The sassafras tree is a source of spices, flavors and texturizers for foods. Sassafras oil was the original source of the flavor of root beer. To grow your sassafras trees into healthy mature specimens, avoid the common mistakes in planting and care noted below.
Do Not Plant the Sassafras Tree in a Wide Open Location
The sassafras tree does best in partial shade and a balanced soil with sand to aid in drainage. It needs only about 4 hours a day of bright sun. Choose a spot that is sheltered from prevailing winds, as the bark and wood become more brittle as the tree matures.
Avoid Alkaline Soil for Your Sassafras Tree
Acid soil with a pH near 5.0 helps the sassafras tree develop its aromatic oils, leaves, fruit and other special characteristics. Test the soil in the area you have chosen, and upgrade its acidity by mixing in peat moss, pine or cedar bark mulch, pine needles or leaf mold compost. Maintain a bed of mulch around the main trunk out a few feet to where suckers most commonly appear. This will help sustain the soil acidity, maintain soil moisture and deter weed and grass growth.
Avoid Planting Sassafras Seeds in the Spring
The dormancy period of sassafras seeds is almost 6 months, so plant the seeds in suitable soil in the early fall. This gives them enough time in cool-temperature soil to be able to germinate in spring.
Don't Wait untill Fall to Plant Sassafras Saplings
Young sassafras trees, on the other hand, need all the time they can get in their new environment. Ensure you plant them in early spring as soon as the ground warms up to about 50 degrees F. (10 C.), and the air temperature stays at about the same level.
Avoid Letting Root Suckers Develop into Saplings
The sassafras tree self-reproduces from root runners called suckers. These will pop up out of the ground in an oval around the main trunk, and will compete with the main tree for soil nutrients, water and air. Chop out these suckers near the trunk when they first appear. You can mow over them with the lawn mower to remove them.
Avoid Transplanting the Sassafras Tree as it Matures
Sassafras trees do not handle the stress of transplanting well. Because they grow from a primary taproot, you may cut into it when you attempt to dig up the tree. Confirm you have chosen the best spot to plant it when you first sow the seeds, or settle a young sassafras sapling into your landscape. If you move to a new home, take a few sucker cuttings with you, carefully preserved in peat moss and sealed into waterproof bags.
Do Not Overwater Your Sassafras Tree
Too much water is harmful to sassafras tree roots, as it can cause mold-based fungal diseases. Keep the roots aerated and the soil moist but not sopping wet. Water the roots only in hot weather when the soil becomes dry on top.