Red Sunset Maple Growing Guide

The red maple tree has a special place in most people’s hearts. Why? The red sunset maple tree is an ornamental powerhouse. It is a shade tree with amazing fall color with unique seeds making for a magnificent display in your yard.

So, today we dedicated our time to preparing you for outdoor plants and care for this beautiful species.

More About The Red Sunset Maple Trees

The red sunset maple is a trading name for the cultivar Franksred which is native to the red maple tree with similar care needs. The tree is a moderate grower adding 12 to 24 inches per year and is best planted in late fall to early spring.

The red sunset maple tree has a smoothish gray bark that turns darker as it matures, and the leaves are three or five-lobed in dark green at the top and gray-green underneath. It displays a fabulous fall color as it turns from green to orange, red, and cold hardy.

The tree’s mature height is 40 to 50 feet, and it works well in small yards as it will not overwhelm your property. While many people associate the Acer rubrum with Canada, it thrives in the United States.

Another notable thing is that the Eastern Native Americans used the red maple as food and medicine but not as sweet and syrupy as the sugar maple trees. For medicine use, it helps relieve pain and also helps to treat hives.

While the inner bark people use to treat coughs and diarrhea these days, the Red Sunset Maples are used as a shade tree and the beautiful red fall foliage. A fact is that this deciduous tree is also used in Bonsai Art.

 Acer rubrum

Red Sunset Maple Tree Care

The Acer rubrum Red Sunset Maple is best cultivated in the USDA hardiness zones 3 to 9, and you can even find them growing in eastern Texas. The tree has a moderate tolerance against heat and is ideal for growing in an urban environment.

Planting Red Maple Tree

Planting Red Sunset Maple is usually done from a potted or a ball-and-burlap sapling in late fall or early spring.

The best is to choose a sunny spot that will accommodate your adult-sized tree. Another important thing is to plant your tree at the same depth as the nursery container.

Then add a layer of mulch around the root ball without touching the tree trunk. Doing this helps keep them cool and retains moisture.

Also, avoid planting too close to the house or utility lines, as the tree can damage the foundation.

Choose a Sunny Location in the Landscape

red sunset maple tree under full sun

The Red Sunset Maple needs direct sunlight with partial shade to grow its best. Yet, the full sun provides young trees with the right lighting conditions to display that brilliant red color.

The important thing is to keep the root system covered with mulch to prevent exposed roots and retain soil moisture.

Red Sunset Maples Are Acid-Loving Plants

For a healthy tree, provide your Red Sunset Maple with well-drained soil rich in an acidic pH. Choose a low-lying area with frequent moisture for your tree.

Your trees can grow in different soil textures as they can handle saturation to compaction, so it does not need a lot of aerated soil. Nevertheless, we recommend avoiding barren soil where possible and keeping the soil slightly acidic.

The reason to use an acidic to neutral soil is that the red maple easily suffers from a manganese deficiency. The ideal soil pH is 5.0 to 7.0.

Watering Needs For Red Sunset Maple Trees

The Red Sunset has an above-average water need, as with the Red Maple tree. The important thing is to have full sun to partial sun and keep the soil moist. Still, the entire tree can tolerate some drought when it is established.

We also recommend allowing the top inch of the soil to dry out before watering. If grown as street trees, the watering needs will increase as it grows shallow roots that spread beside and underneath pavements.

Still, a note of warning is that these fast-growing trees are not salt-sensitive and need added protection using tree guard fabric. You may also need to water more when there is no rainfall.

Fertilizing Acer Rubrum Franksred

granular tree fertilizer

The best time to feed your Acer rubrum Franksred is at planting time using a slow-release fertilizer in a granular form. It will prevent root burn on young trees. In addition, it helps to blend the fertilizer in with the fill soil.

Then you can feed your tree in early spring with a feed made for the acid-loving plant. Alternatively, you can work with some compost or other organic matter.

Pruning and Maintenance

An important note to remember is that this fast-growing tree grows a shallow root system. The exposed roots become vulnerable as the tree canopy casts shade, making it difficult to grow.

Hence, mulch plays an integral part in this tree’s maintenance, and another concern is the air roots found at the root zone that girdles the tree. Again, it helps to remove them by snipping them off.

To help maintain the correct growing habit, it helps to remove branches growing on the lowermost of your trees. You can do this with your annual pruning. During the first few years, it helps to develop a strong central leader by pruning any competing trunks away.

Also, remove damaged or diseased limbs or ones growing upwards at a sharp angle as it needs to grow outwards. Pruning in early fall to the start of winter is best. The leaves start falling off from September to October, and time to grab the rake or a leaf blower.

Removing fallen foliage keeps your tree healthy and free from disease or pests.

How to Make Your Tree Bloom

red sunset maple flower

The Red Sunset Maples are not grown for their display of small flowers but more for the fall color. But it does develop tufts of red flowers during spring. You will find that your young trees do not bloom or produce seeds until they are eight years old.

When this happens, the tree becomes messier to care for, as you need to rake up many seeds during spring.

