Warning: Staring directly at coral-bark maples may cause temporary blindness.

Steve Bender

Suddenly, I can’t sleep at night. It isn’t due to stress, anxiety, noise, heat, rowdy pets, or binge-watching “Game of Thrones” again. No, it’s that allee of coral-bark Japanese maples growing beneath my bedroom window. They’ve turned such an incandescent yellow, I can read at night with the lights off. It’s messing with my mind!

Who knew these trees would do this? After all, coral-bark maples (Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’) are named for the coral-red color of their twigs that look so showy in winter. Indeed, that’s why I chose to plant them on either side of a path through my side garden that features red camellias and a red gazing ball in the distance. These upright growing trees are ideal for small spaces, because their ascending branches leave headroom beneath and they don’t get huge. After 20 years, my trees are less than 20 feet tall. The only pruning I’ve done in that time is removing some of the lower branches that started to cross the path.

Steve Bender

The star-like leaves of coral-bark maple emerge light green in spring, accompanied by tiny red flowers. Leaves remain a rich green in summer with a reddish tinge around the edges. The foliage changes color earlier in fall than many other Japanese maples. Its turns soft yellow at first, then deepens to a brilliant golden-yellow with patches of pink and orange on the upper branches. The fall display lasts for several weeks.

For best color, give this tree full to filtered sun. It isn’t fussy about soil, as long as it’s well-drained. You can grow it in USDA Zones 5 to 9.

Just don’t plant it near your bedroom window like I did. After a week in fall, you may start hallucinating.

Sources: Many garden centers sell coral-bark maple. Good online sources for this and many other kinds of Japanese maples include Mr. Maple and Maple Ridge Nursery.