Colorful Red Maple, Acer Rubrum, Grows Fast


Should you grow the Acer rubrum, or Swamp maple, in your home landscape? That depends on whether you need a large tree that will grow fairly quickly, has good autumn color, and will provide summertime shade. If these are the requirements you are looking for, plus the fact that it grows easily without many troubles, then the Red maple is a top choice for you.



If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees.

—Hal Borland

A tree is a long term investment in time. Still, there are rates of growth in various trees, and a Red Maple is a fast growing tree that will quickly yield a mature looking shade tree. Rate is faster than Norway and Sugar maples, but slower than the Silver maple.

Once settled in, it will likely show 1-2 feet of growth per year. This fact and the beautiful red tones of the fall color make it a popular choice for landscaping.

The Acer rubrum is commercially available in named varieties, chosen mainly for color, but sometimes for shape.

A Few Named Varieties Of Red Maple

Acer rubrum ‘Red Sunset’, ‘Autumn Blaze’, ‘Brandywine’,’Columnare’.

October Glory Is One Of The Most Popular

‘October Glory’ has brilliant orange to red color in the fall when its 3 -5 lobed leaves turn color. It is hardy in zones 4-9 and grows into a more rounded shape.Cultivar introduced in 1961.


Quick Facts:

    • Mature height of 75 ft.
    • Width of 40 maturity
    • Zones 3–9
    • Native tree
    • Grows naturally in swampy, slightly acid conditions, although it tolerate more neutral and dry situations.
    • Likes sun


Description Of Acer Rubrum

winter outline of Red maple

My view to the West. Red Maple tree

An oval outline, with upward reaching branches, this tree becomes a tall shade tree in the landscape.

It has red buds and flowers in the spring which quickly produce the twinned “whirlybird seeds, or two-winged samara. It will seed itself in an area that it likes.

The leaves are lobed, a simpler shape than the Silver or Sugar maples. They become a mottled red and yellow or sometimes a clear, pretty red color in the autumn.

Acer rubrum leaf form

Typical leaf form

It produces plenty of shade, but has a dappled effect in my yard, partially due to “limbing up” the trees to allow light within.

The bark can be either tight and slightly ridged or somewhat “shredded”, mine are the more tightly formed bark which has a deep gray look to it.

If it is well grown, this is a beautiful specimen, but its upward, sometimes weakly formed branches can sometimes mar its appearance.

My property gets some really wicked windstorms, but the red maples have not lost more than what might be expected, which compares favorably to the Silver maples which are always losing branches, sometimes very large ones in wind and ice that is common in our state.

Overall, I would recommend this as a good tree for those who want color and fast growth, as well as a native species.

Growing a Red Maple

Acer rubrum is a graceful shadetree

Red maples are the shade trees in the background, at the end of the garden.

I think every yard needs a shade tree or two, preferably with some feature that makes you love them. Autumn color is an extremely valuable asset in landscape trees, and this is where the Red maple shines . Its color stands out in the fall and varieties have been chosen to accentuate the quality of color. It is also a fast growing tree, which puts it to the forefront of what many homeowners desire.

If you have wet spots or conditions in your yard, consider this tree. It grows well in such situations.

The range of soils are acidic, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, silty loam, well-drained and clay soils.

Although it tolerates droughts, it prefers moist, even wet conditions. this makes it the ideal choice for the area I live in, although the pH of our soils here are more alkaline than is ideal.

Much of this part of Ohio has a limestone bedrock which makes the soils sweet.


soil map of Ohio

The soils of Ohio

In The Landscape

This tree associates well with evergreens such as hemlocks, spruces, firs, and pines. Its Autumn color makes a striking contrast against the dull or deep greens of conifers. It can be grown as a sentinel row of trees lining a driveway with good effect, and grass grows well under it on my property with a high water table and trees somewhat limbed up.

Companion trees of Tulip polar (Liriodendron tulipifera), swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor),  northern red oak (Quercus rubra), beech (Fagus grandifolia), and black cherry (Pserotina) will enjoy like conditions.

It competes enough with moisture that I found the decision to grow perennial beds underneath was a losing proposition. The roots are greedy enough that combined with the overhead shade, most perennials will not thrive. However, shrubs hold their own, and very nice shrubbery garden with spring bulbs can mix very well with the Red maples.


Odd and Ends About This Tree

  • Good tree for rain garden, it is usually seen as a specimen lawn tree and is a good city street tree. Like most maples it has a more shallow root system. This might make it a problem for sidewalks.
  • Originally native to the Eastern part of North America, it is now grown in a much wider range.
  • Plenty of nicknames, it is known as scarlet maple, swamp maple, water maple, soft maple, and Carolina red maple, as well as Drummond red maple.
  • One of the first trees to flower in the spring.
  • For lumber purposes, it is considered a softwood tree.
  • You can use this specie for maple sugar, but its production season is shorter than with Sugar maples.
  • Wildlife do like to eat it.


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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author


I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of "Ilona's Reflecting Pool". Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. The work on "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.