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Red Dragon Japanese Maple vs Crimson Queen: 5 Key Differences

Red Japanese maples, known for their intricately dissected leaves, are truly remarkable plants. In this comparison, we’ll explore the distinct qualities of two exquisite varieties: the Japanese Maple Red Dragon and the Crimson Queen Japanese Maple.

The primary distinction between these two lies in their leaf coloration. The Red Dragon variety boasts deep, vibrant red leaves, offering a rich and striking visual appeal. In contrast, the Crimson Queen’s foliage presents a unique brownish-red hue, adding a different but equally attractive aspect to gardens.

Additionally, the Red Dragon is noted for its superior ability to maintain its vivid coloration over time, surpassing the Crimson Queen in this regard.

Japanese Maple Red Dragon vs Japanese Maple Crimson Queen

Japanese Maple Red Dragon and Japanese Maple Crimson Queen

Red Dragon Crimson Queen
Hardiness zone 5-8 5-8
Mature height 6-8′ (1.8-2.4m) 8-10′ (2.4-3.0 m)
Mature width 6-8′ (1.8-2.4m) 10-12′ (3.0-3.6 m)
Growth rate medium fast
Light exposure full sun, partial sun full sun, partial sun
Soil moist, drained moist, drained
Soil pH 6.1-7.0  5.8-6.8
Watering One time per week in a drought One time per week in a drought
Diseases fungus fungus
Pests insects insects

Red Dragon holds color better

The Japanese Maple Red Dragon and the Crimson Queen exhibit distinct shades of red in their foliage. The Crimson Queen maple is characterized by its namesake crimson-red leaves, while the Red Dragon variety displays leaves in a unique burgundy-red, with hints of purple-red.

A notable aspect is the Red Dragon’s leaf color saturation, which is more intense compared to the Crimson Queen, whose leaves exhibit a somewhat paler shade. This difference is evident in the accompanying image.

However, this distinction is primarily observed during spring and summer. Come autumn, both maple varieties transform, showcasing a vivid scarlet hue.

The Red Dragon has the added benefit of maintaining its rich, bright coloration throughout the year, even in partially shaded areas. In contrast, the leaves of the Crimson Queen tend to adopt a greenish-red tone by mid-summer.

Additionally, the Red Dragon’s leaves have a unique feature: the underside of each leaf has an orange tint, creating a striking bicolor effect that becomes particularly noticeable in breezy conditions.

While the Crimson Queen may not match the Red Dragon in color vibrancy, it has its own appeal. The leaves of the Crimson Queen are more intricately dissected, offering a more decorative shape, although they do not maintain the color as effectively.

Crimson Queen is bigger than Red Dragon

The Crimson Queen Japanese Maple is known for its relatively swift growth rate, typically adding about 1 foot in height each year. In contrast, the Red Dragon Japanese Maple exhibits a more moderate growth pace, with an annual increase of approximately half a foot or slightly more.

After a decade, the Crimson Queen can reach around 8 feet in height, while the Red Dragon is likely to stand at about 6 feet, though this can vary depending on environmental conditions.

One distinctive feature of the Crimson Queen is its wider growth habit. Its branches tend to spread more horizontally than vertically, giving this variety an umbrella-like shape.

On the other hand, the Red Dragon’s branches have a tendency to grow slightly more upright compared to its counterpart, resulting in a more traditional tree-like form.

Both varieties exhibit young branches that droop, creating an elegant weeping effect. However, this characteristic is more pronounced in the Crimson Queen due to its main branches growing more horizontally, enhancing the weeping appearance.

Red Dragon has a better tolerance for the sun

To ensure the Crimson Queen Japanese Maple retains its vibrant red color without suffering from leaf scorch, precise sunlight exposure is crucial. In USDA hardiness zones 7-8, it’s ideal for this maple to receive up to 6 hours of direct sunlight, preferably during the morning to midday. For cooler zones, such as 5-6, the Crimson Queen can tolerate up to 8 hours of sun exposure.

The Red Dragon Japanese Maple, however, has different sunlight requirements. It is remarkably tolerant of extensive direct sunlight, irrespective of the USDA hardiness zone it is grown in, ranging from zones 5 to 8.

The Red Dragon’s resilience to UV rays can be attributed to its deeply saturated leaf color. The dark burgundy pigmentation of its leaves offers better protection against the sun’s potentially damaging effects.

Moreover, the Red Dragon maintains its color consistency even in partial shade. While it might not achieve its maximum brightness compared to being in full sun, its color doesn’t fade to greenish-red as the Crimson Queen’s might under similar conditions.

Crimson Queen is cheaper

The Red Dragon Japanese Maple is a relatively newer variety compared to the Crimson Queen, which has led to its lesser prevalence in the market.

While the Red Dragon is certainly available and can be found without much difficulty, its propagation has not reached the same level as that of the Crimson Queen. This situation is expected to evolve over time, but currently, the Crimson Queen is more widely propagated.

This limited availability, coupled with its attractive ornamental qualities, makes the Red Dragon slightly more expensive than the Crimson Queen. The price difference is noticeable but not overly significant, typically ranging around 20-30% higher.

It is possible, with some effort, to find nurseries where both varieties are offered at comparable prices. However, the general trend as of now indicates that the Red Dragon tends to be priced a bit higher than its more established counterpart, the Crimson Queen.


The Crimson Queen Japanese Maple is a well-established variety with a history dating back over 60 years. It originated in New Jersey at a local nursery and has since gained widespread popularity. Today, it can be found in nearly every garden center, a testament to its enduring appeal.

In contrast, the Red Dragon Japanese Maple is a more recent introduction to the horticultural world. It emerged in the early 1990s in New Zealand and later made its way to the United States, where it has also gained popularity. Despite its appeal, the Red Dragon has not yet achieved the same level of ubiquity as the Crimson Queen.

Deb bernhart

Tuesday 6th of June 2023

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