When it comes to landscaping, trees with red leaves are beautiful and ornamental options that can elevate your yard. A red leaf tree can offer a striking aesthetic that contrasts the green foliage and colorful flowers in your lawn for a bold visual statement.
Whether you prefer a lighter shade like orange-red or a darker color like crimson, maroon, burgundy or reddish-purple, there are several great trees with red leaves to consider.
Some trees have leaves that turn red in the fall for a stunning seasonal display, while others have beautiful red foliage all year round that will take your landscaping to the next level. A small tree can add all the curb appeal and visual interest you need, allowing the red leaves to steal the show.
With so many different types, it can be a challenge choosing the perfect shape, size and color.
To inspire you, we’ve compiled a list of the best trees with red leaves. From the Japanese Maple to the Smoke Bush, explore these amazing red leaf trees to find a colorful plant that will look great in your yard.
Trees with Red Leaves
Japanese Maple Tree
Japanese maples are some of the most vibrant and versatile trees with red leaves to feature in your landscaping. While there are over one thousand varieties, the Japanese maple can differ dramatically in size and shape, from small deciduous trees to large shrubs with multiple stems. Popular for bonsai, the dwarf maple is often used in container gardening, offering beautiful fall foliage.
As its name indicates, the Japanese maple is originally native to Japan, Korea and central China, though it has also been cultivated in the Western world for over two hundred years. Despite their dainty and delicate appearance, these trees require very little maintenance once they’ve been established which adds to their appeal.
Japanese maple trees come in an array of colors, but some of the red varieties are especially striking. The Bloodgood is notable for its deep purple leaves that flourish into flaming red foliage in the fall. The Emperor 1 features deep reddish black bark and similarly-hued leaves that brighten into brilliant scarlet shades in autumn.
Every spring and summer, smoke bushes blossom with clusters of fuzzy, feathery flowers. The smoke bush derives its name from these wispy plumes, which resemble puffs of smoke. These hardy, drought-tolerant plants can be grown in the form of large shrubs or as small trees.
Smoke bushes are deciduous, which means they drop their leaves every year when the growing season ends. When their branches aren’t bare, these colorful bushes are truly something to behold.
With different coloration, there are several varieties of smoke bushes available to buy. The Royal Purple is the most common variant and features wine-colored leaves that turn crimson in autumn. Meanwhile, the chartreuse leaves on the Golden Spirit smoke tree darken to rusty reds and oranges.
The red robin shrub gets its name from the vivid carmine hue of its young leaves. Also known as a red tip photinia, the sturdy leaves of this broadleaf evergreen bush darken into a deep forest green shade as they mature, but touches of striking scarlet remain evident in times of new growth.
Red robin bushes can grow one to three feet per year, making these trees a popular choice for use as privacy hedges. Unfortunately, red robin plants are highly susceptible to fungal leaf spots, which can quickly spread to other plants in quick proximity. For this reason, this festive shrub tends to be better as a standalone plant.
The katsura is a deciduous tree that is popular in suburban landscaping both for its moderate to fast growth rate and for its dense pyramidal foliage. A traditional katsura can reach anywhere from forty to sixty feet in height once it fully matures. There are also dwarf varieties that top out at around fifteen feet in height.
Katsura trees are best known for creating a kaleidoscope of unexpected colors throughout the year. While there are many types that only sport red leaves in the fall, the Red Fox katsura cultivar showcases rich reddish-purple leaves in the spring. Those garnet leaves transform into a bluish green color in the spring before erupting in a cacophony of orange and bronze in the fall.
An unconventional color evolution isn’t the only unique characteristic of the katsura tree. As katsura leaves fall off and decay each autumn, they give off a strong burnt sugar aroma that has led to the alternative moniker of caramel trees.
The Japanese rowan is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree, ranging 23 to 33 feet in height. This ornamental flowering plant is classified in the Rosaceae or rose family. Rowan trees are also known as Mountain Ash because they grow well at high altitudes and their leaves closely resemble the foliage found on an ash tree while not being related.
As summer turns into fall, the fern-like leaves of the Japanese rowan change from grassy green to multiple shades of red, orange, and purple, creating an almost ombre effect. Red is still present in the springtime in the form of orange-red berries that serve as an important food source for avian visitors, including blackbirds, song thrushes, and fieldfares.
Interestingly, rowan trees also have certain mythological associations attached to them. The color red was once thought to protect against evil, so rowan was planted near homes to warn witches and spirits away.
Purple Weeping Crabapple
Weeping crabapple trees are prized for their cheerful springtime displays of color that can last even into the early winter. The word weeping is used to describe any tree with branches that reach down towards the ground, as though they are hiding from the sun instead of stretching towards it. The name specifically comes from the way that rainwater looks like tears when it drips off of the drooping branches of a weeping tree.
People typically cultivate fruit trees so they can harvest produce to consume, but that is not the case with crab apples, whose fruits are sour to the point of being inedible. People plant crabapple trees so that they can enjoy bursts of color from the plentiful white, pink, or red flowers that seem to explode off of the branches for a few weeks each spring. While those blossoms only appear for a brief time, they are quickly followed by an abundance of shiny, showy fruit in a variety of hues.
