18 Popular Trees With Red Leaves

During the spring and summer the leaves have served as factories where most of the foods necessary for the tree’s growth are manufactured. This food-making process takes place in the leaf in numerous cells containing chlorophyll, which gives the leaf its green color. This extraordinary chemical absorbs from sunlight the energy that is used in transforming carbon dioxide and water to carbohydrates, such as sugars and starch.

But in the fall, because of changes in the length of daylight and changes in temperature, the leaves stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible and give the leaves part of their fall splendor.

At the same time other chemical changes may occur, which form additional colors through the development of red anthocyanin pigments. Some mixtures give rise to the reddish and purplish fall colors of trees such as dogwoods and sumacs, while others give the sugar maple its brilliant orange.

The autumn foliage of some trees show only yellow colors. Others, like many oaks, display mostly browns. All these colors are due to the mixing of varying amounts of the chlorophyll residue and other pigments in the leaf during the fall season.

List of Trees with Red Fall Foliage

  • Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
  • Japanese rowan (Sorbus commixta)
  • Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
  • Royal Raindrops Crabapple
  • Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)
  • American Sweetgum
  • Forest Pansy Redbud
  • Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
  • American Hornbeam
  • Pin Oak (Quercus palustris)
  • Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)
  • Winged Sumac (Rhus copallinum)
  • Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
  • Japanese Maple
  • Stag’s Horn Sumach
  • Sweet Gum
  • Black Gum Tree (Nyssa sylvatica)
  • European Spindle
  • Cherry ‘Royal Burgundy’
  • Golden Full Moon Maple
  • Tall Stewartia

Red maple tree

A red maple tree (Acer rubrum) gets its common name from its brilliant red foliage that becomes the focal point of the landscape in autumn, but red colors play a large part in the tree’s ornamental display in other seasons as well. Red flower buds form in winter, opening into showy red flowers before the tree leafs out. New twigs and leaf stems are also red, and after the flowers fade, reddish-colored fruit takes their place.

Also Read: Different Types of Maple Trees For Your Home

Japanese rowan

Sorbus commixta, or Japanese Mountain Ash, is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree that can reach a height of 23 to 33 feet. It has a rounded crown and brownish to silvery-grey bark. The leaves change to a deep purple or red in the fall, the white flowers are very attractive in the summer, and the bright orange fruit in the fall is a food source for birds. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

Malus ‘Royal Raindrops’

The Royal Raindrops crabapple will reach a height and width of 15 feet. This variety features pinkish flowers and deep purple foliage. The masses of fragrant magenta flowers start to appear in mid-spring. The blossoms are clustered along the branches, and they stand out against the leafy foliage. Bright red fruits follow those beautiful blossoms.

The Royal Raindrops crabapple tree features an upright form with deeply lobed leaves. The glossy deep purple leaves emerge in the spring. You will fall in love with the uniquely shaped foliage. These leaves keep their color throughout the summer. In the autumn, the deep purple fades into an attractive shade of orange and bronze.

Sugar maple

The sugar maple tree may grow to a height of 40 metres (130 feet). It has a dense crown of leaves, which turn various shades of gold to scarlet in fall. Its three- to five-lobed leaves appear after the greenish yellow flowers of spring. The fruits are paired samaras. Smooth grayish bark on the trunk and branches gradually furrows with age. Several varieties of sugar maples are available; their leaf crowns may be columnar, oval, or pyramidal in shape, with dark green, reddish to yellowish leaves.

Also Read,: Different Types of Crabapple Trees For Landscaping

American sweetgum

The American sweetgum is a large shade tree with an ovular shape. The fall foliage of the American sweetgum is quite spectacular, the leaves can be yellow, orange, red, and even purple during late October and November before leaves are dropped for winter dormancy in December. Sweetgum leaves tend to have 5 lobes, arranged in a star-like shape, with palmate venation (which means that each vein has roughly the same size through each lobe). Each leaf blade tends to be 4-8 inches, and the edges are serrated, meaning slightly jagged/notched around each leaf’s border.

