Liquidambar (Liquidambar styraciflua)

20151121_154124We inherited these trees when we moved into this house roughly a decade ago.  We actually had nine, but a desire to completely change the landscaping on the entire property has whittled that number down to two.  No regrets.

Our last two Liquid Amber trees.

A handy growing summary chart is at the end of the article.

(All links open a new page, so you won’t lose your spot when you look around!  Get information on gardening and cultural traditions, recipes, stories, and more!)

(Do you have trees that you need removed or other source of a lot of wood?  Make my fire starter “bombs” and turn that wood into a “free” heat source and reduce your smoke output at the same time.  Better than putting those logs into a landfill!)

20171015_210250Don’t get me wrong, the trees are nice.  They are tall without being overly wide, so you get the look of mature trees without the overbearing shade.  Their fall color is spectacular and the falling leaves give us a lot of material for compost.  They seems to take the heat here (long stretches of 100°+ F) with no problems, can tolerate winter temperatures down to zone 5, and have few diseases or pests that it succumbs to.  However, they are apparently not happy past zone 9, likely needing a true winter dormancy for best growth.

Another thing to be aware of is that their roots are shallow so they are not very drought resistant.  In fact, at one point we were unaware that we had a sprinkler head that was blocked near one of the remaining trees, and that tree lost some large branches over the course of a few months.  We are pretty sure it was due to the ground being dry, even though the tree was getting moisture in other areas.

20170930_101240My biggest gripe with this tree, though, are the seed pods.  Look at these things!  They are over an inch in diameter, they’re spiky, and they’re numerous.  What this means is that you will have several foot stabbing, ankle turning, land mines scattered every year in your yard.  If you decide to plant this tree, put it somewhere that the seed pods can fall away from any walking areas.

20170930_101459.jpgThe Old Man and I have debated about removing the remaining two trees for a while now.  We probably will someday, but for now we enjoy the fall color and make the boys pick up the seed pods.  Each winter, flocks of tiny birds swarm our trees to pick the seeds out before the pods fall, so at least we get a show and provide something for the locals.

Plant Summary:

  • Perrenial
  • Deciduous
  • Height: up to 60 – 70 feet
  • Width: up to 40 – 50 feet, but can be pruned to reduce spread
  • Sun: full sun
  • Water: regular water, especially during dry spells
  • Soil pH: 6.5 – 7.5
  • Soil type: tolerates various soils
  • Key nutrients: balanced
  • Planting time: winter through early spring while the tree is still dormant (no leaves)



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