While there are multiple types, the Royal Beauty cultivar is a real showstopper. Ruby red crab apples look like jewels nestled in this variety’s unique purple foliage
Chinese tupelo is a compact conical deciduous tree in the genus Nyssa. In Greek mythology, there is a water nymph known by the name of Nyssa. Appropriately enough, trees in the Nyssacae family thrive near lakes, ponds, streams, or any other locale with particularly wet soil.
The branches of deciduous trees are bare in the winter, but when springtime rolls around their foliage begins to flourish once more. The new leaves that emerge start in an unusual purple bronze tone that soon matures into a deep verdant green. The leaves change color again in the fall, combusting into an assortment of fiery shades of orange and red.
The Forest Pansy is a flamboyant Eastern redbud tree that flaunts its colors for three full seasons every year. While many types of trees turn on the technicolor for only a few weeks each autumn, the Forest Pansy has foliage that turns red in the spring and transition to a purple-plum color in the summer. In the fall, these beautiful leaves display shades of purple, yellow, red and orange for a breathtaking look.
Forest Pansies are some of the first trees to exhibit color after a dreary gray winter. As early as March, the once bare branches will be flooded with rosy-pink flowers in springtime’s floral version of a fireworks display. Soon, those transition into a collection of shimmering red leaves with flashy purple overtones that linger throughout the summer before deepening to maroon in the fall.
Despite its name, the Forest Pansy has no relation to pansy flowers. The moniker is inspired by the silhouette of its colorful leaves which are highly reminiscent of heart-shaped pansy petals.
Shumard Oak Tree
The majestic Shumard oak tree is one of the largest species in the red oak family, typically towering between 82 and 115 feet. Height isn’t the only oversized statistic when it comes to the Shumard oak – these long-lived trees have been known to stay alive for as many as 480 years.
The planting of a Shumard oak necessitates careful planning, thanks to its combination of lengthy lifespan and massive capacity for growth. Not only will you need to ensure that your yard is large enough to accommodate its eventual size, but you’ll also need to consider factors like any expansions you may want to make to your home in the future.
Shumard oak trees are a big commitment in size and scope, but the result is worth the extra time and care. These stately trees are well-known for their ample shade in the summer, as well as their spectacular fall foliage.
Red Kousa Dogwood
The kousa dogwood is a beautiful tree that can be notoriously finicky to care for. These fragile and sensitive plants can easily succumb to stressors including insect infestation and disease. The red kousa dogwood tree comes with the same delicate beauty as the traditional version but is enhanced by a hardy constitution.
Kousa dogwoods are typically dotted with starry white blooms in the spring, which gives them an ethereal quality. In the fall, their leaves flare dramatically into a crisp crimson hue. New varieties of the kousa dogwood are constantly in development. The relatively recent Scarlet Fire cultivar does away with the dainty white blossoms in favor of bold fuschia blooms.
Alos known as the European or purple beech, the copper beech is a dense and distinct deciduous tree. Copper beech trees are native to Europe and can be found all across the continent in places like England, Portugal and Sweden.
Once it was introduced to North America, its popularity quickly outstripped that of the American beech tree. Even though American beeches are native to North America, they tolerate fewer soil types compared to the more adaptable copper beech.
American beeches are slow and steady when it comes to growth, only adding one or two feet of height from year to year. In the proper conditions (namely, full sun and moist, well-drained soil), copper beeches grow much more quickly.
Not only can copper beeches reach heights anywhere from sixty to eighty feet, but the width of their canopy can also range between forty and sixty feet, making them the ultimate shade tree.
Red Silver Flowering Crabapple
The red silver flowering crabapple is a standout member of the group within the Malus genus. While it shares many characteristics with the purple weeping crabapple, it possesses other qualities that make it unique. Most significantly, it is a semi-weeping hybrid, meaning it finds a middle ground between traditional crabapple trees and their weeping counterparts.
Size is another area where the red silver flowering crabapple tree differs from its weeping crabapple cousins. The weeping Royal Beauty cultivar, which is noted for its purple foliage, tops out at around ten feet tall once it reaches maturity. The red silver flowering crabapple, on the other hand, is typically anywhere from 15 to 25 feet tall when they reach maturity.
Royal Beauty crabapple trees are also usually significantly taller than they are wide. Red silver flowering crabapples are spreading trees, with canopies that can stretch from 10 to 20 feet across.
Despite their differences, the red silver flowering crabapple still has common ground with the purple weeping tree. Both variations do best in moist, well-drained soil with a slight acidity under full sun, but can also tolerate many other soils.
These showy trees will grab attention every spring with their colorful displays.
Purple-Leaf Plum Tree
Also known as cherry plum and flowering plum trees, purple-leaf plum trees are popular with landscape architects because of the visual interest they create. In the spring, the purple-leaf plum is teeming with fragrant pink flowers, not unlike cherry blossoms.
