Why plant Audubon® Native Sugarberry Treeling?
You probably don’t know Sugarberry, but your neighborhood birds do! This Elm relative (it does not get Dutch Elm disease) flies under most people’s radar, but it does not go unnoticed by birds. In early fall, its sweet and nutritious, reddish-brown fruits are feasted upon by robins, mockingbirds, Cedar Waxwings, orioles, and cardinals. In rural areas, turkeys, Ruffed Grouse, quail, ducks, and pheasants will partake. (Were it not for the large, rock-hard seeds, people would like the date-flavored fruits, too!) To top it all off, Sugarberry’s twiggy branches make choice nesting sites for robins and other tree-dwellers.
Sugarberry is a sister to the Common Hackberry, another tough, native shade tree that nourishes wildlife. The two trees are similar in many respects, though Sugarberry usually has a smoother bark (at times Beech-like), and a more southernly distribution (it is native throughout the Southeast). Both are first-class butterfly trees in addition to being stellar bird trees. They attract Hackberry butterflies, Tawny Emperors, Mourning Cloaks, Question Marks, and American Snouts. Some of these lovelies will end up in the bellies of birds. Others will go on to live out their lives in your garden.
How to use Audubon® Native Sugarberry Treeling in the landscape?
Sugarberry should be called the “Butterfly Tree” for the wealth of butterflies it supports. Perhaps the most charming is the Hackberry butterfly. This endearing little creature loves people (actually, it likes to sip the salts from our skin). You may feel a tickle while you’re working in the garden and find a Hackberry butterfly has landed on you!
Hardiness Zone: 5-9
How To Plant Audubon® Native Sugarberry Treeling
Sugarberry will grow fastest in full sun or light shade, in soil that is rich and moist. However, it will put up with poor growing conditions without complaint. Once established, Sugarberry tolerates clay soil, rocky soil, pollution, high winds, salt spray, extreme heat, and winter lows to -20ºF. One thing you’ll want to be careful about, however, is not wounding the bark with equipment. Sugarberry bark is thin and vulnerable to damage, especially in its youth.
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 late fall. If planting in the fall, use Elements fertilizer while planting and start your regular annual fertilizing the following fall. Continue this for the first three years to get your plant well established as it gives your tree the nutrients it needs to produce lush new growth for the following spring.
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 in mid to late summer. 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.