This tree blossoms for 12 months
Sourwood (Oxydendrum aboreum)
Photo/Illustration: Ed Gregan
Name: Sourwood (Oxydendrum aboreum)
Zones: 5 to 9
Size: 25 to 30 feet tall and wide
Sourwood is a tree that is criminally underused in landscapes. Its new leaves are a light, lustrous green turning to a deep green as they mature. In early fall, the leaves turn yellow, orange, and scarlet red. During the summer, its long, drooping, fragrant flowers appear and persist for three to four weeks. This is at a time when few trees are in bloom, making the sourwood stand out even more. After flowering has stopped, the pendulous seed capsules turn yellow, giving the illusion that the tree is still in flower; they then turn a light brown and remain on the tree for most of the winter, and are beautiful when dusted with light snow. Sourwood has a slightly pyramidal habit. The young stems can vary from olive green to burgundy red, and the grayish bark starts smooth but gets deep furrows as it matures. Sourwood should be grown in full sun to produce the best flowers and fall color. It prefers acidic soil that is well drained but moist.