Autumn Blaze Maple Trees

Benefits, Characteristics, Uses, and Growing Information

Image of fall foliage color of Autumn Blaze maple tree.
'Autumn Blaze' is valued for its spectacular fall foliage color. Brian North/Getty Images

Taxonomy and Botany of Autumn Blaze Maple Trees

Plant taxonomy classifies Autumn Blaze maple tree as Acer x freemanii 'Jeffersred' Autumn Blaze®. It is a hybrid of the red maple (Acer rubrum) and the silver maple (Acer saccharinum). 'Jeffersred' is the cultivar name, but the plant is better known by its registered brand (trade) name. 

Autumn Blaze maple trees are deciduous. They belong to the soapberry family, along with another popular landscaping specimen, the horsechestnut tree.

Characteristics of the Plant

At maturity, Autumn Blaze maples will reach about 50 feet tall by 40 feet wide, with a rounded to oval crown. Fortunately, maturity comes relatively quickly: their fast-growing nature is one of their best qualities. The branching pattern is dense and ascending.

They come into their own in fall, as their fall color is a brilliant orangy-red.

Planting Zones, Sun and Soil Requirements, Other Selections

Autumn Blaze is suitable for growing in USDA plant hardiness zones 3-8.

The plants are best grown in a moist but well-drained soil and in full sun to partial shade. They prefer a soil pH that is acidic.

There are many other popular cultivars, hybrids, and brands of A. rubrum:

  1. Red Sunset®, October Glory®, and Autumn Flame® all have a mature size similar to that of Autumn Blaze.
  2.  'Armstrong' can grow to be taller than Autumn Blaze (up to 70 feet) and yet has a narrower spread (15-20 feet); this gives it a distinctly columnar shape.
  1. '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 35-40 feet.  
  2. 'Columnare' advertises its columnar shape right in its name. Its height range is 40-80 feet; its spread is 15-30 feet.

Landscape Uses, Outstanding Characteristics

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 consideration 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 elite of landscape trees, along with Red Sunset and October Glory, which also have their champions. How do you choose between these different types? Always 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.

Why This Super Hybrid Cultivar Is Superior to Wild Maple Trees

How is this hybrid cultivar better than a plain old red maple tree (Acer rubrum)? Well, 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 injected a dose of vigor into the tree, 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 crave for your yard.

Moreover, cultivars often promise uniformity in their characteristics. Want a tree that will attain a certain height, keep a certain shape, and produce leaves of a certain color? Then your best bet will often be a cultivar (always research your plant selection decisions carefully). Take the characteristic of mature height, for example. It may be important to you that your tree reach 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 specimen.

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 approximately 50 feet tall, with little variation.

More on Trees With Colorful Leaves

You can find much more information about trees used to inject autumn color into a yard on this website. A list is presented here:

Fall Foliage Trees

Of the specimens on this list of fall-foliage standouts, sumac will likely be the shortest; it is classified as a shrub, although staghorn sumac can grow to be rather tall. Sumac shrub tends also to be the earliest (September) on the list to assume its fall foliage.

By contrast, oak and beech tend to be two of the tardiest in putting on their fall colors. Also, sweetgum tree 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 are two of the more versatile specimens on the list. Both "flowering" dogwoods and "Japanese" dogwoods 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.