Hot Wings® Tatarian maple: a tree for all seasons

Acer tataricum Garann Plant Select HOT WINGS® Tatarian maple is a superior small ornamental tree that was discovered  Colorado but destined for distribution throughout the country. The natural range of Tatarian maple is from Southeastern Europe into Western Asia. It likely arrived in North America in the early 1900’s during the days of the U.S. Department of Agriculture world-wide plant exploration. It started to appear in Colorado nurseries in the early 1980’s when regional nurserymen discovered this maple was much more tolerant of our alkaline soils than other cold-hardy ornamental maples.

HOT WINGS® appeared as a chance-seedling found growing in the production fields of Fort Collins Wholesale Nursery at Fort Collins, CO in 1993. This particular tree stood out from all the other Tatarian maples for six weeks every summer with its breath-taking scarlet red samaras (helicopters) contrasting with the rich green foliage giving it an appearance of being in bloom. One of the employees said it reminded him of Christmas in July. In the spring, clusters of yellow-white flowers cover the tree after the leaves appear. Fall leaf color transforms from orange-red on the outside of the tree to yellow in the middle. HOT WINGS® also has strong branch unions making it less prone to storm breakage than other Tatarian maples. The horticulturists at Fort Collins Wholesale Nursery recognized the superior qualities of this tree and decided to continue close observation. Plant Select® learned of the plant and after several years of continued trials, agreed that this indeed was a superior tree, and offered to patent the tree and promote it.

Watch the video here. Or view the plant profile here.

HOT WINGS® Tatarian Maple (Acer tataricum ‘Garann’ PP15023)

Large Shrub or Small Tree
Height: 15-18 feet
Width: 15-18 feet
Blooms: Spring bloom followed by brilliant red fruit
Sun: Full sun to partial shade
Soil Moisture: Moderate to dry
Hardiness: USDA zones 4-10 (up to 7,000 feet)
Culture: Clay, loam or sandy soil

44 responses to “Hot Wings® Tatarian maple: a tree for all seasons”

  1. Have planted and grown many of these great trees. Small in stature but big in performance and impact. Full Sun will yield better color, as will decent soil and good drainage.

  2. Jodi says:

    I have a Hot Wings maple that sprouted as a volunteer in my garden from the samaras of an original nursery stock tree. I moved it and have let it grow for several years because I love this original tree so much and wanted to grow another one. It is now about 7 feet tall. I have noticed that it does not have the red samaras of the original tree. Another volunteer of the same size does have the red samaras. Any thoughts on why it wouldn’t have the red samaras? Will it ever?

    • Pat Hayward says:

      Thanks for your note, and you’ve made an interesting observation about sexual reproduction. When plants come from seed they are often quite variable – a sort of genetic lottery, in effect. When the form Hot Wings was discovered (with those blazing red samaras) the growers knew they’d have to propagate vegetatively in order to maintain that special attribute. So all Hot Wings in the trade are either grown from rooted cuttings, or are grafted onto understock that is of the same species. The answer, then to your question, is no, the one with the duller samaras will never have bright red ones, even later in maturity. And your 50% results are about average!

  3. Mary Bowden says:

    Will this type of tree do well in coastal North Carolina?

    • Pat Hayward says:

      It is likely to do well there, but I’d check with your local nursery folks to see if it’s something they carry or recommend.

  4. Larry says:

    For my upcoming yard re-landscaping project (in Edmonton, Alberta) I am considering a Hot Wings Tatarian maple for a feature tree on my front lawn. At a local nursery, they have about 8 or 10 of these on (permanent) display and I noticed that the leaves on all of the trees have some sort of blight on the “wings”, per attached photo. Can anyone advise what this is from and are these trees susceptible to this or only in the presence of certain other other trees? I saw the same issue on these trees in a previous year I was there. I like the tree enough for this spot on my front yard that I might go ahead with it anyway, even if this is an unfortunate feature of these trees. Just wondering if there is a good way to avoid it or if the damage that it does to the tree is more than cosmetic, which would cause me to rethink the whole thing. Thanks for any advice you can offer.

  5. Pat Hayward says:

    Sorry – can’t see the attached image. So the next step would be to ask the local nursery folks. I haven’t seen a problem with the samaras, personally.

  6. Julie Martin says:

    We have been planning to plant two of these trees in our southwest facing front yard in the Front Range area (CO). We are now considering putting rock and sandy soil in (rather than grass) on one side. Would this tree still function well under these conditions (the rock will be non irrigated). Thank you

    • Pat Hayward says:

      It would do well as long as there is a regular source of supplemental water. You might have the soil tested to find out how quickly it drains – fast draining soil would require more water than a loam-clay soil.

      • Greg Conway says:

        I too live in the Front Range area. Unfortunately, I found that Tatarian maple branches break easily under heavy spring snows. This year’s mid-May snow snapped yet another large branch off the tree. Same thing happened last year. I ended up having to cut it down as it was really looking funny after losing those branches. It also seemed to suffer from chlorosis this spring, something I had not seen in the past.

