Though these shade trees are relatively fast-growing, don't expect a sapling to reach towering heights in just a year or two. However, you can expect it to add beauty to your yard even before it reaches maturity.

When you buy a bare root red maple tree to plant in your yard, it'll usually look more like a skinny stick than a towering shade tree. While it'll take time for it to reach maturity, it won't stay a leafless stick forever! Some trees are slow growers (20-30 years to reach full size) and some are fast (10-15 years). The good news is that red maples grow at medium speed; in the tree world, this equals about 12-18 inches of height a year. However, you’ll have to be patient for it to become a full size tree because it can take about 25 years before it stops adding new growth. It still will provide plenty of beautiful color and cooling shade throughout these years as it matures.

red maple tree growing outdoors
Credit: Adam Albright

In the end, you’ll have a substantial shade tree; the mature height for red maples is anywhere from 40 to 60 feet tall and 35 to 45 feet wide. Every year of growth will add more and more red color to your garden and the tree will put on a show for you in the fall with red leaves, of course. But the reason it got its name is because the tree starts to take on a scarlet tinge in late winter as its red flower buds (yes, maples have flowers) develop, followed by red stems for the leaves.

Those maple flowers turn into those propeller “spinners” that twirl down to the ground in the spring. Called samaras, the spinners carry the red maple seeds, which you can try growing new trees from for an easy garden project. Actually, Mother Nature will want to grow those samaras too, so be sure to rake them up before they sprout in places you'd rather not have a tree seedling popping up.

Remember that red maples have wide, shallow roots that will heave up your sidewalk if you give them a chance. Choose a planting site well back from the street (at least six feet), and you’ll both be happier. Then, keep your new tree well watered during its first season to help it grow strong roots in its new location.


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