There are 250 species in the genus of the flowering plant Rhus, or sumac. The sumac is a considered a small tree or shrub, growing on average about 15 feet tall. Three common species grown in the United States are staghorn sumac, fragrant sumac, and smooth sumac. All three of these have clusters of fuzzy red berries that grow tightly together, a very distinctive feature. Sumac trees are very easy to grow and maintain. Follow these steps to plant a sumac in your yard.
Step 1 - Know When and Where to Plant
Plant your sumac where it can receive 8 hours of sunlight a day, since sumacs are not shade-tolerant trees. Sumac trees will tolerate nearly any soil type, thriving in pH levels of 4.5 to 7.5. Their roots will reach out several feet beneath them, so plant them where they will have plenty of room. Sumacs can be planted at any time of year, but if planting in the summer, you will need to water regularly to protect against transplant shock.
Step 2 - Prepare Sumac Roots
Sumac roots grow quickly. If your sapling's roots have curled, cut back the curly ends with a knife or garden shears, or spread them out before planting. If you have purchased a shrub that is balled and burlapped, cut back half of the burlap from the root ball.
Step 3 - Dig and Plant the Sumac
Dig a hole about four times wider than the root ball and the same depth. When planting, make sure the top of the root ball is even with the surface of the soil. Backfill half of the soil (enough to steady the tree) and water deeply. Fill the hole with the remaining soil and water again.
Step 4 - Mulch Around the Sumac
Surround the tree trunk with 2 to 4 inches of organic material, such as straw, leaves, pine bark, or manure. This will help retain moisture in dry times.
Step 5 - Maintain and Enjoying Your Sumac
Sumac trees require practically no care. During times of drought, water occasionally. Prune back any dead branches in the spring. To help keep this fast-grower contained, prune the suckers (sub-branches) and unsightly branches. The sumac berries have been used to make wine or lemonade, and once they have fully developed make a unique addition to flower bouquets. Sumac trees provide food for many birds and other creatures throughout the winter, so be sure to appreciate the variety of wildlife that will feast on the branches, berries, leaves, and flowers of the sumac tree.