  7. Laurie Schwieger says:

    I know maple leaves are toxic to horses. Do you know if the hot wings maple leaves are toxic to horses? Or should I just assume all maple leaves are toxic to them.

    • Pat Hayward says:

      I honestly do not know about the toxicity of Hot Wings, but I think your assumption is correct – if “maple leaves” are toxic to horses, then yes, these would be as well.

  8. Marolyn Avery says:

    We recently moved back to Des Moines, Iowa from Denver, Colorado and have been unable to find Hot Wing Tatarians for our new landscape.
    Would anyone out there be able to help us locate them here in Iowa?

    • Pat Hayward says:

      Maybe talk to the folks at the Botanical Gardens? It’s being grown nationally, so perhaps a local garden center can special order you one next spring? Good luck! And enjoy the Midwest – certainly a big change from Denver!

      • linda says:

        I was just at Lowe’s by Jordan Creek Mall today and they have them. That’s how I ended up here – I was googling to see what features they have. Would you know if they have seeds that drop? I am not sure of what the “hot wings” are – seeds, flowers, messy????

        • Pat Hayward says:

          The “hot wings” are the samaras – the technical term for the winged seeds (or helicopters as we called them as kids!). Yes, when they get larger the seed drop can be a bit messy, but not overly so. We’ve found them to be in full color in Fort Collins for 6 weeks during the summer in some years, so hopefully the gorgeous show is worth the small bit of clean up in the fall.

  9. I have aHW Maple in my courtyard. Advise a fertilizer. Also, had some spots on some of the leaves. What is that??

    • Pat Hayward says:

      Depending on where you live and your soil chemistry, Hot Wings maple should not require any additional fertilizer. As far as the spots go, best to consult with a local extension office or reputable nursery. Without asking a lot of questions and seeing samples or pictures, it would be difficult to diagnose.

  10. Marilyn Rbrchk says:

    Do the samaras self seed in lawns in Colorado?

    • Pat Hayward says:

      I haven’t heard of them seeding in lawns, but have heard of them seeding in mulched areas. Could be possible if the turf is thin but also heavily watered. They’re easy to pull if you’re seeing them. Maybe cut back on the watering next year to avoid.

  11. Yvonne says:

    Hi, I’m looking for a tree to plant next to my driveway about 12′ from my house. Will the roots of the tree do any damage to the driveway or house?

    • Pat Hayward says:

      This is a relatively small tree with smaller, fibrous roots so at that distance will cause no problems at all. Most tree roots grow about as wide as the crown of the tree (spread) so you’ll definitely want to only consider trees that stay under 20′ wide or so.

  12. diane Dunn says:

    Is the hot wings maple susceptible to verticillium wilt? I am losing all my Japanese maples because of this. thank you

    • Pat Hayward says:

      I honestly don’t know – not something we experience much in the west. Best advice is to check with your local Horticulture Extension agent.

  13. Sandy says:

    How quickly does this tree grow? Would it be happy with +/- 2 hours per day direct sun, the rest dappled shade? How about 7500 ft elevation?

    • Pat Hayward says:

      I think you’ll be pushing the limits of hardiness for it at that elevation. If you decide to try it, I’d put it in a more protected place, like near a building and out of the wind. It would need at least 4-6 hours of sun otherwise it’ll be stretched out and weak, which would then make it susceptible to snow damage.

  14. Julie McMan says:

    I planted 2 Hot Wings Maples 3 years ago. This year, they did not produce very many samaras and the ones that it did produce were small and very pale pink. Do I need to fertilize or give it something? Leaves weren’t as bright a green either, turned kind of dirty yellow for the fall. Plenty of water, good drainage.

    • Pat Hayward says:

      First thing I’d do is get a soil test. I would never fertilize anything without getting a soil test first. Woody plants like shrubs and trees rarely need any extra fertilizer in CO. Was they getting plenty of sun (6 hours)? If the samaras looked good in previous years, what changed? Feel free to send us pics of the trees if you’d like and we’ll see if we can help further.

  15. Kim says:

    1. Will this plant do well on the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains in Big Horn, Wyoming – elevation is 5600 ft. Also, we have extremely strong winds in the winter, up to 75 mph. Will it withstand the winds?

    • Pat Hayward says:

      Hot Wings Tatarian maple came in first place in our 2016 survey of demonstration gardens in the 5500-7500 feet range, with 11 out of 18 gardens reporting. This tree should do great for you in your location. You might want to stake it the first year or so to keep it from toppling in the wind.

  16. Randy Pritchett Behymer says:

    I took care of several of these beauties at a nursery in Granite Bay, Ca, with very hot dry summers. They struggled a bit in containers by August and didn’t give the best fall display as a result. I’ve relocated to Grants Pass, Oregon and hope to use one in our very small lot; since this seems to be Maple Heaven, I’m looking forward to seeing one in full glory!

    • Pat Hayward says:

      Grant’s Pass is high and dry like Denver. We hope it does well for you, but be sure to plant them in the ground for the most “glorious” results.