Forest Pansy Redbud

‘Forest Pansy’ (Redbud) is a large deciduous shrub or small, often multi-stemmed, tree with profuse, pea-like, rosy-pink flowers that arise before the foliage in spring. Forest Pansy’ is a dramatic small tree grown primarily for its beautiful foliage. Glorious heart-shaped leaves emerge a glossy, vibrant ruby red and darken to a rich purple-plum shade for the summer. In autumn they turn striking shades of orange, red, yellow and purple. The autumn sun makes some leaves appear to be translucent and others reflect the light. The graceful, flat-topped, vase shape habit of this majestic Redbud makes it a great landscape tree.

Red Oak

The red oak is one of the faster growing oaks. They grow tall and straight with a clear trunk and narrow crown. The bark on young stems is smooth, dark gray to dark brown. On older trees, the bark is thick and brown, with shallow fissures on smooth-surfaced vertical plates. Leaves are simple and grow alternately on the stem often 4 to 10 inches length. They are divided into seven to nine lobes, each extending halfway to the midrib. Each lobe is somewhat coarsely toothed and bristle tipped. They are dull green above and paler green below, often turning a brilliant red in fall.

Also Read: Major Types of Cherry Trees For Your Home Garden

American hornbeam

American hornbeam is a small, slow-growing, understory tree with an attractive natural, rounded form growing 15-30′ tall and wide. The smooth, gray trunk and larger branches of a mature tree exhibit a distinctive muscle-like fluting. The dark-green leaves are coarsely serrated and often turn shades of yellow, orange and red in the fall. Its catkin flowers give the tree away as a member of the birch family. The female flowers give way to distinctive clusters of winged seeds that somewhat resemble the hops-like seeds of ironwood.

Pin oak

Pin oak or Quercus palustris is named for a characteristic where small, thin, dead branches stick out like pins from the main trunk. The leaves are broad and have about five or seven lobes. Each lobe has bristle tips and is mostly hairless. The autumn leaf coloration is generally bronze and the individual leaves can turn red over time. This is not a particularly distinctive feature for a tree living in this area. However, the canopy of this tree is considered very distinctive. The upper branches point upwards with the middle branches at right angles and the lower branches pointing downwards.


Oxydendrum arboreum (Sourwood) is a slow-growing, deciduous tree of delicately pyramidal habit with a slender trunk and a narrow oblong crown. Its slightly pendulous branches are clothed with alternate, finely toothed, glossy green leaves which turn brilliant crimson-red to dark purple in the fall. The leaves have a sour taste, hence the common name. In early summer, fragrant, urn-shaped, creamy-white flowers resembling those of lily-of-the-valley are borne in drooping, one-sided panicles at the branch tips. Attractive to bees, they bloom for about 3-4 weeks and are followed by small, silver-gray capsules that persist through winter and contrast well with the red foliage. The gray bark is fissured, ridged and scaly on mature trees, providing winter interest.

Also Read: Different Types of Deciduous Trees With Pictures

Winged Sumac

Rhus copallinum (Winged Sumac) is a colony-forming, deciduous shrub or small tree of large, open and spreading habit. Native to the eastern U.S., Winged Sumac is dioecious with separate male and female plants. Showy feathery panicles of tiny pale yellow flowers appear in mid to late summer. The pollinated female flowers are followed by conspicuous clusters of hairy, red berries in early fall which persist throughout the winter. They provide food for birds and small mammals when other foods are scarce or unavailable. The lush foliage of shiny, dark-green, pinnately compound leaves (9-21 leaflets) turns vibrant orange to fiery red in fall.

