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Red Sunset Maple vs Autumn Blaze (Differences and Similarities)

Today, let’s explore two amazing maples, the Red Sunset Maple and Autumn Blaze Maple. They’re so popular that it looks like they have no real rivals.

The first distinction is that the Red Sunset Maple features larger leaves compared to the Autumn Blaze Maple. The Red Sunset is not as hardy as the Autumn Blaze, indicating that the latter can be cultivated in a broader range of environments. Additionally, the Autumn Blaze exhibits more vigorous growth than the Red Sunset.

red sunset maple vs autumn blaze

Red Sunset Maple and Autumn Blaze Maple

Red Sunset Maple Autumn Blaze Maple
USDA Hardiness zone 4-8 3-8
Mature height 47′ (14 m) 47′ (14 m)
Mature width 35′ (11.5 m) 35′ (11.5 m)
Shape Pyramidal Pyramidal
Growth rate 1.5-2′ (4.5-60 cm) <24” (60 cm)
Leaves 6” across, red, orange-red 3” across, red, orange-red
Sunlight exposure Full sun, partial shade Full sun, partial shade
Soil Moist, clay, sandy, loam Moist, clay, sandy, loam
Soil pH 6.0-7.0 5.5-6.5
Watering 1-2 times per week in a drought 1-2 times per week in a drought
Diseases fungus fungus
Pests insects, mites insects, mites

Leaves

Both maples have a similar leaf shape, typically with 3 or 5 lobes, though the depth of the cuts can vary a bit.

The noticeable difference is in the leaf size. The Red Sunset Maple boasts leaves that are 6 inches both in width and length. On the other hand, the Autumn Blaze Maple’s leaves are smaller, at about 3 inches across.

In terms of canopy, the Red Sunset forms a denser one, creating deep shade underneath. In contrast, the Autumn Blaze has a sparser canopy, allowing some sunlight to filter through.

Color-wise, these maples are on par with each other. Their foliage starts off as bright green in early spring, then transitions to a paler, darker hue. Come fall, both trees showcase a fiery red color that persists until the leaves drop.

Hardiness

Autumn Blaze Maple excels in cold tolerance, surpassing other varieties. It’s recommended for zone 3, a climate zone where few U.S. residents live. However, its robust frost tolerance also makes it a suitable choice for certain Canadian areas.

The Red Sunset Maple is suitable for zone 4. A notable feature of this variety is its sturdy branches, which withstand heavy snowfall without breaking.

In warmer regions, both maples can adapt to zone 8 conditions. The Autumn Blaze thrives well here; neither the sun nor the heat hampers its vigorous growth.

Growth Rate

The Red Sunset Maple typically grows at a rate of 1-1.5 feet per year. In a moderate climate with sufficient moisture, this growth rate can increase to 2 feet annually.

Conversely, the Autumn Blaze Maple usually grows at a faster pace of 2 feet per year, and under ideal conditions, this rate can even increase.

Both maples eventually reach a similar size, about 47 feet tall and 35 feet wide, with a broadly pyramidal shape. They both develop a wide canopy, providing ample shade, but the shade under the Red Sunset is particularly noteworthy.

Drought tolerance

The Autumn Blaze Maple, with its smaller leaves, has a reduced area for water evaporation. This means it requires less water and is more drought-tolerant. In hot weather, particularly in zone 8, this isn’t an issue for the Autumn Blaze.

The Red Sunset Maple, however, is a different case. It closely inherits the characteristics of the red maple, often referred to as the swamp tree. The larger leaf surface area leads to quicker moisture evaporation, necessitating that the Red Sunset be planted in more moist environments. Growing it in zone 8 can be particularly challenging.

Regardless of the variety you choose, both require sufficient watering during droughts in their initial years until they establish a strong root system. If there’s been no rain for over a week, water the maple with 1-2 gallons, depending on the plant’s size.

Similarities between Red Sunset Maple vs Autumn Blaze Maple

Let’s talk a little bit about what’s similar about these maples.

Messiness

Both varieties share a similar messiness. In early spring, following their bloom, numerous small flowers fall, causing some cleanup work. The seed ripening phase leads to seeds dispersing like little helicopters around the yard, sometimes sprouting in unexpected places, gradually expanding their territory.

In late autumn, both maples shed their leaves, creating piles to be disposed of. However, being medium-sized maples, they produce fewer leaves compared to larger trees.

Soil Tolerance

These maples are adaptable to various soil types, thriving well in both light and heavy soils. The Red Sunset can even handle short periods of moisture stagnation.

However, they both struggle in alkaline soil. If the soil pH exceeds 7.0, issues like chlorosis can occur. Soil acidification using peat can be a solution in such cases.

Sunlight Requirements

Both maples need a fair amount of direct sunlight. The Autumn Blaze requires at least 6 hours daily, with increased sun exposure needed in more northern latitudes. It tolerates both full sun and partial shade. Red Sunset, due to its larger leaves, needs more sunlight, about 8-10 hours daily, to maintain healthy growth.

Fertilizing Needs

Maples generally have low nutrient needs and can grow in poor soil without additional fertilization. However, for accelerated growth, particularly in the first 2-3 years, fertilizing can be beneficial.

Mulch compost is ideal for providing organic nutrients and retaining soil moisture. Slow-release fertilizers applied in early spring can also be effective, especially for the slightly slower-growing Red Sunset.