Questions on: Japanese Sumac / Sumac
Ron Smith, Horticulturist, NDSU Extension Service
Q: I am a faithful reader of your column. I'm hoping you can give me some tips on what ground cover plants to grow. I'm looking for vibrant colors, so I am thinking a spreading sumac of some sort would work best. The area faces south and the soil is clay and sand. Thank you. (Jamestown, N.D.)
A: Sumac would be a perfect plant for that setting. Try to locate the dwarf sumac Rhus copalina or the low-growing one called Rhus aromatica. There also is the tiger eyes sumac, so you have several choices. Thanks for being a loyal reader of the column!
Q: I like the sumac idea, but not for the entire acre. Do you have any other suggestions to mix and match with sumac? As I said earlier, my wife wants some chokecherries planted and I did have some success with American highbush cranberries in our front ditch. I have three silver maple transplants and a triumph elm growing. (Alexandria, Minn.)
A: An entire acre of tiger eyes sumac would not be a very good idea. Some of my favorite for your consideration are elderberry bushes (good flowers with bird-attracting fruit), nannyberry or blackhaw viburnum (beautiful in every season of the year), common and Japanese tree forms of lilac (different blooming times), mountain laurel (needs to be sited in full sun for good flower development), honeysuckle (fragrant flowers and bird-attracting fruit) and winterberry (be sure to get both sexes for berry production). Some of these plants, along with your trees, would look great. Also, there is a low-grow cultivar of sumac that makes a nice ground cover that might be good as a foreground planting.
Q: Is sumac invasive? Would it spread to our native plants underneath the maple tree canopy? (Alexandria, Minn.)
A: The species is invasive, but I've never considered it annoying. If you don’t want to take any chances, go for the cultivar Rhus typhina (Bailtiger) tiger eyes staghorn sumac. This unusual sumac has purplish-pink stems with exotic cut-leaf foliage. Tiger eyes starts out chartreuse in the spring, turns bright yellow in summer and blazes scarlet orange in the fall. Tiger eyes is more compact than the species and is not considered invasive. It prefers well-drained soil, but adapts well to poor soils and urban situations by exhibiting good pollution tolerance. It is hardy in zones 4 to 8. I encourage you to consider this striking beauty as part of your planting scheme.
Q.We have an unusual but very beautiful tree in our back yard, a Japanese sumac. We just purchased the home last fall, so we don t have experience with or knowledge about this tree. We were told that the smaller sumacs growing in our yard were from the root system. Now this spring we have 50-plus little sumacs down, but they are fast growing and we believe they are ruining the look of our yard. How can we control or get rid of all the offshoots?
Could you please tell us how to successfully transplant? (Cavalier, N.D.)
A.The best way to control these offshoots is to sever them from the mother plant with a spade and install some biobarrier to contain the root system to a particular area.
If you wish to try and save some of the sprouts, cease mowing them down and dig them this fall after they have gone dormant. If you choose not to transplant them and wish to kill them off, any broadleaf herbicide that is used on turf should do the trick.
Back to Tree
Back to the Hortiscope Table of Contents