Why plant Audubon® Native Sassafras Treeling?
Everybody loves Sassafras for its festive fall foliage. This flashy native brings a punch of color to forest edges all over the eastern U.S. But bird-lovers see even more. They know that Sassafras is a welcome sight to birds, too! Mockingbirds, cedar waxwings, robins, vireos, bluebirds, cardinals, and many others flock to the dark blue berries that form on female trees. And insect-eating birds seek out the caterpillars and other six-legged creatures that feed on Sassafras leaves. Satisfy your desire for backyard beauty while supplying valuable habitat for our struggling songbirds. Delightful!
Common throughout much of the eastern U.S., Sassafras is a beloved member of our country’s natural heritage. A friend to birds, butterflies, and people alike, it has brought shade and shelter to people and wildlife here for centuries. In 1957, a battle erupted over the world’s largest Sassafras Tree in Owensboro, Kentucky. The highway department had the big tree slated for destruction in order to widen a road, but the lady of the house on whose property the tree grew had other ideas. She emerged with a loaded shotgun, and after a long standoff, the state backed down. The venerable champ is now over 100 feet tall and has a trunk 7 feet thick.
How to use Audubon® Native Sassafras Treeling in the landscape?
Root beer was originally flavored with Sassafras roots, and Sassafras tea was a popular drink in pioneer days. As it turns out, Sassafras oil from the roots and bark of the tree contains saffrole, which has since been discovered to be mildly carcinogenic. However, the leaves contain very little of this substance, and today the powdered thickener knows as “filé” that goes into an authentic pot of Creole jumbo is still derived from crushed Sassafras leaves.
Hardiness Zone: 4-9
How To Plant Audubon® Native Sassafras Treeling
Sassafras is easy to grow and is a fast-growing tree in good soil. It prefers full sun and its fall color will be the best where light can reach all of the foliage. It needs well-drained soil and can tolerate dry conditions once established. In the wild, Sassafras is often found in hedgerows and will send up suckers, forming a thicket. This can happen in the home landscape, too, and will create a nice seasonal screen. If you’d rather keep your tree to a single trunk, simply pull or mow any suckers that appear and avoid wounding the trunk or disturbing the root zone, both of which can encourage more suckers to appear.
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 very slowly and very thoroughly. The water needs to reach to the bottom of the root ball and that takes time. 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 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.
I ordered three treelings, Dogwood and a Hornbeam and a Sassafras. The Dogwood and the Hornbeam died within a month of receiving them even though I followed the instructions in the accompanying letter. I had waited to plant because we were still experiencing cold temperatures and frost. Fortunately, the Sassafras has survived and I was able to plant it about a week ago. So far so good. Looking forward to a lovely shade tree and happy birds in the next decade.