Every fall, our Maples show us why we planted them! True, many have already given us a glimpse of things to come with bright new leaves in spring, and those large enough have provided us shady respite during the heat of summer.

But fall is what we’ve been waiting for. Because in fall, like jewels in our collective crown, they brighten everything with gold, crimson, orange, pink and purple.

Acer japonicum 'Aconitifolium' JPG1b
Acer japonica 'Aconitifolium'

If you have not yet planted a Maple tree there is a world of possibility before you. Maple trees come in all shapes and sizes, so whether you have a small spot for a little container, or you have acres on the outskirts of town there is a Maple tree for you.

Here are some of our favorite maples for fall color.

Acer circinatum: Vine Maple


Native to Northwest forests, Vine Maple grows naturally as an under story tree, thriving in moist soil and shade. If planted in full sun leaves can burn or color early. Multi-stemmed tree. Grows 10-15’ tall. Hardy z5

Fall colors are gold in shade - red, orange & yellow in sun (See sidebar photo also)

Acer ginnala: Amur Maple

Acer tataricum ginnala PfP

Native to China, Manchuria & Japan. Multi-stemmed 10-20’ tree with round shape.

Sun-pt shade, adaptable to varying soils but best in a well-drained spot, very cold tolerant species, hardy z2

Fall colors red to orange

Acer japonicum, Acer palmatum, and Acer shirasawanum: Japanese Maple

Acer Japanocia

Native to Japan, China and Korea, but long cultivated in Japan. This is a huge group of maples. Leaves can be green, red, purple, white, pink and gold and that’s just during summer. Leaf-shape varies greatly as well, between big leaves with fat lobes to delicate lace-leaf forms and linear leaves that look like needles.

Many sizes and shapes exist. Upright growing varieties can grow as tall as 25’ with dwarf varieties maturing around 2’ tall and many cultivars between. Weeping types are common sites around Portland, dotting front yards with a splash of red. Allowed to grow for years, weeping maples can achieve formidable size; 12’ x 12’ in 40-50 years. Their relatively slow growth makes them easy to keep smaller with minimal pruning.

Leaves burn in hot summer sun, so they are best in morning sun and afternoon shade, hardy z5

Fall colors of red, orange and yellow.

Be sure to see our page on Native Acer circinatum

Acer rubrum: Red Maple

New England driveway

‘Rubrum’ is Latin for ‘red’. In this case the red refers to the flowers of the maple, which bloom in late winter, covering the branches in scarlet before green leaves fill in. Red Maples are native to the SE United States from Florida to Texas and north to Minnesota. They are a good choice for a mid to large size tree with many varieties maturing at 35-40’ tall, but growing larger given time.

Sun – adapts to soil pH, hardy z4

Fall colors of yellow, orange, red and purple. New introductions are selected based on the timing of fall color. ‘Autumn Flame’ is one of the first to change color, usually in late September. ‘October Glory’ and ‘Red Sunset’ follow about two weeks later.

Acer saccharum: Sugar Maple

Acer saccharum JPG1L

‘Saccharum’ is latin for sugar cane. This is the tree of Maple Syrup, the Canadian flag and legendary Vermont fall color. It’s native from the southern maritime parts of Ontario and Quebec to New York, down to Georgia and east to Texas. Maturing at 60-75’, this tree wants to get big and dislikes being crowded.

Likes sun or part shade, hardy z4.

Fall color varies from brilliant yellow to burnt orange to red.

J. Frank Schmidt is a local grower and developer of many maples commonly available in nurseries and landscapes today. Visit their website for more photos and plant information. J. Frank Schmidt and Sons website

Find the best Trees for your Garden

We carry a wide variety of trees year-round. These represent only a fraction of what you will find and are some of our favorites. Note: Viewing a Native Plant will take you into our Native Plant section.