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How to Grow Sourwood — Oxydendrum

Red Sourwood Leaves
Sourwood leaves in autumn

Sourwood, Oxydendrum, is a hardy, slow-growing deciduous tree also known as sorrel tree.

Sourwood has thick, fissured bark, long slender, pointed leaves with a sour taste. Small white flower bloom on semi-drooping panicles.

Sourwood is often planted as a background for the shrubbery border. Its bright, glossy green leaves turn a brilliant scarlet in fall.

Sourwood thrives best in rather acid soil in a partially shaded situation. It is propagated by seeds.

Sourwood tree, Oxydendrum arboreum

Get to Know Sourwood

  • Plant type: Deciduous tree
  • Growing Zones and range: 5-9
  • Hardiness: Hardy
  • Height and spread: To 50 feet (15m) tall and 20 feet (6m) wide; grows in a pyramidal form
  • Foliage: Leaves turn scarlet in fall
  • Flowers: White flowers in pendulous clusters
  • Bloom time: Midsummer
  • Uses: Specimen tree
  • Botanical name: Oxydendrum arboreum
  • Common name: Sourwood, sorrel tree
  • Origin: Eastern North America

Where to Plant Sourwood

  • Plant sourwood in full sun. Flowering and fall colors are less dramatic in shade.
  • Grow sourwood in moist, well-drained, humus-rich, acid soil.

When to Plant Sourwood

  • Transplant small balled-and-burlapped or container-grown plants in winter or early spring.
  • Plant sourwood in its permanent positions; it is difficult to move.

Planting and Spacing Sourwood

  • Space sourwood 15 to 20 feet apart; the tree grows 25 to 35 feet tall and 15 to 20 feet wide.

How to Water and Feed Sourwood

  • Keep the soil evenly moist.
  • Fertilize sourwood by adding aged compost to the dripline at least once a year.

Sourwood Care

  • Sourwood rarely needs pruning.

Sourwood Common Problems

  • Sourwood has no serious pests or diseases.

Sourwood Propagation

  • Sow seed indoors in spring.
  • Take cuttings in midsummer; use short side shoot cuttings 2 to 3 inches long with a heel of old wood. Bottom heat promotes rooting.

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