Sassafras tree

Sassafras albidum, commonly known as the sassafras tree, is a medium-sized tree that is found across the eastern half of the United States. Sassafras trees grow about 60 feet tall and usually have a bushy appearance due to numerous suckers that emerge around the trunk and the twisting growth of the branches. The leaves, bark and roots give off a sweet, spicy scent when crushed that is reminiscent of root beer, vanilla and oranges. In early to mid-spring, small, bright yellow-green flower clusters are borne in 2-inch stalks on separate male and female trees. Female trees produce a blue, fleshy drupe that is borne in a red cup attached to a red stalk. In the fall, the leaves turn a beautiful yellow to orange to red in color.

Japanese maple

Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) is one of the statelier plants that can be used in the garden. There is incredible variation between cultivated varieties, making it difficult to describe a typical Japanese maple. They can be grown as single-stemmed small trees or large multi-stemmed shrubs, ranging in size from six to 25 feet tall, meaning a Japanese maple can fit into a variety of landscapes. The leaves range from dark green to red or reddish-purple and can have anywhere from five to nine deeply cut lobes. Fall color is very vibrant and layered branches give Japanese maples an interesting look in the winter months.

Stag’s Horn Sumach

An upright, deciduous shrub or small tree, that is primarily grown for its finely-cut dark green leaves, which turn spectacular shades of orange-red in the autumn before they are shed. Cone-shaped clusters of yellow-green flowers appear in summer, and on female plants, these are followed by hairy, deep red berries. Stag’s horn sumach is an excellent specimen for a small sunny garden, but as it spreads by suckering, avoid planting it too close to a lawn. The common name of Stag’s horn sumach comes about due to the young shoots being densely covered with velvety hairs and the forking pattern of the branches reminiscent of antlers.

Also Read: Trees With White Back

Black Gum Tree

The Black Gum Tree (Nyssa sylvatica) trees typically have a straight trunk with the branches extending outward at right angles.The bark is dark gray and flaky when young, but it becomes furrowed with age, resembling alligator hide on very old stems. The twigs of this tree are reddish-brown, usually hidden by a greyish skin. The pith is chambered with greenish partitions. The leaves of this species are variable in size and shape. They can be oval, elliptical, or obovate, and 5–12 cm (2–4.5 inches) long. They have lustrous upper surfaces, with entire, often wavy margins. The foliage turns purple in autumn, eventually becoming an intense bright scarlet.

European Spindle

Euonymus europaeus is commonly known as the European or Common Spindle or simply Spindle. It is a species of deciduous shrub or small tree native to most of Europe, found at the forest edge, in hedgerows and on gentle slopes. It favours salt-poor soils and chalky soils. These tree has showy flowers, which are small, half inch in size, and yellowish green in mid-spring. In the fall, the leaf color can be dull tan to yellow-green to a a burgundy. Its’ most showy feature is the brightly colored fall berries that begin shrouded in pink to red capsules and open to bright orange fleshy seed coverings (arils), which are eaten by some birds.

Also Read: Trees With Beautiful Fall Color

Royal Burgundy Flowering Cherry

Royal Burgundy Flowering Cherry will grow to be about 25 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 20 feet. It is covered in stunning clusters of fragrant cherry red flowers along the branches in early spring, which emerge from distinctive ruby-red flower buds before the leaves. It has attractive deep purple-tipped dark green foliage which emerges burgundy in spring. The serrated pointy leaves are highly ornamental and turn an outstanding orange in the fall. The smooth dark red bark adds an interesting dimension to the landscape. Its average texture blends into the landscape, but can be balanced by one or two finer or coarser trees or shrubs for an effective composition.

Tall stewartia

Tall stewartia grows 20 to 25 feet in height in as many years, its young pyramidal crown maturing into an open, multi-trunked form with somewhat horizontal branches. Leaves are alternate, simple, and elliptic to oblong-elliptic with saw-toothed margins. The 1.5 to 3-inch-long leaves are dark green above and grayish green and pubescent (covered with short soft hairs) below. The leaves cast light shade beneath this deciduous tree and develop outstanding deep red fall color. In June small, cupped flowers appear, opening over a four-week period. Flowers are 1 to 1.5 inches wide, white with yellow stamens, and subtended by large leafy bracts.