|Leaves are similar to peach trees.|
Oxydendrum arboreum, all alone in its genus, is a terrific specimen tree for smaller homes and properties that are large enough to have woodland edges. It has strong resistance to insects and disease. It blooms later in the year than most specimen trees--here in Transylvania county, sourwood trees at the lower elevations are blooming right now--and it has outstanding fall color, showing off brilliant red leaves. After the leaves drop, you will be pleased to see red twigs carrying on the theme. (Terrific photos of the twigs at the Duke Univ. link below.) While in the wild sourwoods can reach up to 75 feet tall, those in cultivation typically top out at about 30 feet and about half that in width--a good size for smaller homes. But unlike many other specimen trees, this one is strong--and a favorite of honey bees!
|Bell-shaped flowers are bee magnets.|
I recommend mulching newly planted specimens to help it establish itself in your yard, as the mulch will help to keep the soil more moist and encourage some insect activity to keep the soil structure more open. Sourwood is hardy in zones 6 through 9, though some sources include zone 5. I had to order ours through our local nursery--it was the first tree I'd ever planted that arrived in a wooden box instead of a plastic pot. I assume this was to help remediate the transplanting problem--the rootball had some of the healthiest development at the outer edges I had ever seen in nursery stock. I was interested in a single-trunk tree--but you may also be able to locate a multi-stemmed sapling that could be kept more shrub-like. If you choose to plant a sourwood, expect it to take the full three years to get established and start putting on its sumptuous, leafy skirt!
|Color coming on last fall.|
Sources: Wikipedia, Duke University, Wildflower.org, NC State, University of Connecticut, USDA Forest Service, Fine Gardening