Why You Want to Plant a Sourwood Tree


Sourwood Oxydendrum arboreum is one of our most beautiful native trees and a stand out in an ornamental landscape design. This small tree preforms well in cultivation and offers multi seasonal beauty so it’s difficult to understand why they aren’t used in home gardens more often. They are low maintenance, adaptable, have no serious pest problems, is sun or shade tolerant and drought resistant once established. Being a tree which is native to Georgia they are adapted to our soil and want to live here. They won’t put up a fuss like an alien species can. Another benefit is that sourwood is a bee tree and attractive to pollinators so will help you to create an eco friendly yard. If you are looking for a small shade tree and want a unique landscape which isn’t full of the same plants your neighbors have, consider planting a sourwood. Here are a few reasons why:


sourwood Photo courtesy of Jackie Dee

Sourwood naturally has a irregular pyramid shape with a rounded top. It may be encouraged to grow in a rounded canopy by pruning once it has reached your desired height. They typically grow to about 30′ with a 20′ spread in cultivation. Sourwood has lovely white flowers that open in mid-summer and spread out like fingers. These attractive hanging racemes are fruit capsules which will remain throughout the winter.

sourwood Photo courtesy of Geneva Wirth.

Sourwood may be grown in full sun or partial shade although flowering and fall color are best in full sun. The irregular branching and deeply grooved, brown bark will provide visual interest all year long. During the summer months the shiny green, ovoid leaves will offer a different texture and color contrast.


sourwood Photo courtesy of Steve Kaiser

Sourwood provides some of the best fall color among trees in the South and is considered best red of any of our natives. Fall color ranges from purple to red to yellow with all three colors frequently being on the same tree.


sourwood Photo courtesy of cello8


Did we mention the fall color? The fall color is amazing. It will stand out in your yard and rival any maple. Sourwood is more wildlife friendly than a maple so the better choice for living compatibly with nature.

Soil: Sourwood is an exceptional tree for slightly acidic (pH 5.5-6.5), well-drained soils. The tree does reasonably well in dry, neutral soils. It will not tolerate dry, compacted, alkaline soils or salt, and is sensitive to root disturbance.

We Can Help

If you are in north Georgia and need help with native tree alternatives, Art of Stone Gardening can help. Please contact us at: Art of Stone Gardening.

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