Great Design Tree: Staghorn Sumac

Don’t let poison sumac (Rhus vernix) give all sumacs an undeserved bad reputation. The sumac genus has lots of wonderful species and varieties for your landscape that greatly simplifies the poison one.

One such species is the Staghorn sumac. These trees are native to eastern North America, particularly New England, but just about every single state is host to some native species of sumac. They grow quickly, establish themselves very quickly and, in the right conditions, spread into thickets via their root systems.

Some of their desirable characteristics for residential situations have been rectified with various cultivars, though some of the more desirable characteristics have been accentuated.

The New York Botanical Garden

Botanical name: Rhus typhina and other varieties
Common name: Staghorn sumac
USDA zones: 3 to 8 (find your zone)
Water condition: Even though you will want to water for some time after you plant this tree is quite tolerant of arid conditions.
Light demand: Full sun to partial shade
Mature size: As much as 20 feet high and broad
advantages and tolerances: These plants are very tolerant of poor soils, can survive on little water and will stand up to high winds. Sumacs are quite pest tolerant and provide habitat and food for wildlife.
Seasonal interest: Summer flowers and vibrant autumn color; reddish berry drupes and antler-like form of bare branches include winter interest.
When to plant: You can plant this anytime after the last frost to approximately six weeks prior to the first frost. Planting in the autumn requires the smallest amount of watering.

Lori Scott Landscape Design

Distinguishing attributes. Staghorn sumacs have long, compound leaves that give them a tropical appearance, and they bloom midsummer with 4- to 8-inch-long, greenish-yellow panicles. Full-grown plants have umbrella contours and can purge quickly via suckering and creatures’ dispersing seeds.

The New York Botanical Garden

These sumacs are famous for their fiery autumn shade and clusters of reddish seeds. Sumacs provide a number of the brightest oranges and deepest reds from the autumn landscape.

The best way to use it. “I enjoy the tropical expression of the foliage and the bare trunks,” says landscape designer Lori Scott. “It attains its height quickly, then does not get taller” Staghorn sumacs can spread like wildfire, particularly in its native East Coast habitats. Colonies of the crops are simple to grow for effective windbreaks and to stabilize steep banks, preventing erosion.

“I enjoy this small tree in certain situations, only where it’s rarely irrigated and at which the root zone won’t be bothered (to restrict suckering marginally),” says Scott. “It may be invasive in some areas, but this is not a problem from the Pacific Northwest.”

Waterwise Landscapes Incorporated

Hunter Ten Broek of Waterwise Landscapes at New Mexico appreciates sumac Too. “Here in the Southwest we have desert, grassland, riparian and mountain forest ecosystems, and there are a variety of sumacs that thrive in these diverse states,” he states. “I design with three-leaf sumac (Rhus trilobata) and littleleaf sumac (Rhus microphylla) because of their berries and beautiful autumn foliage, and since they make great screens”

Revealed here: Staghorn sumac variety Rhus typhina ‘Tigereye Bailtiger’. It has more complex leaves and a rounded form that gets to be approximately 6 feet high and wide.

Environmental Landscape Associates

Tiger eyes sumac (upper right) gives a backyard bright colour, intricate leaves and an exotic, tropical appearance.

“Prostrate and low-grow sumacs make fantastic ground covers,” states Broek. “Cutleaf (Rhus typhina ‘Laciniata’) and tiger eyes sumacs have elaborate colorful foliage and fulfill into form stunning thickets.”

Revealed here: Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’ includes a pleasing fragrance.

Randy Thueme Design Inc. – Landscape Architecture

Planting notes. Rhus typhina may take over your lawn if you are not careful, so I wouldn’t recommend planting it with the expectation of having one ornamental tree.
The root systems spread rapidly and far, so dig a hole that’s roughly three to four times the magnitude of the root ball and about exactly the same depth as the root ball height.Shake out the root ball and loosen the roots.Place the tree in the hole and fill it in roughly halfway with soil. Fill the rest of the hole with water, let it drain, then add the rest of the soil.Spread 3 inches of mulch atop the soil but do not let it touch with the tree’s back. When conditions are dry or when you plant during the summer, be sure that the tree is watered frequently, but be careful not to overwater.To keep the tree from dispersing, prune any suckers that arise in the base.

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