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The Plant Guide

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Sourwood

Oxydendrum arboreum

oks-ih-DEN-drum ar-BOR-ee-um

Sourwood, the lone species of the genus, is found in woodlands and along streams of eastern North America. This plant (named for the sour taste of its leaves) forms a pyramidal tree to 30 feet tall, with canoe-shaped, glossy leaves that turn vivid maroon, yellow, or purple in autumn. In late summer, its delicate panicles of fragrant, urn-shaped flowers spray forward, decorating the tree in white. The blossoms, which resemble lily-of-the-valley, are followed by yellowish seed capsules that turn brown and persist into winter. It makes an outstanding specimen both for a prominent position and also for a naturalized setting.

Noteworthy CharacteristicsGlossy leaves with good fall color; fragrant flowers in late summer; decorative seed heads. U.S. native.

CareGrow in moist, well-drained, acidic soil in full sun or partial shade (blooms best in full sun). It prefers a reasonably protected site. Prune only to maintain a healthy framework.

PropagationSow seed in a cold frame in autumn. In summer, take semi-ripe cuttings.

ProblemsLeaf spots.

  • Genus : Oxydendrum
  • Plant Width : 15 to 30 feet
  • Plant Height : 30 feet or more
  • Zones : 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
  • Characteristics : Fragrant Flowers, Interesting Bark, Showy Fall Foliage, Showy Foliage, Showy Seed Heads
  • Tolerance : Frost Tolerant
  • Light : Full Sun to Partial Shade
  • Bloom Time : Late Summer
  • Maintenance : Low
  • Moisture : Medium Moisture
  • Growth Rate : Slow
  • Plant Seasonal Interest : Summer Interest
  • Plant Type : Trees
  • Flower Color : White
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