We imagine the foliage of trees as green – and most are – but trees with red leaves provide a interesting play of colors in your autumn and winter garden garden. On a lawn, or placed in a clear area in your garden, trees with red foliage will do wonders in isolated subjects, and bring an undisputed touch of cheerfulness wherever they are installed!
A ruby or crimson crown is not just something for fall, there are trees that adorn themselves with their striking red foliage all year round.
You can find natural and bred varieties of ornamental trees with red leaves, ranging from small and even dwarf maples to larger red maples.
To add intensity and ignite a real firework of colors to a monotonous space, there are plenty of red leafed trees to choose from. To give you some inspiration we’ve selected 10 of the most spectacular trees with with red or crimson leaves by the intensity of the colors and the duration of the fire.
Why You Should Grow Trees with Red Leaves in Your Garden
There are trees with green, blue, silver white, yellow and red leaves. Of course green is the most popular color, but if you don’t vary it, your garden will look monotonous and “flat”.
Red stands out from all the other colors and it also is the strongest and most visible of all. Plant some trees with leaves in this range and your garden will immediately acquire depth and vibrancy.
They are also very useful as focal points, and to give structure to backdrops. A wholly green set of plants will appear “flat” and uninteresting,
but add some carmine or maroon and it will lift your whole design, give it a clear contrast and improve it very much!
10 Stunning Ornamental Trees With Red Leaves To Be Admired All Year Round
Why wait a whole year to find the colors that come to enchant the fall? While there are trees which will display flamboyant red leaves due to anthocyanins, pigments which, unlike others, are produced only in the fall.
Here are 10 most beautiful trees with stunning red foliage that will bring a contrasting touch of color and give rhythm to your garden all your round!
1: ‘Crimson Queen’ Laceleaf Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Crimson Queen’)
‘Crimson Queen’ laceleaf maple has one of the brightest shades of red you can find. It really has it all…
Foliage of a vibrant color, with very thinly segmented leaves that give it the texture if fine lace, dark arching branches, and it is also quite small, so you can grow it even in modest gardens, even in containers!
The foliage hangs beautifully, waving in the wind, and it stays red from spring to fall, when it drops. It is also a strong plant, with leaves that do not burn in the hot summer Sun.
It is a receiver of the Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society.
‘Crimson Queen’ laceleaf maple is perfect for Japanese, city and urban gardens, as well as for all informal designs.
You can also have it on terraces and patios, because it is ideal for containers, though they need to be large.
2: ‘Forest Pansy’ Redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’)
‘Forest Pansy’ redbud is a medium sized tree with foliage of an amazing color. The leaves are deep and dark burgundy red all through the year, diamond shaped and pendulous.
They are also quite large, about 5 inches wide (12 cm), so it will make a very bold statement. They will take on shades of golden yellow in the fall, giving you the effect of a burning fire of bright light in your garden.
In spring, before the leaves come, it will also fill with beautiful pink flowers! All these different colors have gained it the Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society.
‘Forest Pansy’ redbud is the tree you want for a dynamic garden that changes through the year. It needs some space, and it will also need a traditional, naturalistic or informal design, though public parks will do perfectly fine too.
3: ‘Red Silver’ Flowering Crabapple (Malus hybrida)
‘Red Silver’ flowering crabapple is a semi-weeping, upright, medium sized deciduous tree with a lot to offer. Lots of red actually!
The leaves are ovate, bronze red, and large, about 3 inches long (7.5 cm), and they are covered in an interesting silver fuzz that creates interesting light effects.
The flowers are red too, fragrant and long lasting. And they are also followed by berries, which, you guessed, are of the same color!
Add the spreading habit of this tree and the partly weeping branches and you have a real winner.
‘Red Silver’ flowering crabapple is ideal if you wish to have this color from spring to fall but with changes through the season.
It will suit all informal gardens as a specimen plant or in small groups with other trees. It tolerates pollution and this makes it perfect for urban gardens.
4: Purple Leaf Plum Tree (Prunus cerasifera ‘Atropurpurea’)
Purple leaf plum tree is a deciduous cultivar called ‘Atropurpurea’ with deep dark burgundy red to purple leaves.
The fairly thick foliage on the round crown gives you a bold and intense ball on top of a dark, upright stem from spring to frost.
It gives gardens shape and structure, but also beautiful and fragrant blooms in spring and then abundant purple and edible fruits!
Grow it for a lovely splash of color in your garden with an easy to grow and generous plum tree with lots of personality.
Purple leaf plum tree ‘Artropurpurea’ looks really great against a green backdrop or by in any in any informal and temperate looking garden.
Traditional designs like an English country garden will gain color but also an architectural element.
5: ‘Grace’ Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Grace’)
The broad, oval and dark red leaves of ‘Grace’ smokebush come on elegant upright branches with regular intervals.