While cherry blossom trees go on to develop glossy green leaves, its plum counterpart boasts purple foliage so deep, that it almost looks black. Autumn brings yet another color change with it, as the leaves brighten up into saturated tones of red and purple.
When planting a purple-leaf plum tree, be sure to choose a spot where the plant can get full sun. With too much shade, the leaves will turn green. To get the vibrant purple color that it is renowned for, the leaves will need six to eight hours of sunlight each day.
By mid to late summer, purple-leaf plum trees will bear fruit. That fruit won’t be like the plums you can find in the produce section. These fruits are much smaller, not much larger than a cherry.
While the fruits are technically edible, they are seldom described as tasty. Additionally, the stems, leaves, and seeds contain cyanide which makes them toxic to humans and animals alike.
Red Maple Tree
Red maples are one of the most iconic trees that change colors in the fall. The name was inspired by the crimson hue its leaves take on each autumn. The red maple is known by many other names, including soft maple, water maple, and (most fittingly) scarlet maple.
Red maple trees are abundant throughout the United States and are particularly prevalent in the eastern part of the country. Although it’s not just their gorgeous leaves that make them such a draw. Red maples are extremely adaptable and grow well in many diverse environments.
These hardy trees can thrive in full or partial sun as well as in soils ranging from dry and rocky to moist and swampy and require minimal maintenance once established. These qualities have made it a favorite with landscapers.
While most red maple trees will show off their signature vermillion color in the fall, certain cultivars feature orange or yellow foliage instead. If you want the more classic color palette, look for varieties like Autumn Blaze which has fiery orange-red leaves, or Schlesingeri which flaunts leaves in a deep, true red tone.
Red Rocket Crepe Myrtle Tree
The crepe myrtle is a stunning deciduous tree with fragile flowers. Also known as the crapemyrtle, this genus flourishes in warm, humid climates, making these flowering trees particularly prolific in the subtropical climate of the American southeast. They are known for their ostentatious displays of color, which can last from July to September.
Crepe myrtle trees often feature white, pink, or purple blossoms. The red rocket variant stands apart from the crowd with its pale red flowers that darken into a deep scarlet hue. These fast-growing trees can grow five feet in height in a single year, making them perfect for a quick landscape transformation.
Black Gum Tree (aka Black Tupelo)
Also known as the black tupelo, the black gum tree belongs to the Nyssicae family, meaning that it is closely related to the Chinese tupelo tree. While the Chinese tupelo originated in China and Vietnam, the black gum is native to North America.
Black gum trees share some commonalities with their Asian counterparts. Each variant originated in swamp or wetland environments and requires ample moisture, but there are also distinct differences between the two.
The Chinese tupelo is more diminutive, capping out at around 18 feet tall. The black gum is much larger and can reach between 30 and 50 feet in height.
The garnet maple is a specific cultivar of the Japanese maple. Many people believe that this variant is the most visually stunning of all the colored-leaf Japanese maple varieties. This small tree has lacy leaves that are a brilliant orange-red hue in the spring and summer, before darkening into a deep red jewel tone in the fall. With their diminutive size, garnet pale trees are ideal for container gardening.
The American Sweetgum tree gets its name from the sweet and fragrant sticky sap that oozes out when the trunk is cut or otherwise wounded. The attractive aroma is a quirky characteristic embodied by this tree.
American Sweetgum trees can be easily identified by their distinctive star-shaped leaves. These stellar leaves are glossy and green in the summer, but as autumn approaches, they evolve into variegated hues of orange, purple, red, and yellow. American Sweetgum leaves stay on until late in the season, giving them ample time to be enjoyed.
This deciduous tree can grow between 80 feet and 120 feet tall in its preferred temperate climates. If you’re walking under one, watch out for falling debris. American Sweetgums are studded with spiky, spiny spheres which are considered a nuisance by many homeowners.
The red-leaf euphorbia is part of the larger group of plants known as smoke bush. Variants of smoke bush plants can be found all over the world, including southern Europe, Central Asia, and the Himalayan mountains. Also known as the tropical smoke bush, the red-leaf euphorbia is native to Mexico and regions of South America.
Red-leaf euphorbia is a broadleaf red tropical shrub with unusual heart-shaped leaves that are dotted with tiny white flowers during the summer months. While this plant is intriguing to look at, it’s best to keep your hands to yourself. The purple stems are filled with a poisonous sap, a known skin irritant.
Trees That Turn Red In Fall
Trees that turn red in the fall include names like the black cherry, flowering dogwood, hornbeam, white oak, sourwood, sweetgum, black oak and winged sumac. These beautiful trees offer red leaves in the autumn that can help add color and contrast to your yard, creating a stunning landscape. These popular red leaf trees will complement the gold, bronze, yellow, brown and orange foliage colors from other plants in fall.
Trees with Red Leaves In Spring
Trees that have red leaves in the spring include the Forest Pansy redbud, Flame Thrower redbud, Red Dragon Japanese maple, Thundercloud plum tree and Persian parrotia. These stunning trees with red foliage will elevate any space by adding dramatic flair.