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When is Peak Color for Red Maples in S.C.

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Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. The red maples that thrive in the flood plains of the Congaree and Wateree Rivers are actually more striking in January and February than in the fall of the year. Their flowers and fruits that follow, those seed containing samaras, are often bright red or sometimes a deep burgundy and they are the earliest trees to show any color in the spring. In order for red maples to develop vibrant autumn color, we need to have cool, not freezing night time temperatures as the leaves begin to senesce. But in most of South Carolina, we no longer have cool nights in September and early October. There are named varieties of red maples like Autumn Blaze or October Glory, more expensive than seedlings, that are purported to have brilliant leaves in fall -but even they can only develop the red anthocyanin pigments under certain environmental conditions.

Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.