This gives it a lots of decorative value, with beautiful visual patterns, and almost sculptural leaves. The blooms will come in summer, and they look like smoke puffs, hence the name of this plant, and they are actually clusters of flowers that range in color from pink to purple.
Spectacular and unusual in the hot season, ideal for structure and color all year round, you can grow it as a tree but also a s a shrub. Cold hardy but showy, it is ideal for most northern regions of the US and even Canada.
‘Grace’ smokebush is a low maintenance small tree you can grow in hedges and even borders, clumps or as a specimen plant, as long as your garden has an informal design, and you will not regret it!
6: ‘Chitose Yama’ Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Chitose Yama’)
‘Chitose Yama’ is a cultivar of Japanese maple with bright crimson red foliage. This small tree has leaves with seven pointed and serrated points that arch beautifully from the very elegant branches.
They come on red petioles and they start off as bronze, but the soon turn bright and red and they stay so till fall.
It has the classical oriental look of Japanese maples, and it suits shady places as well. It has won the Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society.
The ideal setting for ‘Chitose Yama’ is a Japanese garden, maybe in the dappled shade of taller trees.
But it will suit most informal designs, including urban and gravel gardens, and you can grow it in containers and keep it on your terrace or patio. In any case, it will bring light and vitality and a splash of color to your green space.
7: Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica)
Black gum is a stately tree with foliage of an interesting color. They will actually start off as green, but they will soon turn red, with some yellow ones, and stay so till frost, when they will drop.
The foliage is quite thick, very glossy, elliptical and thinly textured despite the large size of each leaf – 6 inches long (15 cm).
It looks lovely on the broad and conical crown of this tree with layered branches, sometimes forming “clouds of leaves” of fire in the sky.
It will also blossom in spring, with clusters of small greenish white flowers. Finally, the bark is really beautiful too, because it looks like the skin of a crocodile!
Black gum tree has won both the Cary Award and the Gold Medal of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
Black gum is native of North America, and it looks great as a specimen plant or in woods in temperate looking, naturalistic informal gardens and parks.
8: Red Leaf Hibiscus (Hibiscus ‘Mahogany Splendor’)
Red leaf hibiscus has foliage of the darkest chocolate red shade ever. It can be a shrub or small tree, according to how you train it, but the leaves stay the same, deeply cut and with decorative dents at the margins, glossy, dense and elegant indeed.
They come on dark branches of the same color. It will also give you large bloom, pink to red in color, which light up the whole plant for a few weeks.
The funnel shaped flowers have partly joined petals and dark centers as well as a velvet texture.
Red leaf hibiscus is a very luxurious plant that gives you depth and intensity in hedges and borders grown as a shrub, or as a specimen plant. It also suits terraces and patios, because you can easily and safely grow it in containers.
9: European Beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’)
Copper beech, a.k.a. purple beech is a rare and beautiful medium large tree with impressive outstanding foliage.
The leaves are obtuse, or “ovate with a point” and they start off with a copper tint, develop into flaming red by the summer months and they finally turn purple later on.
The tree itself is majestic, with a large, rounded but conical and spreading crown with elegant arching branches and dark and smooth bark.
It will bloom in spring with small green yellow flowers that will turn into edible fruits later on.
European beech is a bold presence in any landscape, with a nostalgic and traditional appearance;
it is perfect for large, informal gardens and parks as a specimen plant for shade and color from spring to fall. In winter, its branches will still attract attention with their sculptural quality.
10: Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
Red maple is a fast growing deciduous trees with five pointed, palmate leaves, like in the symbol of Canada, and they are bright orange red in color all year round, from spring to fall.
They are far less dented than Japanese maple and with a broader appearance, and they only come after the small red blooms are spent.
It has an imposing appearance with its straight trunk and broad crown, which is pyramidal when the plant is young, but it turns round later on in its life. The bark is smooth and gray, but grooves start to appear later in its life.
Red maple is ideal for large spaces, as a specimen plant in gardens and parks with a temperate look.
It will look extraordinary against the green of a well kept lawn, but it will also work well to accompany a large building, like a house.
It is quite cold hardy, and really perfect for Norther Europe, the norther US states and, of course, Canada!
Trees with Red Leaves for Many Situations and Gardens
You have met the most beautiful trees with red leaves from all over the world, east and west. Some are big, like European maple, and you will need a big space to accommodate them.
Others are small, like ‘Crimson Queen’ laceleaf maple or red leaf hibiscus; in fact you can even fit them in a container and grow them on a modest terrace.
But, whatever your situation, all trees with red leaves bring that blush of color to your green space that it so badly needs!
After many years as an academic in London, Adriano Bulla became a writer, publishing books like A History of Gardening, Organic Gardening and Elements of Garden Design; he then decided to become a gardener, following his childhood dream, and has been following his dream writing and gardening professionally in Southern Europe, where he has specialized in new and innovative organic gardening fields and techniques, like permaculture, regenerative agriculture, food forests and hydroponics.