ArtisTree Plantopinions: Red Maple Trees in Tropical Landscapes
“As a snowbird, I’ve always loved red maple trees and would like to add one or two to my Florida landscape. Your thoughts, please. Do they even do well here?”– Tony F., Sarasota resident
Florida red maple trees are viewed as an oxymoron by some, but trust us, these deciduous beauties thrive in our sunny state. They interrupt tropical landscapes with a blaze of northernesque fall color that’s admired by full-time residents and most snowbirds. We say “most” because some of our northern friends prefer a leafed-out tropical landscape their entire stay down here vs. looking at bare branches part of the time. Still, there’s a strong case to be made for our red maples!
ArtisTree orders the Florida native red maple tree (Acer rubrum) most often. It grows in wet areas throughout the state, and, given adequate irrigation, will thrive in your Sarasota landscape. Come fall, as they lose their leaves, you’ll be treated to varied hues of red foliage (sans crisp autumn air unfortunately). When spring rolls around, you’ll enjoy yet another show of red foliage, only this time with buds. Even though these trees are deciduous, their bare branches are stunning when illuminated by outdoor lighting.
ArtisTree experts weigh in on Florida red maple trees.
Joe Mantkowski, VP Landscape Design, thumbs up:
As a native Venetian/Floridian, I love going up north in the fall to visit family and see the leaves of the trees changing colors. So, to see the red maples do that here is a pleasantry for me. Even when they’re bare (they’re deciduous in Florida’s winter months), they look beautiful illuminated by landscape lighting. One of my favorite trees to see on medium- to larger-size properties where they have room to grow.
Clinton Lak, Landscape Designer, thumbs up:
Red maple is a great deciduous tree for Florida landscapes. It’s used for shade on southern and western exposures, cooling driveways, patios, etc. Defoliates for about three of our cooler months when warming solar energy is welcomed. Buds and new growth display nice hints of red in February before “leafing out” in March. These trees get rather large so be sure to distance away from sidewalks, driveways, patios, etc. They also have surface roots which can be damaged by mowers. Simply mulch around them and don’t plant grass right up to the trunk.
Chris Culp, Landscape Designer, thumbs up:
The cool thing about red maples is their color change and how they can fire up your Florida landscape every fall and spring. They’re great as a single yard specimen or integrated with other trees for a woodland-type setting. I love seeing them paired with dwarf firebush, Golden Dewdrop duranta or orange bird of paradise. Some homeowners don’t like messing with the fallen leaves, but it’s a small price to pay for their showy color change.
Brian Clouser, Landscape Designer, thumbs up:
I like red maple trees and they do quite well here in most areas. They’re deciduous, so snowbirds preferring a pure, year-round tropical look may want to make another choice. But I personally think red maples and tropical plantings work well together. They tolerate a variety of soils and short drought periods as well. Very important: You’re better off having irrigation to pull it through dry spells.
Conan Michel, Plant Purchaser, thumbs up:
Red maple trees (Acer rubrum) are a wonderful tree. It’s native to Florida and used in a lot of the new-construction landscapes. Great for providing shade. It grows fairly quickly and large, approximately 60’ tall and 30’ wide, so it will need some room. When it starts losing its leaves in the fall, you’ll get a great color show. New leaves in the spring will also be a brilliant red, hence the name. What a lot of people don’t know is that this tree doesn’t mind having wet feet and does very well planted by ponds.