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Beautiful small specimen flowering tree with multi-season interest for lawns, patios, shade gardens or open woodland areas.


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Sourwood Plant

Description for Sourwood

Plant height: 3 - 6 inches
Plant spread:

Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) grows in the upland forests of the southeastern United States. Also known as sorrel-tree or lily of the valley tree, its flowers are an important source of honey in some areas but it is of little value as a timber species. Sourwood sprouts often interfere with the establishment of more desirable species in second-growth and cutover areas. This mid-summer flowering tree is an attractive ornamental.

Common name(s): Sorrel-tree
Flower colours: White
Bloom time: June to July
Max reachable height: 20 to 50 feet
Difficulty to grow: Easy to grow

Planting and care

Sourwood thrives in low saline, acidic soil with a pH between 3.7 and 6.5 with consistent moisture and good drainage. Dig a hole twice as wide as the tree s root ball, ease the tree from its nursery pot, untangle its roots and center it in the hole.
Mix peat, composted pine bark or other organic material into the removed soil and begin refilling the hole, stopping halfway to water the roots and let the tree settle. After filling the hole and tamping down the soil, water the sourwood thoroughly and mulch around the root zone.

Sunlight: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Well-drained soils
Water: Medium
Temperature: -29 degrees C to 42 degrees C
Fertilizer: Apply any organic fertilizer

Caring for Sourwood

    A sourwood faced with combined heat and drought drops its leaves. Prevent the problem with weekly watering during dry spells when its actively growing. Deep water by letting a hose or sprinkler trickle water around the base of the tree for several hours. A properly watered sourwood can survive for more than 75 years
    Let your sourwood establish for a year before fertilizing. After its leaves drop in fall, scatter a fertilizer for acid-loving plants on the soil. Winter rains help the roots absorb the fertilizer and feed spring growth. Spread the fertilizer in a circle, beginning at the outer two-thirds of the branch spread.
    The circle should extend beyond the drip line by one-half the distance between the trunk and the ends of the branches. Keep the fertilizer at least 1 foot away from a young trees trunk; expand the clear zone to 1 1/2 feet for an older sourwood.

Typical uses of Sourwood

Special features: Sourwood is occasionally used as an ornamental because of its brilliant fall color and midsummer flowers. It is of little value as a timber species the wood is heavy and is used locally for handles and fuel and in mixture with other species for pulp. Sourwood is important as a source of honey in some areas and sourwood honey is marketed locally.

Culinary use: Juice from its blooms is used to make sourwood jelly

Ornamental use: Beautiful small specimen flowering tree with multi-season interest for lawns, patios, shade gardens or open woodland areas.

Medicinal use: The sourwood, however, did have many medicinal uses among the various tribes. The Catawba used it as an infusion for menstrual issues and menopause. The Cherokee used sourwood infusions to stop diarrhea. They also made it into a tonic for indigestion, nervousness, asthma and spitting blood.


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