You can't beat these gorgeous trees for blazing fall foliage, and now is a great time to plant. Here's how to pick the right one.
Sugar Maple
Credit: Ralph Lee Anderson

There's nothing shy about maple trees in autumn. They scream for attention and beg you to take a picture. Do you need a big shade tree for the middle of the lawn or to line the street? How about a small accent tree to shade a bench, patio, or courtyard? Choose one of these.

Sugar Maple Tree (Acer saccharum)
This is the tree that gives Vermont its maple syrup, but it also shines in the South. Some have golden fall foliage, but the ones that really turn heads flaunt leaves of reddish orange. They grow at a moderate pace to 60 feet tall or so with a tidy, oval-to-rounded shape. In Texas and Oklahoma, plant a selection called 'Caddo,' which tolerates dry, alkaline soil better than the species. Elsewhere, plant 'Green Mountain,' 'Legacy,' or just an unnamed sugar maple that shows good color at the nursery.

Red Maple Tree (A. rubrum)
Combining silvery bark, quick growth, and yellow-to-red fall foliage, red maple grows as big as sugar maple with a loose, pyramidal shape. It adapts to most soils but doesn't like drought. Plant 'October Glory' for outstanding scarlet fall color.

Japanese Maple Tree (A. palmatum)
Upright types grow slowly to 15 to 25 feet, often with multiple trunks. Green, burgundy, or red leaves turn blazing yellow, orange, or scarlet in late fall. Our picks are 'Bloodgood,' 'Emperor I,' 'Glowing Embers,' 'Sango Kaku,' and 'Seiryu.'