A Native Love/Hate Tree

October Glory red maple

Red maple foliage in fall color

Native red maple trees are either loved or hated by professionals. Grumpy Gardener, Steve Bender, called it a great southern native large tree, while noted professional gardener, Fred Spicer, is not fond of it at all. So, from now until spring is the best time to plant trees. Is this tree for your garden? Here are the pros of this tree: great fall color (the one in the picture is the selection October Glory), one of the first trees to bloom in spring with red flowers along their gray stems. They are sturdy trees and can grow fast when young. They also tolerated the recent drought rather well and are long lived. Now the negative: they have a vigorous root system, and as they mature, the root system can expose roots on top of the ground. It has a vigorous fibrous root system, so it is hard to grow things under these trees. Also, the trees can be brittle, especially under the weight of snow and ice. Unless you get a named selection like Autumn Sunset or October Glory, their fall color can be inconsistent, which is true of all our native maples.
So, if you are looking for a large tree to add to your garden, consider the pros and cons of red maple, and make your own decision.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

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