American sweetgum are deciduous bushes prized for his or her star-shaped leaves that flip a mixture of sensible fall colours. In the event you’re afraid of the messy “gumballs,” or seed pods, produced by many sweetgums, search for a non-fruiting number of this well-liked tree. Sweetgum are native to the southeastern United States and belong to the Altingiaceae household.
Taxonomy and Cultivars
The American sweetgum bushes are categorized as Liquidambar styraciflua based on plant taxonomy. Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Rotundiloba,’ is a sterile, non-fruiting culitivar of sweetgum that doesn’t produce the well-known spiky seed pods, generally referred to as “gumballs.” Different cultivars do have the pods, which drop from the tree after the leaves fall in mid- to late-autumn and into winter.
Options of American Sweetgum
American sweetgum can attain 80 toes in peak at maturity, with a variety of about 60 toes. The leaves, that are five-lobed and formed like stars, present glorious fall foliage colour. In some instances, on the peak of the autumn foliage season, sure leaves could also be crimson, others purple, others yellow, and nonetheless others orange (all on the identical plant). On some bushes, the branches are “winged,” as on winged euonymus (burning bush), displaying corky flanges. The bark on the trunk is deeply furrowed.
Most individuals take into account sweetgum seed pods (additionally referred to as “fruits,” “balls,” “gumballs,” “capsules”) to be a damaging, making it a landscaping mistake to develop these vegetation. The seed pods do make sweetgum among the many messiest of bushes to develop. Not solely are they messy for you, however they’re additionally doubtlessly messy to your neighbors. In the event you dwell uphill from a neighbor, the gumballs could roll downhill onto the neighbor’s property after they drop.
That’s the reason the fruitless Rotundiloba is the really useful cultivar to develop. Rotundiloba grows 60 to 70 toes tall. Its unfold is about 30 toes on the base and narrows towards the highest. Even a Rotundiloba could finally produce a gumball right here or there, however such a stray seed pod will probably be handled as a novelty quite than as a nuisance.
Rising American Sweetgum
American sweetgum bushes are greatest grown in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 by means of 9. They’re pretty drought-tolerant bushes as soon as mature. Develop them in full solar and in loamy soil that’s on the acidic facet. Fertilize them often with compost. The sweetgum is sensible as a shade tree, and for many gardeners it features primarily as a specimen, particularly for the autumn season.
Excellent Fall Foliage
American sweetgum bushes are moderate-to-fast-growing bushes. However their greatest function must be their fall foliage colour, which isn’t solely wealthy, but in addition diversified. You’ll recognize the truth that you will get a couple of autumn colour on the identical tree, which can also be true of some maple bushes. One other good function of this plant is that its fall foliage develops quite late within the autumn (November in zone 5), which means that it provides your landscaping colour after the leaves of the sugar maples and crimson maples have dropped off their branches.
When You Do not Have the Seedless Selection
Though most discover the spiky pods (which appear like they belong on a medieval weapon) messy, they do have their makes use of. Craft fanatics use them decoratively in creations similar to Christmas kissing balls and wreaths, potpourri, and dried floral preparations.
Some gardeners report success utilizing the pods as a “pest-control mulch” to discourage critters similar to wild rabbits, who don’t like stepping on their spines. Different wildlife, together with birds and rodents, will eat the seeds for those who go away them out.
However if you’re not concerned with crafts and don’t need the additional panorama upkeep, you in all probability is not going to be a fan of those gumballs. If you cannot discover the pod-less ‘Rotundiloba,’ however you continue to want to develop American sweetgum bushes, plant them in an space the place you’ll not need to trouble cleansing up the pods. For these with enough space on their properties, one possibility could also be to include sweetgum bushes into woodland gardens.
Different Kinds of Sweetgum
Inside the Liquidambar genus, there are extra species than simply styraciflua, in addition to effectively as cultivars apart from Rotundiloba, together with:
- L. formosana: extra drought-tolerant than most sweetgums; 40 to 60 toes tall and broad; zones 6 to 9
- L. acalycina ‘Burgundy Flush’: burgundy-purple-bronze leaves; 50 toes tall and 25 toes broad; zones 6 to eight
- L. styraciflua ‘Slender Silhouette’: columnar form; 50 toes tall and solely about four toes broad; zones 5 to eight
- L. styraciflua ‘Variegata’: variegated leaves streaked with yellow or off-white markings; 60 toes tall and 25 toes broad; zones four to 10
- L. styraciflua ‘Gumball’: dwarf selection in shrub kind; 5 toes by 5 toes; zones 5 to eight