The Crimson Sunset Maple Tree

Jeana Cadby
January 14, 2019

Great for Urban and Open Landscapes

The Crimson Sunset maple tree is the complete addition to any landscape. With disease tolerance and environmental durability, this beauty makes its mark through ease of culture as well as stunning color. The Crimson Sunset is a stunning hybrid tree that has adopted hearty summer drought and heat tolerance from its ‘Acer truncatum’ parent.

One of the most rewarding experiences of maintaining a maple tree is enjoying the foliage throughout all of the seasons. However, scorch damage on maple leaves can impair the aesthetic of ornamental foliage trees, and many maples are simply more susceptible than others. The Crimson Sunset maple is particularly well adapted to resist scorch damage, and can stand on its own in any setting.

In addition, leaf tatter from excessive wind can also damage the aesthetic, while disrupting the overall growth and health of the tree. A little resistance to wind goes a long way, especially if the tree can be provide the dual function of a good windbreak tree. Late summer mildew resistance throughout hot and humid conditions is also a welcomed bonus when it comes to adaptability to marginal climate zones.

A seamlessly compact, oval head matures to a height of 35 feet tall and spread of 25 feet wide. Benefits of a non-intrusive root system displayed in this shade tree provide foliage similar to the renowned crimson king, with compact growth habits better suited to urban and park landscapes.

Adequate tolerance for a variety of soil types means that, although the crimson sunset grows best in slightly acidic soils, it can handle a wide range of conditions, which allows for easy transplanting. Throughout growth, the crimson sunset maple maintains an upright, rounded crown, with compact structure. This is an especially wonderful trait for a street tree and lawn tree, where size restrictions may impact tree choice.

As it is especially tolerant to heat, leaf tatter and scorch damage, this maple tree displays great potential to flourish in difficult to grow urban settings. Although minimal pruning is required, a little goes a long way to reduce overall maintenance, and maintain perfect shape. Early pruning will result in “bleeding” sap, so avoid pruning in the early spring.

Unique Color Throughout the Seasons

Colored maples are popular landscaping trees due to their unique beauty and natural aesthetic. Specimens such as the Japanese Maple, are wonderful examples of the great diversity of year-round color that can be found in the maple family.

Higher levels of anthocyanin, found in the leaves of maples, are what cause purple leafed plants. This is the same pigment that gives blueberries or purple pansies their distinct colors. The exceptional colors of the crimson maple tree makes it popular due to the deep purple leaves in the summer, followed by breathtaking maroon-bronze in the fall.

Versatility for the Crimson Maple tree can be found in tolerance to variable pH in soils as well as urban pollution. Some salt and drought tolerance also provides more flexibility when planning this addition to a landscape.  Furthermore, this maple tree maintains a compact size, unlike the highly popular Silver Maple, which grows quickly and tends to be too large to function as an all-around urban shade tree.

Crimson Sunset Maple Tree Leaves at Garden Gate.
Crimson Sunset Maple Tree Leaves at Garden Gate.

There are hundreds of species of maple trees, many of which are found in North America as ornamental trees, not to be confused with maple trees used for maple syrup production. In the United States, ornamental maple trees are popular due to striking fall foliage, which comes about in the fall. The Crimson Sunset maple tree offers the exciting fall foliage display, along with a unique summer color, that is unlike most other ornamental maple trees.

Crossing the Best

The Crimson Sunset maple tree is a cross between the Norway Maple and Shantung Maple, both donating stunning traits to create a beautiful ornamental shade tree. The hardy Norway Maple is highly tolerant of urban conditions, and transplants well. The Shantung Maple, on the other hand, is compact and makes for a delightfully petite street tree, with attractive, shiny foliage.

The Norway Maple parent, made popular by its brilliant spring yellow flowers, is not tolerant to wet feet. However, the Crimson Sunset maple can manage in clay-dense soils, which feels like a big upgrade. A wonderful trait that makes the Crimson Sunset such a multipurpose tree is the adaptability to soil texture conditions, and its smaller size, inherited by its Shantung Maple parent. To fully enjoy this tree, keep it in full sun to partial shade, and avoid standing water.

In ideal conditions, the life expectancy for this long-lived maple is over 60 years. This low maintenance tree grows very well in the North West, but is adaptable to a variety of climate zones. One of the benefits of incorporating the Crimson Sunset into anorthwestern landscape in addition of the healthy purple flourish in the summer, is witnessing the leaves turn to indicate the arrival of fall, as temperatures drop.

Tree growth progresses at a medium rate, and serves a lovely backdrop, when mixed with other landscape trees. For example, the classic orange-yellow color, displayed by the October Glory, pairs nicely with the sunset maple, highlighting the contrast between the foliage. Whether functioning as a colorful windbreak, highlighting festive ornamental foliage, or simply adding a natural aesthetic to the landscape, the Crimson Sunset maple has proven, time and again, to rise above and beyond expectations.

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