  17. Dee says:

    Does anyone know if the seeds will be a problem for the grass? Worry about the self seeding with so many samaras turning to seeds.
    Live in Ontario. Thinking about purchasing the tree for privacy.

    • Pat Hayward says:

      If the turf is thick below the trees, there won’t be any problems. But the samaras (seeds) are likely to drop and germinate in open soil. A thick mulch in the tree ring will help keep that to a minimum, or eliminate altogether.

  18. Candace Selk Barnes says:

    Planted a “Hot Wing” 7 years ago in Summit Cove subdivision ( at 9K ft, between Dillon and Keystone) in Summit County, has done great. We just moved to Pagosa Springs and going to plant one/2 here. Observed and concerned with drainage/wet ground during spring melt, I believe yard (clay) will dry out… should I be concerned after planting or soggy “tree feet” next years? any amendment suggestions, berm it up? ?

    • Pat Hayward says:

      From what you describe, it does sound like adding soil amendments like squeegee or sand or even compost will help to allow more oxygen to get to the roots in spring. If you were to do a berm, it’d need to be a fairly large one – up to the width of the mature crown size. That’s an option, too, but once water hits the clay soil below, it still will need an outlet. ALl the best – hope to see you at the Durango Botanical Society Hort Conferene in June! http://www.durangobotanicalsociety.com/event-2449218

  19. Sspence says:

    I live in Alberta Canada. I planted a hot wings maple 2 years ago. It was about 8′ when I got it and it’s grown about a foot at most.
    The first year it was very tall and lanky. Strong but didn’t produce too many red wings.
    The second year it produced alot of wings and leaves turned beautiful red. Looks amazing with sunset behind.
    My tree gets alot of sun. About 6+ hours. And it planted it within my garden. It is surrounded by soil and I have no issues.
    The wings don’t seem to drop right away. I’ve had no issues with ‘seedlings’.
    Stake this tree in unprotected area.
    I’m buying another this year.
    It’s a nice tall tree. My is pruned to grow up. Not out.
    It’s currently about 9 feet high and 3 feet wide only

    • Sue says:

      I too am in Alberta (Edmonton). Just planted my first Hot Wings! It’s about 8 1/2 foot tall with a 3 to 4 foot spread right now. The branches are still relaxing out, from shipping etc so difficult to say for sure.
      I have a very small yard and this is my main tree (for shade). I hope to eventually prune it a little so it grows up, not out, like you. I’ve a fence 3 feet to the south and my main path to the back gate, 2 feet to the north. If you have any suggestions for pruning, I’d welcome them! Thank you!

  20. Jim Murrin says:

    Live up in Park City, Utah at about 6500 ft. Would like to “line” my long driveway with these (8-10 trees) in order to add color and differentiation (most trees here are Choke Cherry, Crab Apple, Quaking Aspen, or Blue Spruce) as well as create some privacy from the house next door. We do get a fair breeze (15-25 mph) on a regular basis. Will these trees handle that wind and elevation? Natural flora is sage brush and grass in a zone 4 environment.

    Thanks

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      These trees will work perfect at that elevation and in the “breeze”. We ship these trees to Aspen to be planted in large containers around the lodges quit often. Wyoming residents often prefer to use these ornamental trees in windy areas rather than large shade trees. The only consideration you might face is that if you often get early or late snows when the leaves are still on trees. When that happens you will need to shake the snow off. They definitely do not like snow loads when in leaf. Enjoy their audacious red samaras and beautiful fall color.

  21. Marla says:

    I live in Winnipeg, MB and have a Hot Wings that I planted in spring 2015. Last summer it grew about a foot and looked beautiful. This year top branches have no leaves as well as almost one side of the tree. We experienced an earlier than normal spring with above normal temps. Then after many trees were beginning to bud and leaf out and many perennials emerged substantially we experienced snow and frost. Would this have made an impact on the Hot Wings? Do you have any suggestions to remedy it?

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      Unfortunately the weather event that you described is probably what caused the die back. It may be that one side of the tree was seasonally ahead just enough to experience the damage or as the freeze moved in it was mostly caught by the dying side. The best attribute of younger maples is that they grow quickly and you can retrain/reshape them usually within a couple of years using proper pruning techniques. Hopefully you are getting some sprouts already forming on the trunk of the failing side. Google ISA pruning techniques on Youtube for proper pruning instructions. Good luck!

  22. Terry says:

    When is best time to prune these trees. It is hard to see the overgrowth in the winter so would like to take some of the lower growth off my multi trunk Hot Wings. Can I do it now in June without hurting the tree. I’m in Ft. Collins, CO

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      The best time to prune most trees is when they are dormant. Maples are a little different in that they will pour out sap when you prune them just after they go dormant in the fall. With Hotwings maples, I try to prune them just after they leaf out. Then most the sap is drawn into the production of the leaves and I can still see the structure of the tree for pruning purposes. To answer your question about pruning now- YES. You’ll be fine pruning Hotwings up now before mid July, but don’t prune too late to in the summer. The tree will respond to the pruning by sprouting out and with an early freeze those tender stems will die back. That’s wasted energy for the tree.

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