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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - August 19, 2011

From: Heath, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Soils, Shrubs
Title: Growing Evergreen sumac in clay soil of Texas
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

I'm in need of a fast growing evergreen screening shrub/small tree. I'm considering the Evergreen Sumac but before I go further I need to know if this plant will thrive and remain evergreen in the Dallas (Rockwall) area. The soil in my yard is a hard packed clay and practically impossible to keep loose. In fact its about the worst soil I have ever encountered. Your thoughts or alternative recommendation please.

ANSWER:

The Recommended Species list for northeast Texas at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center shows Rhus aromatica (Fragrant sumac) but not Rhus virens (Evergreen sumac) as recommended for the Dallas area.  However, Dallas/Fort Worth landscape architects are using Evergreen sumac with success.   You might well contact the landscaper for planting tips.

Mr. Smarty Plants expects that Evergreen sumac can be successful, but only if the soil is suitably amended to give good drainage.  The ideal solution would be a raised bed in which you spade up at least a foot of clay from the planting site, mix it with an equal quantity of builders sand, and add a generous amount of peat moss.

The other sumac, Fragrant sumac, is somewhat more tolerant of poor drainage.  It is also an interesting plant, showing different faces (see images below) as the seasons progress.  Although it is deciduous, planting this sumac two deep would yield a fairly dense screen of winter twigs.

 

From the Image Gallery


Evergreen sumac
Rhus virens

Fragrant sumac
Rhus aromatica

Fragrant sumac
Rhus aromatica

Fragrant sumac
Rhus aromatica

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