Why plant Audubon® Native American Sweetgum Treeling?
In autumn, we look forward to the crazy-quilt colors of American Sweetgum’s leaves. But birds look forward to something else. They are seeking out the spiky “gumballs” that hang from the branches. When the seeds ripen inside, the funky fruits become a plethora of tiny bird feeders! American Goldfinches, Purple Finches, Red-winged Blackbirds, chickadees, and titmice are fans. Sparrows, doves, towhees, and juncos may linger on the ground to gather up seeds spilled there. The noble native Sweetgum Tree also hosts a wide array of caterpillars, which make up an important part of many birds’ diets, especially when they are raising their young. A beautiful, bountiful, bird-friendly tree.
In the early 1900’s a Sweetgum tree at Kittyhawk stood quietly by watching Wilbur and Orville Wright develop flight as we know it today. I imagine the young tree rooting (no pun intended) for them as they experimented with kites, gliders and eventually airplanes. Perhaps the tree even cheered as they successfully flew the first heavier-than-air powered plane on December 17, 1903 in that field in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The first commercial flight was scheduled in Tampa, Florida in 1914. Today at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, a seedling from the original Sweetgum tree was planted in honor of the Wright Bros.
How to use Audubon® Native American Sweetgum Treeling in the landscape?
The festive fall foliage colors is what will cause you to have stars in your eyes! This native's large five-pointed star shaped leaves change from glossy green in summer to yellows, reds and purples in Autumn. Spiky golf ball size fruit keeps the fall foliage company. The fruit may be a nuisance to some, but can be a crafty resource to others. Corky gray bark is present year round, but gives you stellar appeal in winter!
Hardiness Zone: 5-9
How To Plant Audubon® Native American Sweetgum Treeling
Sweetgums are fast growing and best recognized by their star-shaped leaves. You might also recognize their spiky ball-shaped seed pods, you usually see them scattered on the ground – a good reason not to plant this tree along a sidewalk or by your patio. Sweetgums like to be planted in full sun and they are really tolerant of all soil conditions. This is one easy-to-grow tree! Sweetgums are almost pest-free. Some common pests are borer and webworm. Most of the time when a pest problem occurs, it is because the tree has become stressed. Proper tree care and maintenance will usually rule out most future problems with insects or diseases.
How To Water
Water twice weekly for the first 3-5 weeks; then water weekly for the remainder of the year until winter. When you water, water slowly and thoroughly. Watering needs may be altered due to extreme weather conditions.
How To Fertilize
Incorporate Elements Starter Plant Food granular form into the soil when planting. If planting in spring or summer, start fertilizing late fall using Elements Starter Plant Food granular form on an annual basis each fall. Continue this for the first three years to get your plant well established.
How To Prune
A young tree may need a little extra support to ensure that it lives a long and healthy life. Stake your new Treeling with a 6-8 foot tall wood or bamboo stake. Use expandable ties that will stretch as the tree grows, fastening the stake to the main trunk from the base to the top. Check the ties every few months, at least twice a year; ensuring the ties are not digging into the trunk. If there is any sign of this, take the tie off and reattach it, giving the tree more room to grow.
As your tree grows, remove a few of the lower branches each year if you do not want your tree to have lower limbs. Remove these lower branches before they reach 1/2 inch in diameter. It is better to make small cuts to avoid cutting a large, more mature branch - this is too stressful for the tree. Each year, make any corrective pruning needed, paying particular attention to removing damaged branches, rubbing branches, multiple leaders at the top, or suckers at the base. Limit any pruning to no more than 25% of the branching structure in a given year. Pruning benefits the tree and helps to achieve a balanced tree form.
After two or three years you can feel free to remove the stake from the tree.
As your tree grows, you might need to prune off some of the lower branches if they are growing too low on the trunk, this is what I like to call “limbing up” your tree.