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Is Crimson King Maple a good tree?

The Crimson King maple is a popular landscaping tree known for its striking purple-red foliage that retains its color throughout the summer. But is it the right tree for your yard? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll examine the pros and cons of the Crimson King maple to help you decide.

Overview of the Crimson King Maple

The Crimson King maple (Acer platanoides ‘Crimson King’) is a cultivar of the Norway maple tree. It produces rich maroon foliage that is nearly black in some light conditions. Here are some key facts about this tree:

  • Deciduous tree that grows to 40-50 feet tall with a rounded, oval crown
  • Native to eastern and central North America
  • Purple-red leaves emerge in spring and retain color throughout summer
  • Tolerant of pollution, salt, heat, and drought
  • Moderately fast growing at 1-2 feet per year

The striking dark red foliage has made the Crimson King a beloved landscaping tree since it was introduced commercially in the 1930s. Its versatility and hardiness have contributed to its popularity across various growing zones.

Pros of the Crimson King Maple

There are many benefits that make the Crimson King a good choice for a landscape tree.

Vibrant Color

The rich maroon foliage is the star of the show with this maple. The dark reddish-purple leaves stand out against green lawns and can make a dramatic statement in your landscape. The color is strongest in spring and fall, with leaves taking on a darker crimson-black hue in summer. The vibrant foliage can brighten up shady areas of the yard.

Pollution Tolerance

One of the key benefits of the Crimson King maple is its durability and tolerance of urban conditions. It handles pollution, salt, heat, drought, and soil compaction better than many other trees. This makes it a good choice for city landscapes and street plantings.

Shade and Cooling

The Crimson King grows into a medium to large tree that provides ample shade. Its dense canopy creates cooling shade during hot summers. Positioning it properly can reduce air conditioning costs. The summer foliage helps block UV rays more than lighter leaves.


This maple thrives across diverse growing zones, ranging from zone 3 to 9. It can withstand cold winters and hot summers, adapting to varying soil conditions. The tree is resistant to common diseases like leaf spot and Verticillium wilt that affect other maples.

Easy Transplanting

Due to its resilience, the Crimson King maple transplants easily as a young tree if planted properly. Container-grown trees adapt particularly well when relocated. This makes it easy to incorporate into new landscapes.

Wildlife Habitat

The maple’s dense canopy provides shelter, food, and nesting sites for birds. Flowers attract pollinating insects while seeds are eaten by squirrels and birds. Deer also browse the foliage. The tree enhances wildlife habitat in urban and suburban yards.

Cons of the Crimson King Maple

While the Crimson King maple has many positive attributes, there are some potential drawbacks to consider:

Invasive Potential

This maple is regarded as potentially invasive in some regions, mainly in eastern and midwestern states. It spreads aggressively in natural areas where seeds germinate readily in the wild. Check your local invasive plant lists before planting.

Seedling Volunteers

The tree produces many seedlings that sprout up in lawns and gardens. These fast-growing volunteers need regular weeding and removal. Prevent unwanted spread by removing flowers or seed pods.

Root System

The Crimson King has an aggressive surface root system that can damage sidewalks, driveways and underground pipes over time. Plant it away from pavement and built structures in the landscape. Roots can clog drains.

Branch Breakage

Branches are prone to breakage from heavy wet snow or ice accumulation during winter. Damaged branches will need pruning. Site the tree away from areas like patios or driveways where falling branches could cause injury or property damage.

Maple Tar Spot

The fungus Rhytisma acerinum can cause black tar spot lesions on the leaves, especially in wet weather. While not fatal, it can detract from the tree’s appearance. Rake up and dispose of fallen leaves to reduce spore spread.

Leaf Scorch

Leaf margins can brown and shrivel due to insufficient water during hot, dry spells. Provide deep watering during drought to prevent leaf scorch. Mulch around the tree to maintain soil moisture.

Short Life Span

Crimson King maples live for 60 to 80 years on average, which is less than other popular landscape trees. Their relative short life expectancy is a downside for long-term landscaping plans.

Table Comparing Maple Tree Types

Tree Mature Height Growth Rate Soil Hardiness Zones
Crimson King Maple 40-50 ft Moderate Adaptable, prefers moist well-drained 3-9
Red Maple 40-60 ft Rapid Acidic, loamy, moist, well-drained 3-9
Sugar Maple 60-75 ft Slow Prefers moist, well-drained, acidic 3-8
Japanese Maple 15-25 ft Slow Rich, acidic, moist, well-drained 5-9

This table compares a few popular maple tree options to the Crimson King. Factors like mature height, growth rate, soil preferences, and hardiness zones are shown to highlight differences.

How to Grow Crimson King Maples

Here are some tips for successfully growing Crimson King maple trees:

Sun Exposure

– Plant in full sun for strongest color in foliage
– Light afternoon shade is tolerated
– Avoid south-facing sites to prevent leaf scorch


– Adapts to various soil types, including clay
– Prefers moist, acidic soil pH between 5.5 to 7.0
– Avoid compacted or perpetually wet soils


– Spring or fall are best planting times
– Space at least 15 feet from buildings or other trees
– Dig hole only as deep as root ball and 2-3 times wider
– Set root ball on firmly packed soil to prevent settling
– Water thoroughly after planting and as needed the first year


– Water deeply once a week during drought
– Apply 2-4 inches mulch around base to retain moisture
– Prune only in late winter to shape and remove deadwood
– Fertilize in early spring with balanced organic fertilizer

Alternatives to Crimson King Maples

There are many amazing purple-leafed trees to consider as alternatives:

Japanese Maple

– Graceful form with finely-lobed leaves
– Varieties like ‘Bloodgood’ and ‘Red Dragon’ have red foliage
– Reaches 15-25 feet tall at maturity
– Needs protection from afternoon sun

Copper Beech

– Majestic purple-leaved beech tree
– Grows 50-60 feet tall
– Tolerates pollution, salt, and urban conditions
– Provides dense shade

Purple Fountain European Beech

– Weeping beech with purple leaves
– Cascading branches with graceful form
– Grows 20 feet tall and wide
– Nice focal point for small yards

Cherryleaf Purple Plum

– Small ornamental plum tree
– Deep reddish-purple leaves through summer
– Grows 15-20 feet tall and wide
– Clusters of white flowers in spring


– Extraordinary purple smoke-like foliage
– ‘Royal Purple’ is popular deep purple variety
– Grows 10-15 feet tall and wide
– Flowers resemble puffy purple smoke

Purpleleaf Sand Cherry

– Shrub with dark maroon leaves
– Grows to 6 feet tall and wide
– Showy white flowers in spring
– Yellow, red and purple fall foliage


The stunning crimson foliage of the Crimson King maple makes it one of the most popular purple-leaved trees. While it has some drawbacks like invasiveness and root problems, its hardiness and striking color make it a good choice for the right landscape. Weigh the pros and cons carefully to determine if this maple is the best fit for your specific needs and growing conditions. Include alternatives like Japanese maples, purple-leaved plums, or beeches in your selection process to pick the perfect purple-foliaged tree for your yard.