limbs where the humidity is highest. Leaf spot does not usually harm the tree or require the use of potent fungicides. Simply decreasing the humidity around the plant and removing affected branches should rectify the situation.

Alternately, pests, including scale, mites, and flathead tree borers, can infiltrate an Autumn Blaze maple. If you notice any sign of an infestation—like brown spots on the leaves or lesions on the trunk or branches—treat the tree with insecticidal soap or liquid lime sulfur until all signs of infestation have disappeared. For the amount to use, follow the product label instructions.

Common Problems with Autumn Blaze Maple Tree

The one downfall of this easy-to-care-for tree is its structural weakness. Once mature, this fast-growing maple can crack easily at branch unions during strong storms, leading to loss of limbs and, perhaps, damage to homes and vehicles. Regular pruning keeps the tree's structure sound and prevents it from becoming top-heavy. Also, due to its shallow root system, the roots of the Autumn Blaze maple may, over time, protrude from your lawn. For these reasons, planting the tree in the middle of your yard, and away from flower or vegetable gardens, is advised.

FAQ
  • How long can an Autumn Blaze maple tree live?

    The life expectancy of an Autumn Blaze maple tree is 60 years. However, proper care and regular pruning are needed to prevent damage and uprooting.

  • Is the autumn blaze variety considered a soft or hard maple?

    The Autumn Blaze maple is considered a soft maple because it damages easily in the wind and under snow load.

  • Does the Autumn Blaze maple bear fruit?

    Yes, this hybrid of two native trees produces an edible fruit highly coveted by birds during the summer.