Crimson King Maple Trees Provide Colorful Foliage

These trees have beautiful dark red summer leaves that turn to gold in the fall.

Updated January 31, 2023
Crimson King tree with a purple foliage in the park

If you're looking to add an extra dimension of color to your summer foliage, the crimson king maple tree can be an excellent choice. A large, dense shade tree, the crimson king offers rich burgundy foliage all summer long, changing to a brilliant gold for autumn. While it's not perfectly suited to all purposes, the crimson king adds an element of interest to most landscapes. It makes a delightful addition to a park or garden.

Key Facts About the Crimson King Maple Tree

Known scientifically as Acer platanoides, the crimson king maple is a beautiful, showy specimen that's tolerant of a variety of soil and environmental conditions. For this reason, many urban landscapers choose crimson king as a residential street tree.

It is, however, possible to overdo this burgundy beauty. Too many of these dark-leaved specimens in a row along a roadside or walkway can be distracting and overwhelming to the eye, resulting in an almost bleak visual effect. Instead, allow this tree to show off its full potential by using it as a stand-alone specimen tree or as a single tree of its kind among a group of more conventionally hued species.

Crimson King: Right-Sized for Shade

Crimson king makes an excellent shade tree, usually reaching 35 to 45 feet in height and 25 to 30 feet in breadth, with a dense, symmetrical oval-shaped crown that effectively blocks out sunlight. Branches are mostly upright in growth habit, making them reasonably resistant to damage from ice or snow.

Suitable for Most Growing Conditions

The crimson king maple tree is among the most tolerant specimens for home landscaping. This tree is hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 7 and isn't fussy about soil type, so it's well-suited to most growing conditions. It's remarkably tolerant of salt in both the soil and the atmosphere, making it an ideal choice for northern regions where road salt may damage roadside plants.

Shallow Root System Challenges

When finding the ideal space for a crimson king, it's important to consider the species' notoriously shallow root system. The main roots tend to reside just below the soil surface, occasionally protruding here and there like sea serpents across your lawn.

This tree's shallow root system can make mowing difficult, as the mower blades may damage the roots or vice versa. These structures can also pose a problem if the tree is planted too close to a road or walkway, actually overpowering the cement or asphalt and causing cracks and/or heaving along the surface.

Crimson King Planting Requirements

When planting a crimson king maple tree, dig a hole slightly shallower than the root ball, and plant so that roughly one-third of the root ball is raised above level with the grade. Generally, you can expect this species to do well if you plant it in:

  • Part shade to full sun
  • Well-drained, loamy soil that's slightly acidic to slightly alkaline

Because of this tree's size, it's a good idea to plant it at least 20 feet away from your house, garage, or other structures on your property.

Tree branch with dark red leaves, Acer platanoides, the Norway maple Crimson King

Common Crimson King Pests

Crimson king maples aren't overly susceptible to pests, but - like most trees - they can sometimes experience issues. If you have these trees, be on the lookout for the following pest species:

  • Aphids: If your crimson king has wilted, curling leaves, poor growth, and you see a nasty, sticky substance (honeydew) on or under the tree, it probably has aphids. Predatory insects usually help keep the aphid population under control, though you can also spray with horticultural oil to help repel aphids.
  • Cottony maple scale: If you see small (between 1/4 and 1/2 inch long) cottony egg sacs on your tree, that's a sign of cottony maple scale. As with aphids, natural predators play a role in keeping cottony maple scale (and other scale insects) in control. This is primarily a cosmetic problem; you can help to control them by spraying with horticultural oil.
  • Borers: If you see small, rounded holes and sawdust-like residue on your tree trunk, borers are the likely culprit. They usually only attack trees that are already distressed and may prove fatal to the tree if left untreated. There are several types of borers; you'll need to know what kind of borers are doing damage to treat the tree. For that reason, it's a good idea to consult a professional arborist to help treat borers.

Crimson King: Invasive Potential

Crimson king is a type of Norway maple tree. Norway maples grow quickly and spread rapidly, becuse they produce a lot of seeds that germinate easily. As a result, they're considered invasive in many places, including the Pacific Northwest and in the eastern United States from as far north as Wisconsin and Maine and as far south as Virginia and Tennessee.

Some places go beyond declaring these trees to be invasive to actually outlawing them. For example, it's against the law to plant any kind of Norway maple tree in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Less sweeping bans exist in some other places, such as in Portland, Oregon, where the local government has banned planting Norway maples on city-owned property.

The Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health advises against planting Norway maples. If you're in an area where it's not unlawful to plant them, it's your decision whether to heed that advice. If you move forward with planting one, be vigilant in watching for seedlings to spring up during the spring and pull them up to prevent this tree from spreading.

Add Crimson Beauty to Your Landscape

The crimson king is a lovely, interesting tree sure to become a conversation piece in your yard or garden. Take care with your site selection, and this lovely tree species will bring you nothing but joy for years to come.

Crimson King Maple Trees Provide Colorful Foliage