2018, November 2018, Plant-of-the-month

Plant-of-the-Month: The Sourwood Tree

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Sourwood, or Oxydendrum arboreum, is a sorely underused tree. Native to eastern North America, it is probably at its northernmost limit here in southern New Hampshire, as it is only hardy to Zone 5, but we are so lucky to have it here! Sourwood is a slow grower, but will top out at 30 feet if given time and space and a moist but well drained environment. It performs best in full sun, but doesn’t mind part shade.

But those are the boring details – I haven’t told you the best part yet! Sourwood flowers in late summer, and covers itself in delicate sprays of fragrant, white, lily-of-the-valley-like flowers. Those flowers are enough to recommend it, but wait! There’s more! The flowers persist into fall, when Sourwood’s leaves turn a screaming red. IT is almost wrong, it’s so red. Then, for a little while, you have both the flowers and the red leaves, until the leaves finally fall and only the seed heads remain to decorate the bare branches.

If you have the space, I urge you to give one a try. It is an eye-catching addition to any garden and a must-have if you like unusual plants!

 

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A mature Sourwood.

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1 thought on “Plant-of-the-Month: The Sourwood Tree”

  1. Thank you for writing about this odd tree. We grew only a few several years ago. There was no demand for them here. It is something that I am not at all familiar with outside of the few that we grew at the farm. However, it happens to be a tree that I had hear about from those I learned about horticulture from. It took me a while to determine that it is not the same as the sourgum or tupelo that grows in Oklahoma, which makes a nice street tree here, but is also somewhat rare.

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