Overwintering Your Red Sunset Maple Tree

While the trees are cold tolerant against freezing temperatures when they establish, your younger trees need added protection. You can use a tree guard fabric to prevent frost cracks and sunscald. After a few years, they will not need added protection.

Another added note is to stop feeding in the fall as your trees enter their dormant stage.

Propagation of Maples

The best techniques are cuttings, transplanting, and seeds to propagate your Red Sunset Maple. Here we discuss all three of these methods.

Planting From Seed

The seeds you find housed in seed pods known as samaras start green-red; once dried out, you can harvest them.

  1. Peel back the exterior of the samara and check to see if the seeds are red, brown, or yellow. You may find that the seeds need stratification and proceed to the next step if required.

  2. Sow the seed a full inch deep in some moist sand and place it in the refrigerator for up to 90 days to germinate.

  3. Then prepare some well-drained soil in the garden and sow about 15 to 30 seeds per sq. ft. a 1/4 inch deep.

  4. Keep the soil moist until they sprout and establish.

You can also start your seedlings indoors in starter seed trays using 50% sphagnum peat moss with 50% perlite. Sow the seed a 1/4 inch deep and keep the soil moist. Once the seedlings develop strong roots, start to harden them off, leaving them for an hour outside daily. Extend the duration daily until they can tolerate direct sunlight.


  1. Take a six to eight-inch semi-hardwood cutting in late summer to early fall.

  2. Defoliate the bottom section and dip that end into the rooting hormone.

  3. Stick the cut end into a plastic seed tray filled with 50/50 peat moss and perlite.

  4. Keep it moist in a well-lit area, and once it develops a set of leaves, you can harden it off, as in the previous section, before planting it into the ground.


Prepare a patch of ground with slightly acidic soil if you want to transplant your tree. You can find the tree sold in nursery containers or burlapped.

Provide enough space between your trees to grow to a mature height without the tree’s canopy touching the other trees.

We recommend a 50 feet spacing in between. Also, dig holes a bit wider than the size of the root ball. Water them until they are established and reach a mature size.

Red Maple Cultivar to Select

The Red Sunset Maple is not the only cultivar that will become a focal point in your yard, as there are other trees.



The red maple grows differently, with a growing columnar habit reaching up to 40 feet tall and 15 feet wide. New growth starts green turning to a red fall color but can also have red-yellow hues during fall.



The red maple reaches heights of 50 feet and also has a columnar growth rate with reddish fall colors with borders of purple. If you have the male cultivar, it does not drop samaras.

October Glory

october glory

The tree grown in the yard forms a rounded shape up to 50 feet. In October, the tree displays the fall color in red, but it does hold on to the green leaves until late summer into early fall before it explodes into orange-red to dark red shades.

Common Pests and Diseases

The Red Sunset Maple might be a fast-growing tree providing ample shade. Still, these species are also susceptible to pests and disease.

Insects That Can bother Your Trees

  • Aphids can suck out your tree’s nutrients, leading to fungal diseases and attracting other insects. You can introduce predatory insects like ladybugs or lacewings or use horticultural oil like neem oil to destroy them without destroying beneficial insects.

  • Borers are different types of pests that tunnel into the trunk to feed. A sign of this insect is bleeding tree sap with sawdust. You will notice discolored foliage with premature leaf drop and bark cracks. It helps to drench the soil with imidacloprid or use cypermethrin spray.

  • Caterpillars from moths and butterflies also cause severe damage and can be removed using insecticidal soap as it does not harm beneficial insects.

  • Leafhoppers vary in color and overwinter in debris, and best to remove it from around your tree.

  • Lastly, you get scale insects that leave stunt growth, and they also leave behind a honeydew. You can remove them by pruning the damaged branches and leaves and using horticultural oil.

Common Disease

  • The first disease is a canker which develops from open wounds and oozes sap while the foliage discolors and dies. The best treatment is to prune away the infested parts, and not best to do this in wet conditions.

  • Fungal disease, like leaf spot disease, also known as fungal leaf spot, is another concern causing darkened lesions on the leaf surface. It results in visual blemishes but is not a massive problem in maples. Some pruning to increase airflow and using a fungicide help to deal with the situation.

  • Verticillium wilt is a soilborne disease and is a serious concern as it enters the roots, killing your tree. Hence, it prevents the carrying of nutrients and water your tree needs to thrive. Remove dead branches or remove the dead tree to replace it with another species that can withstand the disease..

Frequently Asked Questions

The Red Sunset Maple is not invasive and only develops surface roots when grown in sand to clay soil, but it must drain well.

The red maples can grow from 40 to 50 feet tall with a wide spread of 15 feet at the canopy.

We recommend planting your red maples at least 30 feet away from your home and ensure not grow underneath power lines or close to utility lines.

The shade tree is not rare and is found at most local garden centers or online. Still, you need not look further, as Plantly has the Sunset Maple for you here.

Whether you want to buy, sell or simply reach out to other plant enthusiasts, Plantly is the right place to be!

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