A red maple tree (Acer rubrum) gets its common name from its brilliant red foliage that become the focal point of the landscape in autumn, but red colors play a large part in the tree’s ornamental display in other seasons as well.

Red flower buds form in winter, opening into showy red flowers before the tree leafs out. New twigs and leaf stems are also red, and after the flowers fade, reddish-colored fruit takes their place. Read on to find out how to grow a red maple tree.

Red Maple Tree Care and Planting: Choose a wet site located in full sun or partial shade. If the site isn’t naturally moist or wet, the tree will need frequent irrigation throughout its life. The soil should be acid to neutral. Alkaline soil leads to pale, sickly leaves and poor growth.

Water red maples before the soil has a chance to dry. Slow, deep watering is better than frequent light applications because it encourages deeper roots. A 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch helps the soil hold moisture longer.

Growing Red Maple: Red maple trees vary in size depending on the location and the cultivar. They grow 40 to 70 feet tall with a spread of 30 to 50 feet. Red maples tend to be shorter in the southernmost part of their growing range, which is U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9. For small urban lots, consider growing smaller cultivars, such as ‘Schlesingeri,’ which rarely exceeds 25 feet in height.

Before you plant, you should know that there are a couple of problems associated with growing red maple trees. They have thick, strong roots that grow near or above the surface of the soil.

Although they aren’t as destructive and invasive as those of silver maple trees, they can raise sidewalks and make lawn maintenance a difficult chore. Exposed roots are easily injured if you run over them with a lawn mower.