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Why Aren’t My Maple Tree Leaves Turning Colors in Fall?


Autumn leaf color is the result of varying levels of chlorophyll residue mixed with other pigments. Maple trees (genus acer) are one of our top picks for trees that turn yellow in fall. There could be a few reasons why your maple tree leaves aren’t turning different colors in fall. Find out more about maples and maple leaf colors below.


Most Popular Maple Tree Varieties

What happens to maple tree leaves in fall?

A tree’s leaves are dark green throughout the spring and summer because of chlorophyll, which is bright green and masks the colors of other molecules that also are present in those same leaves. In autumn, before the fall maple leaf drops, deciduous trees break down the chlorophyll into smaller molecules and send them to the roots for storage until spring when new leaves emerge and chlorophyll is reconstituted.

More About Maple Leaf Colors:

sugar maple leaves changing color
Sugar Maple Leaves Throughout the Seasons By Chris Glass, Cincinnati, USA – flickr.com

When the amount of chlorophyll in the leaves starts declining in autumn, yellow compounds (xanthophylls) and orange compounds (carotenoids) become visible.

The bright red fall leaves come from anthocyanins which are manufactured as chlorophyll is degraded in early autumn.

Purples are blends of anthocyanins and leftover chlorophyll.

Brown colors predominate when several different pigments are present together and mix together.

Fall colors and maple trees in fall are an important staple piece in many landscapes and provide glorious displays of color year after year (usually)!


All about maple tree colors and reasons why they might not change:

Exactly which colors predominate in autumn leaves depends on the tree species and the local weather. Temperature and light influence the intensity and duration of autumn color. Rainy, overcast days may cause the chlorophyll to degrade more quickly, thus increasing the intensity of the yellow colors and orange colors. Low temperatures above freezing favor production of the red-pigmented anthocyanins. Early frosts degrade the reds.

japanese maple tree turns bright red in fall
Japanese Maples stay small in size and are low maintenance trees. Perfect for adding year-round color!

Weather is the primary factor for why your maple tree leaves are not turning red in fall.

In autumn, the leaves of sourwood, sumacs, dogwoods, and some maples often turn red or purple like the Brandywine Maple. Sugar maple leaves can be a brilliant orange. Red Maple trees such as Autumn Blaze Maple or October Glory can have shades of orange and red. October Glory is an excellent choice for a fast growing small tree. Yellow leaves may predominate in ginkgos, tulip poplar, beeches, buckeyes, and hickories. Autumn leaves of many of the oak species are mostly reddish-brown. The Japanese Maple tree with red leaves year-round is a great choice for some extra color in your landscape.

Cold (but not freezing) nights and bright, sunny days stimulate the production of the red-pigmented anthocyanins. Thus autumns that have lots of full sun days and cold nights will have the best red colored leaves.


To summarize why your maple tree may not be changing colors:

  • Temperature fluctuations with warm nights and not enough cool weather.
  • A young maple tree may not be ready to change colors yet.
  • If your maple is planted in partial sun and not getting at least 6 hours of sunshine per day, it may not change colors.
  • Poor soil and overfertilization may cause your maple tree to not change to red colors in the fall. Have your soil tested if you are unsure!

So, if your maple didn’t have a spectacular display of fall foliage, it probably wasn’t your fault. Just Mother Nature being her unpredictable self. Those green leaves are sure to turn when the weather is right! If you live in the United States or North America, contact us on how to purchase and ship red maples to your home! They are the perfect shade tree if you are looking for color and a fast growth rate!

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